Magazine article Management Today

CUTTING ROOM: Evan Davis at Large

Magazine article Management Today

CUTTING ROOM: Evan Davis at Large

Article excerpt

Big numbers - the directory inquiries saga; how a Firestone plant lost control; Gilmore airs his rights; the business case for ID cards ...

The recent changes to the directory inquiries service, first mentioned in my column in May, will become the subject of business PhD theses in a few years, given that Britain is now the biggest deregulated directory inquiries market in the world.

Most of the new services will have disappeared by Christmas, so we might view the current situation as a heat to select entrants for the next round.

Among those that will make it through, 118 118 must be a cert, with the catchiest digits and the most memorable advertising campaign.

Yet the company behind this number - InfoNXX - tried to persuade Oftel not to allocate the number 118 118 to anyone, on the grounds that it would give the holder an unfair advantage over other operators. Oftel rejected the plea, although it accepted that no-one should be allowed to use 118 192. As a result, 118 118 was allocated, and InfoNXX snapped it up for pounds 2 million.

In the US, 85% of calls to operator assistance (as they call it there) are put straight through by the operator. InfoNXX claims that early indications on their 118 118 service suggest that half of calls are connected that way. Given the generally high price one pays for that, people are either very rich, very lazy or very ignorant about the price structure of call connect.

A fascinating academic study into the problems at Firestone, the tyre company, in the US. You'll recall that in 2000, Firestone and Ford had to recall 14 million tyres on Ford Explorer vehicles after blow-out problems occurred when the tyre's rubber tread detached itself from its steel belt.

There has long been speculation that Firestone's quality control problems were related to a contentious strike at a plant in Illinois. It was alleged that under-trained replacement workers were used, demanding 12-hour shifts were introduced, and supervision was lax. As tyres are still, in some measure, hand-made, it was argued that morale problems could be expected to affect product quality.

The study concluded that, yes, there is evidence that the strike had an effect on product quality. And the authors estimate that 40 lives were lost because of low-quality products from the Illinois plant. …

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