People are key to the ‘boomerang principle’

first_img Previous Article Next Article In superhero plots, I love the way that no-one can ever guess the leadingman’s identity, whether it’s the latest celluloid offering of the Daredevil,Spiderman or even TV cartoon Hong Kong Phooey. The same uncertainty exists in the heroic business of keeping the customerscoming back for more – what Irish supermarket mogul Feargal Quinn calls ‘theboomerang principle’. The few that understand it – which include Richer Sounds, First Direct andASDA – love to boast about it. As Alan Hughes, chief executive of First Direct,explains: “We’re happy for anyone to come in and look at what we do,because we know that while they can copy our systems and our tools, it’s ourpeople who make the difference.” How smug is that? And as an ex-employee,I can confirm that they are so sure of themselves, they really do organisecoach trips for their competitors to visit their call centres. Why then are they so comfortable with their superiority? Is customer serviceso hard to understand? No. Are their people smarter? No. Is it because theyknow their competitors are afraid to copy them? Could be. To apply the boomerang principle requires people who can buildrelationships, listen, and innovate. Realising that is easy, but not necessarily cheap. It took dismal results atAlliance & Leicester for senior managers to see (after paying good money toconsultants, including yours truly, and KPMG) that a customer-first strategyrequires a people-first reality. Its newly appointed chief executive Richard Pym used this newly gainedsuperhuman vision to initiate the most extensive change programme theorganisation has ever attempted. It encompasses 80 different consecutiveprojects to fulfil its ambition to be the ‘most customer-focused financialservices organisation – bar none’. To its immense credit, it did not stop with mere technology or processredesign, but instead launched a plethora of cultural initiatives to free upthose that Pym calls ‘people who love people’ on his chatty intranet. It is nocoincidence that Which Magazine awarded Alliance & Leicester thetitle of best provider of service among high street banks. Previously, the board didn’t have the guts to do the most important things,including culture change, respect for human potential, open communication, awillingness to accept failure and admit mistakes. The good news is that financially-trained Pym no longer sees empowerment orservice as ‘soft and fluffy’, but instead as the hardest, most influential waysto improve shareholder returns. It has just announced an 18 per cent increasein profits. Is this the end? I hope not. Not before the power to satisfy customers isgiven to the people who serve them. That is the ultimate manifestation of thecustomer-first, people-first logic. Only when your organisation is no longerafraid to follow that logic to its conclusion will its performance andrelationship surpass the smug, but superlative, First Direct. Max will discuss these issues further at the Unshrink the Peopleseminar in Leeds, 19 March 2003. E-mail [email protected] Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. People are key to the ‘boomerang principle’On 4 Mar 2003 in Personnel Todaylast_img

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