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Empower Employees to Elevate Customer Experiences

Posted by: Dan Spiegel on September 25, 2012
Working at Pret A Manger

Photo from Pret A Manger's website, Working at Pret

Lately I find I have eaten a considerable amount of lunches at Pret a Manger, the London-based pre-made sandwich shop. Thinking about one great experience after another, I grew curious about how Pret continues to over-deliver on my expectations. I did a little research on the company to learn more.

The fundamentals of the business strategy are tight: provide a streamlined menu, prepare food the day of consumption, use local ingredients, charge a price roughly equivalent to a fast food value meal and get the customer in and out of the store in under 5 minutes.

This strategy actually affords the brand an ability to beat the traditional giants on their own promises. Who else can deliver the freshness and speed Pret has to offer?

Beyond speed and freshness, Pret really differentiates itself on the experience it offers. As you approach an army of cashiers on your way out of the store, you are greeted by smiling employees conveying excitement as they help you move through the line at lightning speed.

No doubt, scaling this type of experience at the rate Pret has grown is no easy task. To do this, the company has very strategically aligned its employees to the superior experience it seeks to deliver to customers.

This alignment is present in every phase of the employee’s journey with the company – from the experience of applying for the job through getting promoted. Prospective employees are sent to work in a store for a day where the team in place will, after a few hours, determine if the candidate exhibits the right level of customer orientation to get the job.

Once on the job, the employee finds himself a part of a team that is collectively incentivized to deliver the highest level of cheer to customers possible. When employees receive a promotion, they are given $50-$100 that they are required to give back to the colleagues that helped shape their career along the way.

As the brand continues to grow, no doubt other brands will look to react by pulling on the traditional levers: product innovation, price, and scale. However, pulling on these levers promises only periodic spikes in business performance, not the sustainable value generated from real strategic alignment.

The lesson for brands? Focus more on aligning your employee base behind your business strategy to deliver a richer customer experience.

Dan Spiegel is a Senior Consultant for Interbrand.

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