Last night’s highly edited Mary Portas Secret Shopper programme on estate agents looks as though it tried but failed to deliver the hatchet job it so clearly set out to do.
But the ill-tempered programme was this morning slammed as a 'self-serving circus show'.
Having failed to deliver its punches, the cameras dwelt lingeringly on the creative hairstyle of assistant manager Philip Thompson, whilst his excellent colleague, Veronica Gray, came over as the true star of the show: someone you'd completely trust to sell you a house.
Yet Portas was never going to be deviated from trying to deliver her main message, that agents deliver a poor standard of customer service. Unfortunately for her, she had picked the wrong agent to try and make it stack up.
Simon Gerrard, managing director of London agents Martyn Gerrard, which featured in the programme, said that 98% of what he had said was not used.
He said that key points were ignored, including the fact that 70% of staff at his eight offices were either NAEA or ARLA qualified, and the remaining 30% in training.
He had also wanted to convey the message that anyone can set up in estate agency, because the industry is unlicensed.
He added that he had spent £3,000 on a marketing feature suggested by Portas (pictured with Simon Gerrard) but this failed to be included.
Gerrard, who runs the highly reputable firm his father Martyn established in 1964, said that all Portas was interested in was customers, property details and viewings.
He said: “However, the programme makers had to come away from their original premise – that we earn an enormous amount of money for doing nothing – because as filming went on, it became apparent that what a reputable agent does is in fact quite skillful and complicated.”
He said that filming had taken place two days a week over five weeks, and that he had taken his lawyer along to see the rough cut.
“None of my key messages got across,” said Gerrard, “but my lawyer thought we came over as professional. I hope the programme dispels the myth that all agents are the same, and that I came over as being receptive to new ideas.
“We’re always looking to improve our customer service, and some of the ideas she suggested should at least be looked at by agents. Possibly we have been a bit neglectful over property details and been happy to go along with the norm.”
Calling Portas 'belligerent and ill informed', he said: "I was approached by Mary Portas' producer when they were researching the show. It was clear then that Mary's views on customer service with buyers were extremely naive. This was borne out in the show with her incesssant focus on viewings and in particular, the apparent need to be uber-informed about the minutest detail.
"She completely ignored the most important aspect of customer service to the paying client, the seller, and the fact that successful agents focus on getting numbers around property, not taking up a buyer's time by explaining how the boiler works.
"I spent about an hour sharing some really meaty and radical customer service initiatives with Mary Portas's producter, none of which they chose to use. Indeed, the consultant to the show was shown as Peter Cross. Who is he and what does he know about agency? Nothing. He's her partner in retail consultancy.
"I'm glad that Martyn Gerrard came out well in this staged and sensationalist attempt by Portas to perpetuate the unfortunate stereotype. Having been a judge on the Estate Agency of the Year Awards that assessed this particular firm's customer service submission, I can tell you that some of his excellent initiatives go far beyond Mary Portas's self-serving circus show."