Bosses Go Undercover

April 12, 2010
Butch Welsch

I’m not really much of a fan of reality show television, but I must admit that the title and concept of “Undercover Boss” intrigued me. If you haven’t seen it, this new show premiered right after the Super Bowl. Its premise is that the president/CEO of a large corporation goes “undercover” within his own company to see how things are operating.

The first few weeks have included the heads of Waste Management, Hooters, 7/11, and White Castle. What has been interesting is the fact that in all cases the CEO has discovered some very important shortcomings within his company. In all fairness, they have found many positive things as well, but there has been some shock at some of the strict company policies that were not being followed.

I realize that most of our HVAC companies are not large enough that the president could go undetected while working at various field and/or office tasks. However, I believe it would be a really good exercise to think about what issues, activities, tendencies we would want to find out about our company if we could, in fact, go undercover. As a result, I have put together my list of things I’d really like to know about our company.

• How are we perceived by our customers?

• What type of impression do our people give to someone calling? I mean everyone from the receptionist, to the customer service representatives to everyone else who is dealing with a customer.

• Do our service technicians and installers really practice all of the courtesies and other correct ways to handle customers that we teach them?

• When making one of our thousands of maintenance agreement service calls, does our service technician truly check and clean everything as we have promised to the customer?


After having just written these few items, I am already getting nervous that I’m not sure I would really want to see the answer to the questions I am posing.

And there are more.

• When an installer is making a ductwork installation, especially one that will be covered with drywall, is he still very careful to make an excellent, airtight, quality installation?

• Do our employees treat their co-workers as if they truly are internal employees? This is especially true of the shop employees and their relation to the installers. It also relates to the delivery team and the installers for whom they provide equipment and materials.

• In general does it seem like everyone is working toward the same goal - that of serving the customer? Or does each department have its own agenda, plan, and goals?

Is your head spinning like mine? As I am writing these down, I am more and more convinced as to how important it would be for me to know the answers to these questions. I’m sure you have probably thought of many more questions that you would like to have answered within your company.

The task for each of us is that even though we can’t go “undercover,” we still need to find ways to answer these questions. It’s clear that if we are going to continue to be successful, we must be doing most, if not all, of these things properly. In the end, it isn’t how we find the answers but the fact that we do find the answers that will allow us to correct any deficiencies and in the end improve our company.

Publication date: 04/12/2010
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