The Trader: Beware - the `ax' man is coming

`A virtual call centre: to have virtually no contact with your customers'

NEVER LET yourself be taken over by a company with "ax" in its name. Before you know it, heads are rolling in the interest of streamlining operations. But, as any idiot - but not that many business advisers, apparently - knows there's only so far you can cut the payroll without damaging your end-product.

"Well, exactly," Laura said when we heard the news about the redundancies at the all-too-aptly named Axa last week. "I would have thought they needed all those layers of people to stop you ever getting through to the one who's supposed to be dealing with your claim."

Hmm, I said, but what about the wonders of modern technology? We've all come across those answering systems that start, "Press 1 if you are enquiring about an existing claim". Couldn't they just set up one of those and boast proudly about it being a 24-hour operation?

"They're way ahead of you on that," Laura said. "According to this they're cutting the number of offices where they take calls from the public to 4 from 24, and linking them as a `virtual call centre'. Presumably they label it that so they can have virtually no contact with their customers. I still think they're making a mistake."

She was right, of course. The trouble with machines is that no one really likes them, and if they find themselves confronting one too often they'll up sticks and head for the hills or, at the very least, a much smaller rival.

Not that Laura and I are experts on insurance. I've never even met anyone who works in that field. Perhaps they don't get invited to dinner parties. "No, you're confusing them with actuaries," Laura said. "They don't get invited anywhere."

"Very funny," I said and settled down while Laura fielded a call from my least favourite broker. "Look," I said when she finally hung up, "you've missed something. They've announced they're only having six centres for processing claims instead of 17. So it'll still take ages, and people will give up before they've been paid a penny and the profits won't suffer."

Then suddenly it was time for lunch and a plastic box of sushi - followed by a very large piece of cake to stop us being hungry an hour later.

We were sitting there trying to squirt each other with the soy sauce containers and saying how glad we were it wasn't us out of our jobs when Rory strode over.

"I don't want to worry you," he said, "but there's a rumour that someone's about to launch a takeover bid for us."

"Oh no," I answered. "Don't tell me they've got "ax" in their name ..."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss