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Telling tall tales

Last week I did a show for the Department of Treasury. They were on a retreat and I was engaged, secretly, as a guest speaker. What no-one in attendance knew was that I was a magician, they were all told I was Dr Francis Roberts PhD, used to work for McKinsey Consulting and was now there to speak about Business Realationship Managing.

As usual, the hardest part for me was chatting to the group one-on-one during cocktails. Difficult on one level because socialising in general is very, very stressful for an Aspie. Difficult on another level because I had to pass myself off as someone I wasn't. This was made extra hard because many of the people I spoke to knew a whole lot more about "my field of expertise" than I did.

I was able to pull off one amusing story with great conviction I thought I'd relate to you.

I explained that, since I'd left McKinsey and formed my own company, one of my regular clients was Telstra. They'd come to me with the problem that they were losing $3m annually having to answer customer calls about their mobile phone services when most of the problems the customers were calling about could be solved easily with a "Did you turn your phone on?"

In other words, customers were wasting Telstra's time and money.

I offered several suggestions but the one they chose to go with was this: We discovered that people were willing to wait on hold for up to 25 minutes. By forcing them to stay on for 30 minutes, most people simply gave up and sorted out their problems themselves. Thus taking the pressure off Telstra and enabling them to hire fewer staff.

In the end, the idea saved Telstra almost $5m.

The guests at the function were shocked that I had offered such a solution to Telstra, but not surprised that Telstra jumped at it.