The Self-Fulfilling Failure Prophecy

Challenging the status quo here at Whisperers is a given, 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. However, it’s a Self-Fulfilling Failure Prophecy.

Departments (or boxes, whatever they are) collect mountains of lost property, hidden away in dusty cupboards. The items are transported, catalogued and stored. 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.

A Different Point of View

Think about this process from a Customers’ point of view – 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! “Items lost or stolen by the company”. Surely someone, somewhere knows where it is! Loyalty, Recommendation, Trust and Reputation take a nosedive.

This is not a core business process it can often be 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. The mission has been changed 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. It has now become a service not a function.

Doing something like this and changing the mission means the purpose is changed, therefore, 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 going through the process. 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 by seeking the customer and using innovative approaches – 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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