Pret A Manger Customer Service Relies on Communication

It’s hard not to blush green with envy. A company that really seems to “get” communication as a business process rates a Sunday business feature story in The New York Times once in a few blue moons, and British sandwich shop Pret A Manger sounds like a great place to work. Read Stephanie Clifford’s story here, but here are a few highlights.

Five things Pret A Manger does well

1. Foster Teamwork: The pay is not high, the working conditions frantic and stressful and the turnover huge in fast food. But Pret A Manger puts cash behind teamwork, rewarding teams rather than individuals with cash bonuses. Even when  individual workers do really well, they get cash that they have to share to those who helped them excel. This team attitude means that everyone pitches in, and the communication process in the stores supports that effort through daily kick-off meetings and peer-support culture. This isn’t a high-tech solution, just an effective one.

2. Establish Strong Processes: Making sandwiches isn’t hard. Making them consistently well is art. Pret features recipe cards with photos so that people can see how the food is supposed to look, step by step. When you train on how to make a sandwich, your peers support you along the way. Plus, there’s a process to move up — and your peers help you get there — that’s clearly communicated. Communication isn’t something being done to employees, it’s intrinsic.

3.  Leaders Lead: Store managers and kitchen supervisors know what food needs to be ready when, and peer communication supports the effort. The managers encourage their charges continually, even when issuing correction. They also train — and the trainees’ final exam? Training someone else. You have to know your stuff to train someone. It’s further evidence of how managers and staff “own” communication.

4.  Customer Focus: The store is staffed to reduce customer wait times, not maximize revenue per employee. That’s a liberating decision for the workers, who are hired at least as much for their cheerful attitudes as anything else.  No one is really overworked in  a Pret store — there might be as many as nine cashiers on duty in the morning there, as opposed to the one or two at your average Starbucks.  Starbucks has a great reputation, but standing on line there is legendary. One barista, one cashier isn’t going to cut it at Pret.

5.  No Say-Do Disconnect: This is an essential business maxim — your behavior as an organization tells a lot about your real priorities. If there’s too great a disconnect between behavior and rhetoric, trust evaporates. Pret doesn’t just communicate about its priorities, it appears to live them.  Its employees seem to like that — their turnover is orders of magnitude lower than its fast food competitors. That means satisfied customers, lower costs, and better performance.

What’s not to like?

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