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Interview: Talking Employee Happiness, Customer Experience, and Startups with Perkbox

By Ruxandra Mindruta on November 2nd 2017

What do you get when you combine a company vision that focuses on passion and positivity, happy employees and hard work? Success.

We found out all about it in our recent interview with Chieu Cao, CMO and Co-founder of Perkbox.

Their business aim is to create inspirational workplaces all around the UK by providing employees with access to the best selection of employee benefits and perks.

We discussed all things employee happiness, customer experience, success and challenges, and much more. I found it incredibly insightful, hope you’ll do so too. Let’s dive in.

Hi Chieu – How do you stay abreast of latest industry news and trending articles?

I use an app called Flipboard, which is a news and content aggregator.

I don’t regularly follow a particular blog or site, Flipboard brings together ideas and articles that I’m interested in, based on my habits and preferences, dynamically.

The topics that raise my interest include marketing, technology, branding, start-ups, innovation, and obviously employee engagement and motivation.

I’d love to hear about your current job and how you arrived there.

I’m a co-founder of Perkbox. We started the business about six years ago, and it wasn’t a straightforward journey.

We were always in the B2B space, meaning that we always wanted to help SMEs grow and succeed from the very beginning.

We got here by understanding our core mission is to help businesses build great relationships, one at a time. And with Perkbox, we’ve been able to achieve that goal.

We built the team from the ground up. I’m a marketer by trade, but I’m also a technologist, and I love creating great products. As a co-founder, you need to be interested in various things and then build the functions needed to grow a whole business, not just what you are comfortable with.

The company is over 180 people strong, with over twenty people in our marketing team. We decided to bring in expertise and do everything in-house, rather than outsourcing. This allows us to be more responsive and innovate in ways we couldn’t otherwise.

It’s been a crazy journey, I think, but we are still at the very beginning.

We’re looking to grow further and continue following our ambition to help businesses succeed by motivating and engaging their employees.

Perkbox is the UK’s fastest growing provider of employee perks and benefits. What’s the secret behind its success?

The most important thing, overall, is to have a clear mission and goal. What do you want to do? What do you want to create? What service do you want to offer? Having everyone clearly understand that is a great foundation and starting point.

Secondly, focus on execution. The companies that do succeed take an idea and do it really well. So that is really one of the keys to our success.

Employee engagement is a very well-established industry. We’ve come in and created a different way of looking at employee engagement.

It’s a B2B business, as in we look to partner with business owners, HR departments, etc., but it’s a B2C brand because we connect directly with our users.

We’ve positioned Perkbox as an exciting, branded product and service that employees look forward to using. That has never been done before, and it’s really important in our growth.

How do you gather and use customer data to feed into strategic business decisions?

We gather data from a variety of sources.

Most importantly for us is data around customer satisfaction and customer happiness around our service. So we collect data directly on the website and measure our net promoter score too.

We have a team that looks after our key clients to ensure they are happy, that they’re using the product as we intended them to. We’re also always looking out for advice from them to help us further develop a truly customer-centric product.

Obviously, we have customer service and an integrated Salesforce CRM system that bridges all these different data sources, so we have a unified view of the customer, which is important.

From the acquisition side, there are lots of technologies to help us track what the market wants, how we should position ourselves, and how to acquire more customers more effectively.

To what extent is the customer data making an impact across the business?

We’re a tech driven company, which is key to our DNA.

We’ve been built from the bottom to embrace technology, so a key part of our technology is data processing and analysis.

That has really allowed us to grow rapidly, because we know where to spend our money, our time and our effort.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your job? How are you overcoming it?

I’d say we’re a scale-up business now. We’ve gone past the point where we’re trying to find what fits.

The challenge, at the moment, is about managing resources – what type of people do we hire? Where do we further accelerate growth to ensure there is a strong sense of purpose and direction, even though we’re a much larger company?

At over 180 employees, we need to ensure we don’t lose that momentum and also that ability to be nimble, react and grow rapidly.

Simultaneously, we need to ensure we’re not losing focus of our mission and our corporate values, which are very important to us.

We’re an employee happiness company, we need to practice what we preach and be the best at it.

The challenge is establishing a fast-growing business that needs to evolve without losing what is truly important to us.

What advice would you give to anyone building or growing a marketing team?

Start with your vision and your goal and make it crystal clear whatever you want to hit; from there, work backwards.

Understand the cost of acquisition and skills, and the time needed to get there. If you’re unsure of your ability and the risk of getting to your goal is quite unknown, I’d suggest starting with consultants and contractors and mapping that out.

If you find out that’s viable, transfer it in-house if you want to have more control.

The challenge most people have is that risk of investment versus commitment. They want to invest but fear committing to a head count in case they hire the wrong people, which is always a risk when you’re growing out a team.

How do you feel that your role impacts customer experience?

I think customer experience is a company-wide, big responsibility. From a customer’s perspective, we’re one entity – we’re not a collection of departments. So, we need to really connect internally to appreciate the concerns of our users.

From a marketing point of view, we’re now owning more customer touch points than ever before: social media comments, direct customer feedback, reviews on external websites, etc. All these need to be monitored and quickly processed.

Companies with really tight feedback loops grow rapidly because they understand where the pain points are, they apologize, and they turn a bad experience into a positive experience.

A lot of modern companies spend money on disappointed users and converting them into advocates, because they’ve been surprised and delighted. The initial cost is outweighed massively by the positive PR you get off the back of it.

There is often controversy on this and universally, there is no accepted definition of what a startup actually is. At what point is a startup no longer a startup?

That’s a really good question. There are two answers to this, I think.

On one side, you can say that a start-up can be technically defined by how they’re structured, for example. So in this sense you could call a company a start-up even before it even has a product or market, if they are still at a point where they’re defining their path to the market, or even the right business model.

And it can be argued that they can be on limited funds as well, are surviving from month to month without steady revenue streams.

The other way is more of a philosophical way of looking at start-ups, from a cultural perspective.

An established company with clear revenues can have a start-up culture, which means they’re not satisfied with their current business model and want to reinvent themselves.

In a fast-growing industry or marketplace, you want to be the person or the company that is reinventing itself, starting up a new business within the business and growing faster.

So that mentality of constantly changing, evolving and testing new things is a great way to describe a start-up culture.

And I think one of the reasons why Perkbox works is because we have embraced that.

We’re constantly testing new things, developing new products, optimizing services as if we’re still a start-up. It’s still day one, it’s always day one. I really believe in that.


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