In 1986, Peter Edwards was a newly appointed customer services director. On his first day at work he was given a report of all customers who were complaining about the service. He was told that the report existed because of the requirement in ISO 9000 to have an ‘escalation procedure’, and the purpose was to alert him to customers who were likely to call and complain during the following week.

He asked where the report had come from and was told that it was compiled by the regional directors who had met the previous evening. The information had been obtained by them from the district managers’ Thursday morning meeting, and they, in turn, had generated the information in the Wednesday evening meeting they held with engineers.

Peter’s response was to cancel the whole procedure immediately. He instructed his leaders to access the information directly from the engineers, contact the customers at once, understand their problems and make definite commitments to solve them.

Two weeks later the chairman became upset. He hadn’t been receiving the report and he was convinced that the switchboard had been told to stop putting complaining customers through to him. Clearly for him it was quite normal to receive a lot of customer complaints.