Building a reputation for “pleased to serve you”

August 07, 2011

Building a reputation for “pleased to serve you”

No doubt about it but U.K.-based Pret-A-Manger (ready to eat, translated) is forging ahead with its reputation-building program in the U.S.  I think it is catching on. Today’s article on how they are building their reputation was illuminating because of its best practices on motivating employees and delighting customers who come for a fresh take on fast food. I should know because I’ve been a recipient for several years now since a Pret is located between my subway exit and my office. 
I am usually there along with one or two regulars when the Pret opens at 7am . Sometimes they give me free coffee and tell me to have a good day. But what I hold really dear to my heart  is their gesture of kindness in the dead of winter. If I arrive before their opening time and it is bitter bitter cold as it was many days over the past winter, they sometimes let me in to wait while they finish their daily early morning meeting or tell me to grab my coffee and go (I make it up the next day). As a New Yorker, most stores let people wait outside no matter what the weather is and stick strictly to their closing and opening hours. Here is another example that comes to mind of their friendly customer focus. Over the past two or three months I thought that a large coffee cost $2 and I would just drop two single bills on the counter, grab my coffee and head to my office. Just recently, however,  I learned that my coffee actually costs $2.11. No one ever said anything to me. Maybe they didn’t have the heart to displease me but I sure was embarrassed when I overheard another customer asking about the price. Now I pay full freight, happily. For some reason, I usually get to know the manager in charge because they are there early when the store opens and are always up front helping and welcoming customers. They always pitch in behind the counters when it gets crowed, clean up spilled milk at the coffee area and thank everyone for coming.  The managers understand the importance of teamwork and working shoulder to shoulder with the others. Everyone is always bustling around and moving to stock the shelves, answer questions, say hello, and keep the flow going. I often marvel at their customer service smarts but had not spent much time learning about how they do what they do so well. Therefore I was glad to read about how they run such a tip top shop.

Here are some of training strategies they use that are worth sharing:

  • New hires are sent to a Pret A Manger shop for a six-hour day, and then the employees there vote whether to keep them or not. 
  • Bonuses are awarded based on the performance of an entire team, not individuals.
  • Pret also sends “mystery shoppers” every week. Mystery shoppers are people who visit and observe but do not reveal who they are. If a mystery shopper scores a shop as “outstanding,”  all of the employees get paid an extra wage-per-hour bonus, based on a week’s pay.
  • When employees are promoted or pass training milestones, they receive at least $80 in vouchers. But, instead of keeping the bonus, the employees must give the money to colleagues, people who have helped them along the way. That’s a novel approach.
  • Every quarter, the top 10 percent of stores, as ranked by mystery-shopper scores, receive about $50 per employee for a party.
  • The top executives at Pret get 60 “Wow” cards, with scratch-off rewards of cash or an iPod, to hand out each year to employees who excel.
  • Pret has all-staff parties twice a year and managers get a monthly budget of $150 or so to spend on drinks or outings for their workers.

And I forgot to mention that they are always ask how you are doing. It’s the little things that add up to make a reputation whole.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

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