Interview Jonas Ridderstrale Zurück
Shaun Smith
1. How could the top management of a company inspire and motivate its employees in order to deliver the company's brand? Could you give us some examples on this regard?

The key to this is a concept that I call 'loose/tight'. Most organisations exercise a very tight control over what employees should do but a very loose control over why they should do it. In other words they have strict procedures and regulations that employees must abide by even when these do not make sense for the customer. I believe that organisations should reverse this and very be tight in communicating to employees who the target customers are, what they value, what the brand promise is and the kind of experience that they wish customers to have but then to be somewhatt looser about how to deliver this so that employees can use their judgement. One of the most successful fast food brands in the UK is called Pret a Manger. They employee students from all over Europe to work in their sandwich shops for a season. Whilst they have high employee turnover they also have a fabulous reputation for service. They achieve this by having a very clear brand promise ' Passionate about food', employing staff for their personality and fit with the culture - I call this hiring for 'DNA' - training them well in the technical aspects of the job but then empowering them to deliver the brand. For example, staff are taught to "say something as the customer approaches, say something when you serve them and say something when you bid them goodbye" It is left up to the good sense of the employee about what to say.

2. In today's globalization process, how do you think a HR department could hire and retain good - not necessarily talented - employees as long as possible?

See answer to 3 below

3. In order to attract good employees, do you really need to market your company to prospective employees like one markets its products?

Absolutely. The problem is that most recruitment is done by HR people who don’t understand how to use branding or marketing to differentiate in the employment market place. I think recruitment ads should be given to your marketing department or ad agency to design. Some years ago I was working with the fashion retailer Topshop who are famous for their brand and strong marketing. They were experiencing high turnover of employees and were having problems in attracting new ones. When we looked at their recruitment ads we found them to be boring so they simply got lost in the mass of advertisements in the job market. The experience they created for employees was just the same as any other retailer despite the brand being one of the most exciting fashion retailers in the world. We suggested that Topshop use a branded approach to recruitment and focus a lot more on their employee experience. The result was better quality people with a better fit for the culture who stay much longer and give much better service as well because they understand what the brand stands for and want to be part of it.

4. How could companies improve their customer experience in the long run? Should they work more on their people?

In my book ‘Uncommon Practice – People who deliver a great brand experience’ we identified seven practices that characterise the best brands but I will mention one here in answer to your question. Richer Sounds is a UK based HI-Fi retailer which achieves the highest sales per square foot of any retailer in the world. Why? Because Julian Richer the Chairman believes that the customer and the employee experience are inextricably linked and so he uses uncommon ways to create a great employee experience and reward them for creating an exceptional customer experience. He creates a distinctive employment experience for his best performing "colleagues" by providing these employees with the loan of company Bentleys for the weekend and trips on the company jet. Yet any other retailer attempting to copy these very unusual employee practices is likely to fail because they would not be linked to the customer experience strategy. The fact is that unless your customer experience and employee experience are carefully aligned with the strategy for your brand you are unlikely to stand out from the crowd. In a sea of sameness those organisations that create and deliver distinctive customer experience are those that win.

People make the difference. If you concentrate on creating a great environment for your employees, they will focus on creating a great experience for your customers. Research by Forum Corporation found that contact with people usually has a greater impact on customer loyalty than does advertising. Forum asked consumers to rate the extent to which a number of different attributes contribute to creating a customer experience that drives loyalty. “People” was ranked first. 1

While this realisation is not revolutionary, making it work remains unusual. Not many companies successfully manage to harness the full potential of people power day in and day out. The trouble is that they need to. Organisations that deliver their brand promise through their people reap benefits that directly impact customer loyalty, market share, and profitability.

So, how can you energise the people in your organisation? Five things are essential if you are to harness people power:

• Hire people with competencies to satisfy customer expectations
• Train employees to deliver experiences that uniquely fit your brand promise
• Reward employees for the right behaviours
• Drive the behaviours from the very top of the organisation
• Measure the employee experience

5. How can an organization plan a change strategy in order to bring its brand to life, if there is this RTC phenomenon (Resistance To Change) in many companies today?

The problem for many organisations is that they are constantly changing direction and so their employees get change fatigue.”Oh, not another new initiative” is the cry we hear in many organisations hence the resistance that comes from the news that yet another one is about to start. So I recommend that organisations focus on their long term strategy for winning rather than their strategy for change’ For example, I was speaking at a large Customer Service Management conference. Senior executives from Disney, Southwest Airlines and Ritz-Carlton gave presentations and the audience were clearly enthralled with how these organisations operate. I am sure many of the delegates went back to their organisations with the intention to adopt some of these best practices. Yet this is dangerous. One of the first principles of business strategy is to differentiate rather than be "me too". Professor Michael Porter, probably the most famous strategist alive today, says that strategy is about making a choice; of what to do, but even more importantly, what not to do. To attempt to copy other organisations runs the risk of your being second rate, at best and totally inappropriate at worst. Instead what we must do is to focus on our customers and stay true to our strategy for delighting them.

For example, Sir Terry Leahy, CEO of Tesco the global supermarket chain, told me that the key to Tesco's success was "The day we stopped following Sainsbury (the market leader at that time) and started following our customers". In other words they focused on differentiation and meeting the needs of their target customers rather than simply copying competitors in a knee-jerk reaction. Since then the brand has focused on creating value for customers to earn their life-time loyalty. Tesco's slogan of "every little helps" describes the enormous attention to detail that enables them to ensure that processes, people and products operate seamlessly to deliver value. Today Tesco is the market leader and has declared a 2billion pound profit for the last year has entered the US market. Tesco has stayed true to its strategy over a number of years so that it becomes part of the culture. When your people understand that they are being asked to deliver what customers want and that management are fully committed to sustaining the effort over the long term then the resistance will fade away.

6. What is your advice regarding the retention process in any company? What strategy they should apply in order to keep their employees longer in the organization (by working more on establishing customer loyalty programs perhaps...)?

Some organisations like Pret a Manger use a model that accepts high turnover of employees. But if your business is more complex, like investment banking for example, you want to keep your best people for as long as possible. I think that loyalty is a misused term. Most organisations think that it is about employees or customers being loyal to them. I think it should be the other way round. The firm should be loyal to their best customers and employees by offering value that is not generally available to the mass market. True loyalty happens when there is an emotional engagement with the organisation. This engagement comes from experiencing the brand or organisation in a way that creates true value for the customer or employee. This may not be financial but is more likely to be because the customer or employee believes that the organisation truly cares about their experience and seeks to act in ways which build trust and mutual benefit.
Home About us Speakers Enquiry Contact
A-Z News & Features Topics Key Words Interviews