Sir Marcus's management platitude of the week is 'the bottom line is the bottom line' and he's got a plan to improve it. It's an audacious idea called customer focus. He thinks customers are always right. I think customers who have trouble opening the front door of your shop aren't suddenly going to be infallible when they're inside.
Sir Marcus chuntered on about customers and I slid my brain into neutral until I thought I heard the word Vectra. I will not be a delighted customer if he swaps my Porsche for a Vectra. Fortunately, he said he was 'revectoring the company to a customer service space'. He wants a board session every day to get us so focused on the customer we're virtually cross-eyed.
Weirdo HR director Giles Renton-Willets suggested we start the first session with 'warm fuzzies', where we say what we really like about our fellow directors. I said I'd like him a lot better if he stopped playing stupid party games in meetings.
While he revectored to a hurt place, we cracked on with the business of customers and how they can be well and truly rogered - I mean, how their expectations can be exceeded. Ken Carmichael, research director and lowest man on the corporate totem pole, dared to suggest he knew about customers because he was always talking to them. I told him that his department was a glorified tape recorder and that serious analysis happened a lot higher up the food chain.
Ross Fulbright breezed in on a wave of industrial-strength charm and immediately claimed ownership of the customer, as it was his sales team who met their needs. Which is true if you think our customers need to be smarmed to death by grinning wide boys.
Our legal director then spoke, which is a bit of a rarity as he doesn't like to implicate himself. He said his department provided the constitutional framework for customer service. I presumed he was referring to the Smokehouse lifetime product guarantee - as soon as we've installed it we guarantee you won't see us again in your lifetime.
Then Renton-Willets claimed that customer service is a state of mind and HR was developing training to help people discover that space. Reinforced impression that HR are a complete waste of space.
Clare O'Keefe had the audacity to claim Operations had responsibility for the customer, as it was her role to get the products in their grubby little mitts. I told her the only contact Operations have with customers is when they run one over with their trucks.
Bill Peters strenuously denied any responsibility for customers. If they messed with his chemicals they died or got badly burnt, which tended to keep them in their place. I could see what the flavour of the week was so I talked passionately about how Marketing were already so close to the customer we were being sued by some of them for invading their body space.
Carmichael piped up again, saying that perhaps some internal research was required. I cut him short because, lovely man though he is, most of what he says isn't really mission-critical data.
Gavin Smedley claimed IT had responsibility for the customer as his customer relationship management system owned the integrated consumer interface. One day he'll say something we understand. The only reason the IT department has got the rest of us by the scruff of our Y-fronts is because in the land of the witless the half-wit is king.
Sir Marcus said a thought had crossed his mind (that must have been a long and lonely journey): we couldn't focus on the customer until we'd learnt to treat each other as internal customers. Cue for everyone in the room to gang up on me and accuse me of being the nightmare customer from hell. I told them they'd all forgotten one thing. I was the customer and I was always right. I think that left them in a fragile space.