Branddoctors has taken us into the agile way of thinking

Heineken: From brewer to service provider

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 service provision did not yet meet the standards and needs of the customer. A great challenge for Merijn Goris, Channel manager food service & convenience, to change that.

Of course we have not been idle

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.

Consumers are used to excellent service

Merry Goris: “Of course we have not been idle. But too little has changed in recent decades at the bottom of the service we provide to our catering customers. And that has started 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 webshops such as 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 with us. We leaned too long and too much on our account managers. They are incredibly good and driven people, but they did not get enough of their real responsibilities, because they were constantly busy arranging things at the back or putting out fires. Invoicing, urgent orders, questions about deliveries and shortages: almost everything eventually went through the account managers. It is a shame, because you don't have to if you have your services 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 today it is not enough. Your brand, your products and your services must be fully aligned.

Consistency is needed to deliver the perfect experience, everything has to convey the Heineken feeling. This 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 as Heineken stand for, but also what we can and want to do 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 we should be able to innovate, shouldn't we?

So we decided to do things differently this time. Brand doctors were then recommended to me by a colleague. We initially asked Gijsbert to take us along in the agile philosophy. On the one hand as a strategic advisor, but in the end also to really work with us and to get involved 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 are soon the customer journey mapping, to find out at which moments in the customer journey the urgency to change is greatest - but also to see which opportunities we can immediately take up. By providing insight into the customer journey, you can clearly see where and when you can add value. We then saw that we were already doing a lot of good, but we also saw that a number of elements were more geared towards Heineken's internal business operations than the needs of the customer. ”

Success in small steps

“We notice that now agile is a very nice approach, but we have to keep ourselves on our toes. Due to the agile method, we continuously work on small improvements and step forward with every sprint with a small but tangible result. These are always incremental changes, which goes 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 really radically different from what we used to do before. An agreement in clear, clear language and without legal terminology. A concrete element that we have adapted is communication regarding the term. We are the only brewer with short-term contracts: With us you are not bound by anything, and you can cancel every two months, while our competitors conclude contracts 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 food service & convenience at Heineken Netherlands


Published on
1 October 2019

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