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An Extraordinary Journey

It is quite a ride from the call centre where you order your Nespresso capsules to the machine in your kitchen. We hitched a ride on this extraordinary journey. Follow your order.

The Nespresso call centre in sion, canton du valais. a call comes through. Daniela picks up after no more than two rings. That’s the rule around here. a lost customer is on the line. His Internet connection is down, and he does not have his Membership card to hand. “Don’t worry, sir,” answers Daniela with a smile. “I can use your surname to fi nd your most recent order.” Sion is a pretty city in the foothills of the Swiss Alps where the Nespresso call centre plies its trade, serving customers with the utmost discretion. Nothing on the road below gives away the existence of this nerve centre, where telephone orders for Switzerland and Italy begin their journey. “The only way you know where you are is the ‘Nespresso Club’ plate on the first floor landing,” laughs Logistics Manager, Salvatore Panto. Inside is a roomy canteen and staff lounge. The feel is relaxed and trendy - the average age here is 30, and all the staff are Coffee Specialists.

Daniela has been working at the Nespresso Inbound unit taking customer phone calls for four years, after finishing a course in Business Studies. She has been living in Switzerland since 2005, but comes from the Seychelles. “When some Members hear my accent, they think that I am Italian,” she smiles. “When I tell them where I come from, we get chatting about travel.” She has been on a full training programme like all her colleagues, and regularly keeps up to date through refresher courses. She can answer pretty much any question, which is useful during busy periods, especially around the festive season, when different departments have to help one another out. Daniela also mixes business and pleasure by working on her coffee knowledge whenever she can. “I enter our internal blind coffee-tasting competition every year. Last year I identified six Grands Crus out of ten,” she says proudly after a busy day during which she has taken around a hundred calls.

The Nespresso call centre in Sion is devoted to serving customers with the utmost discretion.

The Sion centre creates an atmosphere which encourages a special connection with Members. The Coffee Specialists work in different open-space offices according to their role and the language they speak – French, Italian and German, including their various forms used in the Swiss cantons. Calls are automatically directed to the appropriate advisor according to the caller number. The individual booth for each of our Coffee Specialists is witness to the positive working environment, a far cry from a clichéd call centre, where productivity wins over comfort. Volunteers are even encouraged to leave their telephone from time to time to get involved in special campaigns. Like when they organised the launch of a new in-house Internet service called “Click 2 Call”, which provides a direct link to the Club Coffee Specialists from the “Contact” menu. Two individuals took responsibility for providing information for all staff concerned and produced a fun summary document, managing the whole process from design to printing.

A few metres away from Daniela’s section, Misha, a young man from Russia with a Master’s in Business, chose to join a special department. He only receives a few messages a day, generally e-mails, but they are unusual. “I work for the unit that handles requests from countries where Nespresso is not yet based,” he says. “And we aim to provide an excellent service, despite the distance.” That list of countries is increasingly diminishing as the brand extends its reach, with new offices opened recently in Brazil, for example. Misha has to satisfy eager customers who have discovered Nespresso on holiday and bought a machine, but end up without supplies when they go back home. There are also people who pack a machine to take with them on holiday, not realising that there is no Nespresso centre where they are staying. For these capsules, the journey becomes an expedition. Misha will not tell us the names of the many VIP customers for whom he has had to prepare special shipments for a luxury evening party in an unusual location, but his smile says it all.

A bit further up from him, Isabella runs the Technical Assistance Department. She used to work for a fast-food chain, and then decided to join Nespresso. “I like the product,” she explains, simply. Now she knows all there is to know about the machines. “We go on training courses throughout the year, in particular at our partners’ manufacturing centres,” she says. At 26, she is young, but her expertise, precise manner and patience in the face of challenges means that she is more than a match for any problem that comes her way. Especially since a good number of the “technical problems” involve someone who has forgot to plug the machine in. Her role also involves ensuring that the coffee tastes great. “It is sometimes worth explaining some of the different functions of the machines,” she says. “I never miss an opportunity to stop and explain to Members how to de-scale their machine step by step.” That is how they get to know customers over the phone.

