It's Hard Work at a Startup!

This is a role-play scenario to work on with your teacher.

You will play someone who works in a small startup company. Your teacher will play customers who are calling you with problems.

This is a great exercise for building confidence in telephone work and business English!

The Scenario

You are working with some former University colleagues in a tech startup, SuperTech.  You sell an online CRM tool, “SuperCRM”, targeted at SMEs. The tool has a lot of the features of the industry-leading applications, but it is still new and has a few problems.


Because it’s a startup, everyone has several jobs. You are a developer and support the customer database part of the product.  You also work on customer support, handling calls and emails from people using the SuperTech product.


Today you’re on customer support, and a customer is calling to complain about your product. Although they are not angry, they are disappointed as they’ve had several previous problems. 


Your job is to understand the customer’s complaints, and try to convince them that they will be investigated.

Useful Vocabulary


Business to business. Where a company like IBM sells products and services to other businesses

Beta software

Beta software may be unfinished or not work properly, and should not be used with customers

Industry leading / standard

The most popular product in its area, often with a large number of companies or people using it

Not fit for purpose

If something is not fit for purpose, it’s fundamentally not suitable for what it’s meant to do. Think of a car with square wheels!


A small, new business. Often a technology company offering something different from what’s currently available


Business to customer. Where a company like Netflix sells products or services direct to the public


Customer relationship management system. Used by companies to keep track of customer details, and for marketing

I’ve heard all this before!

Said if someone is trying to promise that something will be done, when they have previously said the same thing - and you are sceptical. Not rude, but very direct


Small-to-medium enterprise. Companies with between about 20 and about 250 employees

To escalate

To talk about a problem with someone more senior. You might escalate to your manager; a customer might do the same.

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