Every CEO should periodically go undercover.
Last week I watched a 2 year old re-run of Undercover Boss. It followed 58 year old Mike White, DirecTV’s new CEO as he posed as a trainee at several sites within DirecTV’s 23,000 employee organization. Mike learned how to crawl through attics and perform field service, materials warehousing, new customer installs, and customer call handling.
- DirecTV has taken a technology that was exotic, expensive, and demanded the attention of highly-skilled engineers, and turned it into a profitable, affordable commodity. I’m impressed. (Their fleet of geostationary satellites orbit 22,000 miles from the Earth, yet most customers’ dishes are tiny.)
- Their front-line personnel are conscientious.
- Something’s wrong with their technician support helpline: an installer waited on hold for 21 minutes while she, the customer, and Mike waited for someone at DirecTV to answer the phone.
- Something’s wrong with their materials logistics: A field service technician wasted time at a customer’s site trying to locate a working receiver to replace the customer’s failed receiver.
- The frontline employees work harder than the company’s officers. Management needs to provide prompt support to their field technicians.
I hope that after his week undercover, Mr. White shook up his management team.