The Self-Fulfilling Failure Prophecy


At Whisperers we love to challenge the status quo but we also love to introduce really simple ideas that make a huge difference. One of our favourite reactions and we get it all the time from client is “OMG why didn’t I think of that, its obvious!”. Well, all of our clients are very bright people, they didn’t miss the obvious because they were stupid – sometimes the simple things are really easy to overlook or not realise the value of. Whisperers make a big fuss about language too – the words you choose determine how people behave in response.


The Lost Property department. Many clients have some form of lost property system, for some clients it is a key function and has a department and set of process all of its own. But it is a Self-Fulfilling Failure Prophecy. These departments (or boxes, whatever they are) collect mountains of lost property, hidden away in dusty cupboards some of which are vast. Items are transported, catalogued, stored and after a period of time, sent to charities or disposed of. Few items get returned to their owners. Every step of that process has a time and money cost.

Think about this process from a Customers’ point of view – and we’ve all been the customer who has lost something. It can be a mini crisis. We need help, we expect help. An item returned to us has weighty customer experience value. Loyalty, Recommendation, Trust and Reputation boost! An item not returned is seen to be lost or stole by the company because surely someone, somewhere knows where it is. Loyalty, Recommendation, Trust and Reputation take a nosedive.

This is not a core business process and its often seen as a nuisance, but from a Customer Experience point of view it is crucially important – it is your Defining Moment.




What if we simply renamed it Found and Returned Property? We have done 2 things immediately. We have changed the mission and purpose of the team/function – the focus is no longer on cataloguing items details and storing them to await a customer making claim. We have also altered customers’ expectations – what they see is an organisation that plays a positive and active role they find and returns things. This perception rubs off on both customers who experience the service and customers who see the service being offered. Of yes, its now become a service not a function.


What’s interesting when you do something like this and change the mission, you change the purpose and you change the activities and behaviours of people in the team – more items are returned to their owners. In parallel customer satisfaction increases and so does employee satisfaction. Fewer items are taken through the whole process, so it takes less time and costs less. Returned items get to their owners much quicker as the first step in the process becomes find the owner not catalogue the item. The team act proactively, seeking the customer, using innovative approaches – and what a wow that is.


Your Found and Returned property service now is a feature of your customer experience that differentiates. Your Defining Moment becomes your crowning glory.


So…. ponder this. What similar opportunities might exist in your organisation?


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