Agile, Customer Journey, Participation, Strategy, Vision



Everyone knows Heineken. The Dutch beer brand is donated all over the world and praised for its communication and advertisements. And with such a strong brand image you create high expectations, even when it comes to your business services.

Yet it was precisely in the B2B branch of Heineken Netherlands where the services did not yet meet the standards and needs of the customer. A nice challenge for Merijn Goris, Channel manager food service & convenience, to change that.

From brewer to service provider
We now know that competition no longer only has to come from your own sector. We have already seen enough disruptive innovations in recent years, with Uber and Airbnb as well-known examples. But it is not only (potential) new players why it is important to keep a close eye on other sectors, it proves burning platform from Heineken Netherlands. They saw how in recent years the service level in other markets had improved extremely, while Heineken had mainly implemented small improvements. And that ultimately put their service model under pressure.

Merijn Goris: “Of course we have not sat still. But at the bottom of the line, too little has changed in recent decades in the service we provide to our hospitality customers. And that is going to wring. In addition to being an entrepreneur, our customers are also consumers. And consumers are now used to excellent and personal services, for example from web shops such as Bol.com and Coolblue. Parties that al their customers deliver top-quality service as standard, while the purchase amount is often enough under the 50 euro.

It was a bit different for us. We leaned too long and too much on our account managers. They are incredibly good and passionate people, but they did not get enough of their real responsibilities, because they were constantly busy arranging things or putting out fires at the back. Invoicing, urgent orders, questions about deliveries and shortcomings: almost everything went through the account managers. That's a shame, because you don't have to if your services are in order.

"It simply comes down to the fact that we can brew very good beer, but we have not sufficiently innovated on services."

We have never seen our services as ours core business. And it didn't have to be long enough. Our customers wanted our beer, so that was our focus. But nowadays that is not enough. Your brand, your products and your services must be completely in line with each other. Consistency is needed to deliver the perfect experience, everything must radiate the Heineken feeling. That means that all our people - from the account manager to the driver who comes to fill the beer tank - must not only understand what we stand for as Heineken, but also what we can and want to mean for our customers. ”

The dynamics of agile to really change
“We were originally used to launch projects fairly hierarchically: the well-known waterfall method. But for this project we wanted it to be different: Around us we saw the dynamics of agile increasingly embraced. Established industries, such as the banking world, also work agile to get to the service level of what people expect today. Like such parties in this way real able to innovate, then we must be able to do that too? So we decided to do it differently this time. Branddoctors was then recommended to me by a colleague. We initially asked Gijsbert to take us into the agile philosophy. On the one hand as a strategic advisor but ultimately also to really cooperate with us and to take it into account in this working method. ”

The customer comes first
“The assisting foreman became Bette. She really helped us get the voice of the customer make it sound clear within the project. I have a sales background and many of my colleagues have that too. When we talk to the customer we have different conversations than Branddoctors does. We are not at all used to keep asking what is really going on. The question eight raise the question, say. I was really surprised about that: I speak to customers every day, but I couldn't put my finger on the sore spot. Branddoctors was able to make a very sharp analysis of the needs of the customer in a short time.

In addition, we quickly started mapping the customer journey, to find out at which moments in the customer journey the urgency to change is highest - but also to see which opportunities we can immediately take up. By making the customer journey transparent, you can see very well where and when you can add value. We then saw that we are already doing a lot of good, but we also saw that a number of elements were more focused on Heineken's internal operations than on the needs of the customer. ”

Success in small steps
“We now notice that agile is a very nice approach, but we have to keep ourselves sharp. Thanks to the agile working method, we continuously work on small improvements and step forward with every sprint with a small but tangible result. These are always incremental changes, and that goes a bit against our culture.

At Heineken, we have traditionally been accustomed to the traditional marketing approach and a marketing campaign cannot be made as an MVP. You cannot make your communication a six and then make it a nine in three months. So the Heineken culture is about grand, about many and especially about it good. When we come up with something, it is therefore often good, but perfection also takes time.

So we really had to learn that we don't always have to be perfect and complete. A new app or tool does not immediately have to contain all functions, but does have to respond to the most urgent needs of the customer. Where you really add value, you have to start there. And from that point you expand. That is a very important lesson for us. "

“We are used to entering the market only with an 9. Starting at the basics and then expanding, that is really new to us. "

Tangible result: the new contract is being tested
“A big advantage of agile is that you always work towards a tangible result. For example, we are now testing a new contract form: it is radically different from what we used to do. An agreement in clear, clear language and without legal terminology. A specific element that we have adjusted is communication regarding the duration. We are the only brewer with short-term contracts: With us you are not committed to anything, and you can cancel every two months, while our competitors conclude agreements for 5 years or more.

We used to communicate as little as possible: we were far too afraid that customers would switch faster. We have since learned that this is not a weakness from the customer's perspective, but rather a force. It gives the customer freedom and underlines the liberal character of Heineken. That is why it is precisely an element that we explicitly mention and underline in our communication. "

“I am only satisfied when Heineken is at the forefront of its services within the hospitality sector. The Heineken brand is so incredibly strong, that includes a service that responds to the customer's needs.

This is how I see it: if a customer does a beer with his fellow entrepreneurs on a Monday evening, he says to his mates: 'You know, you have to put Heineken on tap. Because those guests ensure that you can order wherever and whenever you want; that you are delivered on the day it suits you by a regular driver who knows the way through your business and also checks whether your tap is still in good condition. '

I realize that we are not there yet. But we are taking serious steps in the right direction. And now we are also making serious speed in that improvement. "

Interview with Merijn Goris
Channel manager foodservice & convenience at Heineken Netherlands

Bette Bakker


Bette Bakker