Thursday, June 23, 2011

Work environment

I love to hear about companies who really spoil their employees, who wouldn’t like working at Google or Apple campuses, where you do not have to leave work to go to the hairdresser have a nice crèche for you little ones and lunch room with proper food that is delicious and healthy, where you have not only an on-site gym but also games rooms.  Or a party means really dressing up – you might even bring your spouse instead of a lukewarm buffet with lazy beer and a DJ who frankly belong at a children party.
Unfortunately I do not have the budget to create a coffee/juice bar, an onsite gym – or even a shower, although I would love to offer it. If I should have a coffee bar, the bare minimum the team would have to give up is their lunch- voucher arrangement (for each day they work the receive a lunch voucher worth 6 Euros – they pay themselves just under 3 Euros (but that is before tax)) so it almost works out at an extra 70 -80 Euros a month in the hand. Even for a “free” lunch people do not want to give up the lunch vouchers so certainly not for coffee or juice.  When the choice is either introducing small luxuries and cutting peoples salaries, or keep the salaries and introduce small gestures the latter wins for me.

I think we have a great workplace, people are nice, we have the tools we need, the offices are not spectacular by any measurement but we have loads of light, nice furniture, neat meeting rooms and as we do not have a cafeteria we do have arrangements with a couple of local sandwich shops who delivers if we order before 10. There is ample of space to eat your lunch and whilst you have to pay for sweets we do offer free fruit for everybody.  We changed coffee machines a couple of years ago after a survey showed that most of the people did not like the coffee. When it came to choosing the new coffee supplier we ask the employees to taste and choose and the one with most votes won. The same goes for chairs – this year we needed to change the chairs in the office we had 4 different chairs on trial and asked a panel to choose which one we should buy. So although we do not have a very fancy office environment it is nice, and we do try to involve many people in the bigger decisions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Experience makes a brand

Let’s face it in most industries the differentiator is not the quality of the product anymore. Most quality is “good enough”.
Take Nespresso, we (mostly the Alpha-male I live with) drink a lot of Nespresso coffee – much more than when we made percolated coffee.  And yes it is easy – you just make the one cup you need and it is very quick. But if you, like Alpha-male, drinks 5 cups in the space of 20 min you could probably get away with percolated coffee.
The point is that it is not better coffee, and there are other less expensive brands of (one –cup-at –a –time) coffees. In our house we like it because it “feels” good.
If I go to the Nespresso shop it feels good – the shop is luxurious  a life-style shop, the décor, the way you have a “membership”, the packing of the beautiful colored capsules in very nice looking boxes and the paper bags of small boutique quality. I know it is wrong on many levels:
  • The, very tiny, eco-warrior in me hates that packaging wise there is a box for every 10 capsules when everybody buys 100 -300 capsules.
  • The fact that even though they have tried to “sex” it up the recycling is pants.
  • The fact the shop is on 4 levels of prime real-estate location – and through my capsules I am paying for that.
Despite my observant self knows all of this it still feels nice…..
If I am honest, I do not really enjoy spending my Saturdays waiting in my life-style shop – with the frequency we need the coffee, so I mostly order on-line. The webpage is easy to use – the delivery is quick and on the very few occasions I have had to contact Nespresso they have been super helpful (both verbal in their call center, but also in email). That makes me happy!
It is the entire experience that makes a brand: The shop – the website – the call center- the packaging – the delivery. At any of these points of contact you can meet my expectations, delight or disappoint me, at any point! And if your service faults I will go to an alternative (other differentiator – but the quality is still “good enough”).
All companies should keep this in mind; make sure that not only at the point of contact, but everybody in the company should know the value of the offering. Think of the cleaner at NASA who when asked did NOT answer “I am a cleaner” instead saw his job as “part of a team, that will send a man to the moon”.
For social media make a plan for what you want to achieve with the use of social media. If you have a FB page or Twitter account give some serious thoughts to what you want the customers to experience – have a plan with measurable goals and have “toll-gate” reviews to measure your progress but also to ensure you are going down the right path.
It is vital you have the right people who write on behalf of the brand (and the policies to back them up), you do not want to make a “Kenneth Cole” and alienate your “fans”. Ensure you monitor the “noise” about your brand and evaluate the impact. Every brand will be talked about – You need and want to be able to influence the talk about yours!