The Coffee Club strategy that has 69 per cent of staff feeling more connected

By Sarah Stowe | 13 Apr 2021 View comments

The Coffee Club conducted an employee survey last year that revealed 69 per cent of staff felt more connected to brand vision and values than they had at the beginning of the year, a rise of 13 per cent.

This is despite Covid-19 and all the challenges thrown up by the pandemic.

Almost 15 per cent of team members felt more connected to head office staff, while 13 per cent enjoyed greater connections with other team members in different stores.

So what brought about this rise in engagement?

As Nick Bryden, CEO of parent company Minor DKL, explains in this Q&A, employing a new platform has been critical in delivering the much-need communications boost as part of a brand transformation strategy.

Inside Franchise Business Executive: What was the catalyst for adopting a new platform?

Nick Bryden: “We’ve been on a three-year transformation journey which aims to firstly, make the brand more relevant and contemporary, secondly make it easier for customers to connect digitally, and third, to develop a world class culture founded on customer connection.

“We identified the link between our teams and customers and that we needed a new communications platform. The old way of newsletters, emails and online training didn’t cut through with messages to our frontline staff.”

IFBE: Why did you pick this particular platform?

NB: “Workplace is highly intuitive. It’s a platform people are familiar with through Facebook and we felt it would be easy for team members and franchisees.

“There is a lot of functionality. It allows us to firstly establish two-way communications, which was previously difficult. We get a lot of feedback, direct from franchisees and team members too. 

“Secondly, there are various functions like live video posting and check-ins, that allow us to communicate in a simple way and share news about the brand.

“We’re also exploring Enablo Campaign bots which can target communications to specific audiences and specific times. It gives us the chance to drive important messages in a very controlled way while also collecting insights on message delivery.

“The third piece that is quite useful is that the survey technology is pretty good. We are able to do rapid fire surveys – on engagement, the success of innovation, and topics franchisees might want to hear from us.”

IFBE: You adopted the platform in February 2020 – was that an ideal time or a challenge?

NB: “We pre-planned and did the launch, and of course we didn’t plan for Covid. For us it was a really difficult time, dine-in in shopping centres is one of the hardest hit categories.

“So we faced a decision point to roll out or not. We were concerned, particularly because the benefit and challenge is that it is a free and open platform for communication, so our franchisees could communicate and connect with each other. 

“We weighed up the pros and cons and made the decision to push forward, believing the benefits of live communication would outweigh potential loss of control.

“There are some moderating capabilities but we haven’t used them. We’ve been engaging in conversation with franchisees rather than trying to shut down voices, to be honest. And franchisees engage in conversations with each other.

“The key learning is that we are a community of diverse people, not every has the same store look, the same vision for the brand. Dialogue creates a community and a discussion that is more open and transparent.”

IFBE: You got positive feedback from an employee survey, were you pleased with the results?

NB: “We found even during Covid, we were at risk of losing connections with our frontline, given many of our stores were trading on a low base, we had lots of stand-downs, a lot of headwinds. 

“During Covid we were able to increase employee engagement, and head office, our franchisees, and frontline employess were more connected.

“Particularly for franchisees facing serious financial threat – to come out feeling more connected to the brand and the franchisor was a significant achievement.

“Our number one objective is to be the most customer-connected cafe. And Workplace is central to us launching our revised service model, built around personal service; it’s a channel to stimulate frontline engagement and franchisee engagement with the brand.

“It is becoming more of our go-to for our major points of communications: annual plans, quarterly updates, my fortnightly CEO chat with franchisees. We are using the eyeballs we have on the platform to take the brand to the next level.

“If the team has a great experience, it will deliver personal service to the customer.”

IFBE: Tell us more about the revised service model?

Nick Bryden, The Coffee Club | Inside Franchise Business Executive

Nick Bryden, The Coffee Club | Inside Franchise Business Executive

NB: “What we know is that customers rate us most highly (Net Promotor Score) when they feel they are recognised as a person. We looked at our service model which has been a fairly traditional model, and we are rolling out a revised program that provides a natural, easy level of engagement with customers. It allows team members to be themselves.

“We’ve had to look at what customers want – and work back through hiring, training, systems and processes to evolve a model that’s customer focused. We have the ability increasingly to connect what’s happening through voice of customer and we connect the dots.

“On the frontline, we’ve identified moments of truth and connection. We’re not entirely speed driven so there will be a warmer engagement, more attention to customer needs.  

“Service has always been part of the DNA of the brand – great service and excellent coffee. This is an evolution. Customers have very high expectations.”

IFBE: What is next for The Coffee Club?

NB: “We have 270 stores post-Covid; we closed about 20 last year, in consultation with franchisees and often at the end of lease, and we have since opened five. 

Retail stores, drive-thrus, shopping centres – we’ll be expanding across all our models.

“We’re on track to bounce back, confident the model has a really powerful connection with customers.”