"For some capsules, the journey becomes an expedition,” says Misha.

Rosa knows all about that. This former French-Italian translator makes customer follow-up calls to new Members as part of the Outbound calls unit. “We manage to call the majority of our new customers in the month after they join the Nespresso Club,” she says. She then calls back at regular intervals. The staff in the Outbound unit are recruited for their ability to engage in active listening, although they do not have special training in this area. “For some Members, it can sometimes be an opportunity to get things off their chest,” acknowledges Rosa. “We listen calmly, and guide the conversation. We end up getting to know customers’ likes and dislikes, and almost become part of the family.” She also tries to find out why some people suddenly stop ordering. “Sometimes it’s down to the way they drink coffee, or a particular habit,” she says. “Some Members mainly use their machine at a second home, for example. Others drink more or less coffee depending on the time of year.” Coffee is a drink that involves some emotional attachment. The Sion centre knows all about that.

The logistics centre, Chavornay, Canton de Vaud. José runs the logistics centre which serves Switzerland as well as France, Germany and Italy. He has been working there for over twelve years. He is the Nespresso brain in his domain, even though he is currently employed  by Planzer, the brand’s long-term logistics partner. The centre is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. on Saturdays. Orders made over the telephone, online, or via the “order card” sent out with invoices, appear on the computer screens. The standard checks are performed and then a click of the mouse produces the invoice. A sorting machine which can process 8,000 envelopes an hour stands in the centre of a rectangular room. “The machine doesn’t stick them down,” explains José. “It’s better for the environment and it helps us save money. They are attached to the package anyway, and won’t come open in transit.” All Members have their own code, and every order is individual. Depending on the geographical zones and the marketing campaigns in place there, the machine adds additional documentation which is automatically in the appropriate language. The envelopes are then put through the scanner. This triggers the robots in the warehouse next door, which distribute the capsule packets required via a labyrinth of conveyor belts. The operator sits at the individual workstation, views the order on a screen as the invoices arrive, and just has to slide the packets sorted by the robots into the boxes that can hold 5 to 20 of them. The capsules are produced in Orbe or Avenches, a few dozen kilometres from here, having been ordered via Sion, and are ready to leave Chavornay and the Nespresso family for the final stage of their journey.

The capsules are in such demand that Nespresso is one of La Poste Suisse’s biggest customers.

Mail centre, Daillens, Canton de Vaud. “La Poste Suisse’s” most up to date sorting centre stretches respectfully along the Venoge river, a protected area just a few minutes from Chavornay by road. Lorries do ten return trips a day between the Nespresso logistics centre and the Daillens-Lausanne distribution centre. The 300-metre-long building is home to miles of conveyor belts crammed full of electronics. They are everywhere, within reach but also up high, with smart routing systems towards slides that have been specially designed so as not to damage the packages. This is the case for the numerous packets, but especially for the boxes of capsules. Nespresso is one of La Poste Suisse’s biggest customers, so it is particularly careful with them.

The boxes are removed from the lorries by hand and carefully placed on the fi rst conveyor belt, so they do not fall when it starts up. Labels face up or sideways so that they can be scanned on their way through and sent on the correct path around the maze of 337 slides. “We have a 97% scan rate,” boasts Caroline Monnary, Centre Communications Manager. Once they have been round the merry-go-round, the packets of capsules end up stacked “Tetris style” in one of the containers ready to board the train (La Poste Suisse uses this mode of transport for 66% of its destinations). Outside, an enormous crane like a mechanical insect lifts the containers and places them onto the lorries or goods wagons waiting patiently on the CFF Swiss railway company branch line. The capsule leaves the platform at Daillens, on its way to you. Bon voyage!

Production : Sandrine Giacobetti - Text : Stéphane Méjanès - Photography : Jean-Claude Amiel

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