Undercover Boss, Week 5: PR Charade By Britain's Worst Energy Supplier

Npower undercover boss Kev McCullough took the radical step of donning a red fleece and growing some stubble in an attempt to connect with his staff. Gripping stuff...
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Npower undercover boss Kev McCullough took the radical step of donning a red fleece and growing some stubble in an attempt to connect with his staff. Gripping stuff...

I believe that bosses are among the best people in the world. Especially bosses of incompetent, greedy and exploitative corporations. They are not just brilliant at PowerPoint presentations and stuff; they are brilliant as human beings.

This became obvious to me while watching Undercover Boss. In this episode we followed Kevin McCullough, chief operating officer of npower. This is a guy who certainly knows his onions when it comes to bossing; his company managed to rack-up £240 million profits despite being rated as Britain’s worst energy supplier.

It was obvious early doors that Kev was something special. He said that every morning when he entered his office he would literally pinch himself. Literally. Every morning. A little pinch.

We watched him swap his corporate attire for the drab uniform of one of his workers. He then paraded around in front of his family as they pointed at him and howled and screamed with derision. What an absolute fucking idiot he looked.

Kev handled it brilliantly and managed to hug a baby which made for an inspiring close-up.

Then it was time for Kev to get down to the real business of being an Undercover Boss - to don the nose-clip and marigolds and submerge yourself in the foul and rancid mess of your own creation. A kind of corporate spin on Gillian McKeith’s old turd-prodding act.

To disguise himself Kev grew some light stubble. It was amazing how this small physical change managed to flummox all of the well-meaning simpletons he was sent to work with. Even the presence of a large camera crew and general familiarity with the format failed to blow his cover.

So the journey began. And first up was a trip to see Steph.

Steph was a pleasant and perky woman who worked in customer services. She described how difficult it was to deal with all the constant complaints from the pissed-off customers. Kev, cloaked by his light smattering of facial hair, took a few calls and soon became exasperated. Yes, it was a tough job.

But it was Steph that he was more interested in. This beguiling creature who could perform so effortlessly in front of a large camera crew and her stubbly boss claimed to lack confidence. You could see a far-off look in Kev’s eyes which said: ‘Hmm, I wonder.’

Kev, cloaked by his light smattering of facial hair, took a few calls and soon became exasperated.

Next up, it was off to see a loudmouth Londoner called Charlie. He was quite a character – the kind of chirpy motormouth who can tell you the entire plot of Eastenders in less than seven minutes. He drove Kev around London and told him about the massive backlog of work - 3,000 jobs, but only 170 people to do it. Kev agreed – aye, terrible.

But he was more interested in Charlie. He was intrigued by this loveable rogue. We heard about Charlie’s unfortunate early life. How he was run-over. Brain damage. Coma. In the words of Charlie: “When I came out I was, like, quite disabled for a bit.”

As Charlie talked about his past there was a far-off look in Kev’s eyes. You could see he was thinking.

But then it was on to meet a coal shunter called Tim. Here we watched as Kev stood next to a lorry and talk about how hard it was to sack people. He had only shut two plants down during his career but it was never easy. This was relevant because Tim happened to be working in a place which was next on Kev’s hitlist.

Tim talked about the stress caused by having to deal with such an uncertain future, especially as his girlfriend was about to have a baby. Kev agreed.

Finally it was on to meet Peter Kay who was performing as a Yorkshire meter reader called Kyle – or it could have been the other way around. Anyway, this guy was an absolute hoot. The garlic bread of meter readers. Kyle didn’t have any complaints – he thought it was all brilliant.  Kev agreed.

But as Kyle was firing off a stream of jovial Yorkshire banalities you could see that look returning in Kev’s eyes. He was thinking. Cogs were turning.

And here the journey ended. Kev had seen for himself the foul mess of his organisation but he was not downhearted. Quite the opposite. He was enthused. He was more passionate and committed than ever before. After washing away the grime and dirt he sprang back into a smart suit and with a quick pinch strode back into his office.

This was when Kev was going to fix all of the problems of a corporation which is generally reviled by its customers. A company which faces investigation from the energy watchodg for its constant price hikes.

But Kev wasn’t interested in that. He was more interested in those characters he had met along the way. And one by one each of them was called into his office. The look on their faces was magical as he revealed himself without the light stubble. Goodness. Could it be – could it really be?

Yes it was. This was Kevin McCullough, Chief Operating Officer of npower. And he was about to transform these little people’s lives. First-up it was shy Steph. For her; a trip to Antarctica where she would attend a course to boost her confidence. Maybe one day she too would be able to close down a plant.

Next it was Tim. His prize was to accompany Kev on a special corporate fishing trip where he would receive some inspiring words which would help him cope with being fired by Kev. A lucky, lucky man.

Then we had Kyle. With his chubby Northern cheeks wobbling with anticipation. His days of annoying people on Yorkshire council estates were long gone. He would now be doing it on a national level as the public face of npower. Brilliant.

And finally we had poor, unfortunate Charlie. He was led out of the office and into the car park; there he was greeted with a gleaming red motorbike. Charlie was over the moon. He said: “I feel great that npower have given me this bike. I can’t wait until I tell my mum.”

So that was it. Kev had fixed it. Kev had fixed it for you, you and you. And as the credits rolled we were left with some final inspirational words from this remarkable man. And no sooner had he entered our lives – Kev was gone.

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