Avenir takes cue from ‘Ferocious Mr Fix It’


Avenir UK has hired Alasdair Jeffrey, veteran consultant to Phones 4U and The Carphone Warehouse, to help it maximise its staff productivity as it ventures further into the IT market.

Avenir is expected to post significantly increased turnover and profit for 2007/8 at the end of April. It has brought Jeffrey (pictured) in as an advisor on an exclusive contract to help it overhaul its work culture as it looks to make good on its 2008/9 budget in new distribution channels.

Avenir managing director Tanny Price said: “Alasdair has worked with me on strategy. It has resulted in a complete restructure of the organisation, not just of sales.”

“There wasn’t anything wrong with the way we worked before, but we are entering a harder and tougher era, and also an entirely new market, so we need to work differently. There is no margin for error.”

Jeffrey was the subject of 2006 BBC television series The Ferocious Mr Fix It, in which he played a business troubleshooter akin to Gordon Ramsay in Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. He was also the no-nonsense protagonist in the 2007 BBC series The Bulls**t Detective.

In the industry, he is best known for his work with defunct retail chain DX Telecom, Phones 4U and Carphone. He appeared in the 2004 BBC documentary Trouble At The Top, about former Phones 4U boss John Caudwell’s £1 million sales incentive and customer services drive. He also introduced the cue sheet, the customer profile form still used by Phones 4U and Carphone staff ostensibly to gauge customers’ needs (see box, above).

Jeffrey played a key role in the appointment last month of former Brightstar/Tech Data director John Doughty as Avenir commercial director. He has also helped with the restructure and training of the UK team, to gear staff up for new adventures in IT, equipped with cue sheets of their own.

Meanwhile, Avenir has overhauled its back office systems so IT resellers, and mobile dealers, can connect customers to the networks more quickly. It is trialling the systems now for launch this quarter.


Phones 4U and the ‘cue sheet’

Alasdair Jeffrey introduced the ‘cue sheet’ to Phones 4U in 2003, when he worked with former managing director Peter Green to help boost Phones 4U’s customer service reputation.

He said: “We trained up 1,000 store staff. They came in as arrogant salesmen, on £50,000 per year for giving away margin. We slapped them around a bit, ran them through a course in behavioural psychology, and they came out better salespeople. Phones 4U won the JD Power survey in 2005.

“The cue sheet helped staff establish customers’ needs. To make it work, Phones 4U had to change its remuneration structure. To get staff behaving in a certain way, you have to reward them for the right behaviour. If you want to know why, now, Phones 4U is widely known for the ‘hard sell’, in spite of the cue sheet, you just have to look at how staff are rewarded.”