Josh Stailey on the effectiveness of the 'Undercover Boss' method.

Josh Stailey

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Josh Stailey of the Pursuit Group consults with organizations to validate their business structure using the Undercover Boss methods, often producing unexpected results.

Hi, this is Josh Stailey from the Pursuit Group. Today I want to talk a little bit about a process that I call Undercover Boss, which is a popular show on the networks about the owners or CEO's that go underground and learn what the real life is inside their company.

As an organization, our consulting firm actually does that kind of thing with many of our clients. We are asked to go out to the edges of the corporation where the service delivery occurs and validate whether it's a good idea to do this or to do that or to change this or to change that. And may time, we've discovered when we come back, we bring them a picture they've never seen before or sometimes it may be a picture that they are shocked at what we've found and it triggers larger and deeper changes in the organization.

That in many ways to me is a failure of leadership in an organization. The process of getting far enough away from where the real meaning that's in our organization is delivered, the real user experience, that you don't know it or you don't understand it. And the reason that "Undercover Boss" is so interesting I think, and so successful a show, is because it's kind of fun to watch clueless CEO's rediscover what their company is all about.

Unfortunately, that level of cluelessness tends to start early in an organization because you're so focused as a leader, as a manager on bigger issues that smaller issues get delegated farther down and farther away from you all the time. So the critical issue is not to get separated from that, don't have a disconnect between what you see as the organization and what those people who are delivering that customer experience on the frontlines do every day, day in and day out. And in many ways determine the ultimate success of your organization.

So if you don't have a way to play undercover boss and get out there and see what's really happening, find a way. Find a way to reach down and talk to people in your organization.

Third is, and I've seen this in a couple of organizations work very successfully is that the CEO, once a month, takes a half a day and either calls or calls on customers. Not just all customers or the biggest customers; random customers. And find out exactly what's happening. What's good and what's bad.

The fourth thing is, check your ego at the door when you do this because you're going to find out the good and the bad and the ugly. And what's important is for your ego is, the good is nice, but for your company the good is almost irrelevant. It's being able to ferret out the things that aren't working right, that don't leave a good experience or good taste in the mouth of the customer. And fix it. That's what you're job is.

And other than just the pure value of getting your face on and being a CEO and this is a true value for a lot of this is that these people will not recognize how far away they are from the reality of day to day service or product delivery and get back to it.

So make sure that doesn't happen to you or make sure if it's happening to you that you close that gap and become your own undercover boss.

About Josh

Our friend and contributor Josh Stailey passed away unexpectedly on September 10, 2011. We have valued his expertise and willingness to share his insights with us. We discussed the appropriateness of sharing content he provided before his death with his business partners at The Pursuit Group and they agreed sharing his expertise was a fitting tribute to Josh.

Josh Stailey was a 40-year veteran of the marketing and sales wars, a journalism-trained professional who understood the role of information and technology in today’s business world. A consultant and writer, he was a founding partner of The Pursuit Group, which specializes in designing and implementing demand-generation systems for small- and medium-sized businesses. He has also consulted with Fortune 500 companies on customer experience management and content system design.

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