The new ‘Breakfast with…’ series never ceases to amaze me in terms of the incredible people who have agreed to take part. When I chose ‘inspired’ as my word for this year, I think I really underestimated its significance and how overwhelmingly inspired I would be. This week I’m beyond pleased to be able to chat to Adam French, Consumer Rights Expert at Which?.
Prior to our chat, Adam and I had experienced very different starts to our Monday morning. His had kicked off with a healthy gym session whereas mine was with four much needed espressos. However as I later discovered, this is also a breakfast drink of choice for Adam so I didn’t feel too guilty.
Whilst I recovered from the thought of doing any exercise at all, never mind so early in the day, I asked Adam about his background and his current role at Which?. After reading Law at University, Adam embarked on a career in media journalism, which allowed him to combine his legal expertise into his work at Which? and says that ‘A big part of what I do is a strategic role that basically looks at how we can help as many people as possible with our consumer advice. Recently I’ve been planning our consumer advice around Brexit’ and leading on a ‘project that’s tasked with identifying some of the big systemic issues in the UK’s consumer rights protections framework and what Which? can do to get positive change for consumers.’ Adam went on to say that ‘Another less glamorous part of my role is developing commercial offerings and testing new revenue streams sometimes, facilitating product reviews and developing more commercial content strategies.’ Completion of this additional commercial work means that Adam can also find a balance between ‘Doing the right thing and hopefully still being employable in the future. ‘
Adam’s first job as a sixteen year old was in a plastic bag factory on his hometowns industrial estate, which he went on to say was also the worst job he’d ever had because it was ‘painfully boring and swelteringly hot – it required you to work near huge vats of melting plastic – in the height of summer.’ Hmm, can imagine that this isn’t something I would enjoy either although I did some work in a shoe factory once when I was a student. Slightly less hot and bleak but it was very boring.
As for the best and worst parts of his current job, Adam says that he really enjoys ‘Helping people, be that on an individual basis or being part of the unique ability of Which? to campaign for change.’ The downside of his job being the ‘eye watering cost of living in London.’ However, despite high rents, Adam loves London and sees it as a really ‘Collaborative and social kind of place.’ For Adam, living in the capital has been ‘An eye opening experience’ as it has a real ‘Unique Englishness about it’ and as a city, which openly embraces diversity has ‘Kept enough of its identity without losing itself.’
Adam and I chatted about companies, which offered the best and worst Customer Service and we were very much in agreement over candidates. Adam highlighted His Lordship’s techie favourite Richer Sounds as ‘An excellent company’ and championed my own personal favourite First Direct. Controversial as it may be as a retail giant, Amazon also gets the thumbs up for convenience, price, delivery, 24/7 service and ease of returns. On the other end of the scale were car dealerships with Which? research finding that the majority of customers actively mistrust them. We also discussed letting agents and good old Ryanair. No surprises there then.
When I asked Adam about why good Customer Service was important he said, ‘Things can and will go wrong, at the end of the day we’re all human’ and that ‘Where you can judge the quality of a company is the way it resolves problems.’ I couldn’t agree more. Often it’s not the issue, which is the problem, it’s the way customer issues is dealt with. Another thing we agreed on is that more technology is not necessarily the answer as ‘automated computer says no policies are infuriating; I think there’s always going to be a need for common sense and empathy – although technology is improving’ with the ‘best Customer Service I’ve experienced so far has been speaking to actual people.’ That’s one reason that First Direct get my vote as you’re through to a real, live person straight away, every time.
I asked Adam if he could name the most interesting consumer story he’d ever worked on for Which and he gave me some brilliant examples. These included building the PPI claiming tool at Which, which has recovered millions for mis-sold customers, and also the international exposure of a Rugby World Cup ticketing scam website back in 2015 – a story that unexpectedly found its way onto the front page of the Fiji Sun. Incidentally, Adam is a big rugby fan and anyone who knows me and my privilegedpup will understand why I found it interesting to discover that Adam’s ‘Front row hero growing up’ was former British Lion and England captain Phil ‘Raging Bull’ Vickery. What a small world!
In 10 years time, Adam has ‘Absolutely no idea’ where he will be but regards that as ‘Exciting’ as ‘Life is to be experienced and enjoyed – not planned.’ As far as his career goes, Adam is always keeping half an eye on what’s out there in case there’s an interesting opportunity that feels like an exciting challenge but says ‘That’s millennials for you, no such thing as a job for life these days!
As he gives out advice on a daily basis, I was keen to find out what was the best advice Adam had ever been given. His response was as follows:
- There are two sides to every story (agreed)
- Don’t leave your inbox open all day while you’re working – it will only distract you (whoops, that’s me told!)
- Never use re-boiled water to make a cup of tea (It’s nice to hear that Adam knows how to make decent brew, as I don’t think many Southerners do!)
As well as rugby legend Phil Vickery, who by the way makes THE BEST sour dough bread ever so would be the ideal breakfast guest, Adam would also love the chance to have breakfast with author and mountaineer Jon Krakauer as his ‘In depth investigations are breathtaking. The meticulous piecing together of Chris McCandless journey in Into the Wild is a masterpiece and his documentation of the 1996 Everest disaster in Into This Air is jaw dropping so he would be the most fascinating person to listen to.’ I’m sure that Adam found me just as engaging! He has just run out of time to say so 😉
Thanks to Adam for joining me today for what was a breakfast without breakfast in the end. However we will definitely be taking a rain check on this so that Adam will get to enjoy his breakfast of choice ‘a very hipster-friendly avocado on sourdough toast, poached free range eggs, nice thick, crispy streaky bacon and plenty of siracha chilli sauce’ as he ‘Loves a good spicy breakfast’ plus of course, the minimum 4 espressos!
If you’d like to hear more news and views from Adam then you can find him on Twitter where he’s well worth a follow!
Until next time everyone!
Lady Janey x