The clamour for change feels unprecedented. Few people predicted the populist victories seen here and in America but they expose a deep-rooted desire to shift the status quo.
2016 saw new political leadership, 2017 will be the year when things begin to happen.
In October I took up my new role as chief executive of BrightHouse. Everyone has been curious to understand what I’m planning to ‘do’.
Their questions are consistently about a fresh vision or new strategy.
Having been with BrightHouse for 10 years there is a temptation to focus on the things that I want to change. However, I’ve been most keen to listen as much as I can.
I have listened to customers in our stores telling me what they like about our buy-as-you-go offer.
“Having been with BrightHouse for 10 years there is a temptation to focus on the things that I want to change. However, I’ve been most keen to listen as much as I can”
I have listened to our colleagues telling me what they believe works well and how we could improve.
And I have listened to those who regulate us to ensure this market operates as effectively as it can for all.
I have also listened to our detractors. Listening has allowed us to inform debate and to challenge some of the misconceptions that have grown up around our business and industry.
And where there is valid criticism we will make changes.
A consequence of this is that I’m clear about the things that I don’t want to change, the things we mustn’t change.
BrightHouse serves people with very specific wants and needs. These are families with lower incomes who simply want access to everyday household goods for their homes – the things that most people in the UK take for granted.
For more than 20 years we have served this overlooked group and have never stopped seeking to improve what we do for them. We recognise that serving these people is a huge privilege which rightly comes with a duty of care and responsibility.
I’m personally motivated by the desire to provide a second (or third) chance to people who have had financial difficulties in the past, but who require everyday items such as a washing machine.
“Like the politicians, 2017 is when we at BrightHouse must act upon those things we have heard”
However, this must be balanced against doing what is best for the individual. For this reason, BrightHouse has some of the most stringent affordability tests seen anywhere, and we will not compromise on these. Increasingly this means turning potential customers away.
Being close to our customers is the best way to help them if the difficulties of daily life get in the way and affects their ability to pay.
It is also important to our customers to have flexibility built into their agreement with us.
They know that they can always get their product serviced if faulty, or they can ultimately hand the product back with nothing further to pay, if their circumstances change.
So, like the politicians, 2017 is when we at BrightHouse must act upon those things we have heard.
Over the next year we will be implementing an extensive programme of initiatives that will substantially change our business and what we offer our customers.
Retail has shown an ability to adapt like few other industries and I look forward to playing my part in its evolution through 2017 and beyond.