October 10, 2010 – In this time of financial uncertainty, many CEOs want to reconnect with their employees and win their trust, while seeing first hand what the problems really are in their own companies. Undercover Boss, Sunday nights on CBS, films bosses transforming themselves in to entry level workers in their companies and finding out whether they are capable of doing the jobs they routinely expect their employees to do.
Mike White, the CEO and President of Direct TV, goes undercover as Tom Peters, an unemployed salesman, in America’s largest satellite service. Mike talks about his wife and three grown children, including a son who overcame addiction problems and is a single dad. Mike himself had seven siblings, and lost his dad to cancer when he was fifteen. His dad was his role model and taught him to work hard, and get to know people from all walks of life. Now he wants to meet the employees on the front lines, “find out what makes them tick, and what ticks them off.”
After a night in a tacky motel, Mike, as an undercover boss transformed in to Tom, begins work at the training facility in Bessemer, Alabama, with a cheerful Service Technician named Phil. Tom learns that Phil has had to provide his own GPS in order to find customers; also that it can be very hard to get the parts needed to solve the customers’ problems. After numerous calls to other techs, Phil finally finds the part he needs, and the customer is thrilled that her television is working once again. Tom is impressed with Phil’s polite, competent and tenacious service. On the ride back, Phil explains that after growing up without a father, he became a crack addict, and after a bad accident and an encounter with an angel, he turned his life around and became a youth pastor, being a role model to fatherless kids.
Next Tom travels to Las Vegas to work with Warehouse Specialist Ryan. The Techs come to get the equipment they need on their trucks, hoping to be gone before their first service calls at 8 a.m. Even though Ryan is disciplined and meticulous, he is slowed down by Tom’s ineptness. Also, he says, if they are low on a part, the guys hoard it on their trucks, causing the slow down Tom witnessed with Phil having to call everyone to see if they had the part he was lacking. Part of the problem is once a week deliveries, which is not often enough. At one point Ryan asks Tom if he would like to jump on a trampoline, leading him out to show him the backlog of cardboard in the dumpster. Since it hasn’t been picked up, they must jump on it to flatten it down. Ryan, who has a degenerative disc disease, finds this job very hard on his back; but since he is a single dad to young twin boys, he has to do it anyway to support them.
Tom travels to an Installation Facility for Direct TV in Alabama, and works with Tequila, one of the few women doing installations. She says many customers do not trust her ability to do the job, but she proves herself strong, capable and patient. Unimpressed with Tom’s work, she comments that “you have your fast learners and those who ain’t never going to catch on.” She is also slowed down by a bad storm that blows up in the middle of the work. Unable to get the signal to download due to the weather, she calls the installation line to request a waiver, and was put on hold for over twenty minutes, while the inconvenienced customer waited. She had hoped to go to a family reunion after work, but now says she probably won’t make it in time.
Tom makes his way to a Customer Service Call Center in Colorado, where he works with a beautiful young woman named Chloe. She is professional and friendly to the customers, and tries to train Tom to take a call, typing in what he should say and trying to send him signals to get him through it. He blows it right off the bat, though, by calling a woman, “sir.” The call goes downhill from there; his second call goes better, though, and Chloe is delighted. She tells him that she is going to school as a Political Science major, around her work schedule, and if she ever finishes, she’d like to go to law school, or maybe start her own business.
The week is over, and Tom turns back in to a very tired, humbled Mike, the Undercover Boss of Direct TV. He goes back and tells his board how impressed he is with the employees, and also discusses the problems he’s seen of techs being embarrassed in front of the customers because of inventory and supply problems.
Mike White summons Phil, Ryan, Tequila and Chloe to headquarters and reveals that he was an undercover boss for the week, to their great surprise. Stunned by the adversity these people have overcome and the hard, skilled work they do, he says for the first time he understands his dad’s remark that “people are people.”
Mr. White tells Tequila what a terrific employee she is, and that he wants to have her serve on a steering committee for womens’ concerns within the company. He also offers to pay for a family reunion, since she missed hers because of him. Ryan is praised for his ideas concerning better coordination between techs and inventory, and Mike wants him to meet with the head guy in charge of supply. Furthermore, he wants to pay for a fantastic birthday party for Ryan’s little boys, including “jumpy things.” He tells Phil how much his positive attitude and changed life inspired him, and assures him all techs will have GPS devices provided by the company on their trucks. Mike White also offers $5,000 toward Phil’s ministry to teens in need of role models. A teary eyed Phil says he’d just read a Scripture in the Bible about how if you conduct yourself properly you’ll be sitting among kings, and here he is with the boss of the company honoring him. Mike quickly assures Phil that he, Mike, is the one sitting with kings. For Chloe, Mike decides to create a Direct TV scholarship program and give her ten thousand dollars as the first recipient. She is stunned, but when he tells her how impressed he is with her, and explains that he’d like to mentor her and be a role-model and father figure to the former foster child, Chloe is deeply touched. At the end of the show it is revealed that Chloe goes on to be crowned Miss Black Colorado, and Phil was planning a trip to an orphanage in Kenya, Africa.
Undercover Boss Mike White says he thought his company, Direct TV, was all about technology, but now he understands that his job is to cherish his employees, the real heroes of the company.
Personal experience watching Undercover Boss on CBS