Lessons from Pret, an unusually bogus survey, wome
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Lessons from Pret, an unusually bogus survey, wome

Paul Holmes

This New York Times article is not only a great placement for whoever handles Pret a Manger PR in the US, but it’s a terrific lesson in building a customer service culture: “The answer is to hire, pay and promote based on — believe it or not — qualities like cheerfulness…. New hires are sent to a Pret A Manger shop for a six-hour day, and then the employees there vote whether to keep them or not…. Those who are voted out are sent home with £35 ($57), no hard feelings. The crucial factor is gaining support from existing employees. Those workers have skin in the game: bonuses are awarded based on the performance of an entire team, not individuals…. Pret also sends “mystery shoppers” — people who anonymously visit and grade the stores — to every shop each week.” The whole thing is worth a read. Our sporadic “Bogus Survey of the Week” feature is designed to demonstrate how easy it is for PR people to spoonfeed spurious statistics to gullible reporters. This week, though, we have a genuinely specious survey, generated not by PR people but by parodists. As Slate reports, CNN, NPR, Forbes and the BBC were among those who fell for a fake press release purporting to show that Internet Explorer users have lower IQs than users of other browsers. Mashable’s Chris Taylor takes a look at the ways in which social media are amplifying public outrage, looking at the recent backlash against Netflix in the US and some more obscure protests in Saudi Arabia and Israel. The article provides some interesting cases, but Taylor wimps out with a conclusion suggesting that both “hitting the mute button” (shutting down comments on sites like Facebook) and “letting your customers vent” carry their own risks. Longtime readers of this blog will be unsurprised to learn that I think the former is far more damaging to a company’s relationships. The Economist looks at proposed EU regulations that would mandate a higher percentage of women on corporate boards, reporting that “proponents of quotas cite the superior performance of firms with female directors as evidence that quotas will benefit companies and their shareholders,” and the commenting that “the effect of quotas, however, will be to elevate women who would not otherwise get onto the board. It would be surprising if they proved as able as those appointed without such help.” I’m not going to comment on the merits of the case, except to say I’m convinced that companies would benefit from more gender equity on their boards and slightly less convinced that gender equity should be mandated. But I will point out a flaw in the magazine’s logic: the women appointed via quotas don’t need to be better than those appointed without such help; they only have to be better than the men they would replace, who themselves are beneficiaries of decades of unthinking affirmative action. That’s not such a high bar. Ken Makovsky uses his My Three Cents blog to push back against a survey suggesting that PR ranks second on a list of “10 most successful [white collar] jobs.” The E*Trade baby has a bad day. (Audio is NSFW)
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