Nespresso should read their tea leaves…

You have to hand it to Nestle for creating Nespresso. The insight was simple – coffee without mess. That is, provide a coffee that doesn’t require the drinker to clean up after it is made, particularly in all those workplace kitchens. They are selling clean kitchens, not coffee – and they’re doing it using traditional mail-order techniques!

Over the years I have sold three office espresso machines because my staff wouldn’t use them. It wasn’t because they didn’t like the coffee, but rather they hated cleaning up afterwards. It was too much of a hassle to throw away the coffee grounds, wipe the bench, clean the machine, not to mention washing and drying the cup.

All over the world there are messages in office kitchens warning people about keeping the kitchen clean. What is it about going to work that causes normal sane humans to refuse to keep their workplace kitchens clean? I assume they keep their home kitchens clean? What happens in our brain to change our behaviour at work?

kitchen cops 4

kitchen cops 1

kitchen cops 3

kitchen cops 2

But back to Nespresso. I became a customer, not for the coffee, but for the convenience. Staff could have a cuppa that tastes marginally better than instant coffee, but with less effort than making instant coffee. Just stick a capsule in the machine, press a button and in not much time you get a fresh cup of java – without the mess.

While we weren’t a large customer, we ordered about once a month. One of us just rang a phone number, placed a repeat order, paid by credit card and the coffee was delivered within a couple days. The staff probably drank 50% Nespresso and 50% real coffee from cafes.

Last year we shut the office and went into the cloud – that’s another blog. We sold the coffee machine along with the remaining coffee capsules. We haven’t placed an order for over 12 months. Yet each week I get at least one email from Club Nespresso as well as the occasional mailing in the post.

Here’s yesterday’s email.

Nespresso 1

As you can see the people who are designing it don’t appear to understand email technology. Messages that are dominated by images are way more likely to go into spam filters and those that do make it through the filters, rely on the lazy punters to right-click to see the content.

And given we humans prefer the path of least resistance (which is why Nespresso coffee capsules work) very few people right-click to see the images. It’s one reason so much email marketing is not as successful as it should be. (Well maybe some people right-click, in the hope of sighting a candid image of George Clooney?)

Here’s the email message after right-clicking:

Nespresso 2

The element that’s obviously missing in the club is a layer of human intelligence analysing the customer data – the SMALL DATA as I call it. Because if they were using their data to drive their business, someone should have called to ask why we had stopped being a customer. Were we unhappy with the service or the coffee, for example? Had we switched to a competitive brand?

If they just invested in spreadsheet jockeys to read the tea leaves for insights or trends – simple things like “customers who stop buying” would be one insight they would find useful. I’m sure the loss of my business will have no impact on Nespresso, but how many others are being ignored and at what cost?


The reliance on advertising messages delivered by mail or digital channels, at the expense of human interaction, damages brands. Or at least it limits their revenue potential. Using people to talk to customers, particularly those who have ceased to be a customer, always pays for itself.

I’m off to make a cuppa. First I grind the beans, then I empty the old grounds from the machine, then I put the new grounds in the espresso machine… I know this takes a little time, but it’s worth it, if you like real coffee:)

Oh and here’s a token shot of “George, I’ll flog anything for money, Clooney”…

george clooney


  1. Attention to the small details is what large organisations forget or ignore. In attempting to save money by automating communications with modern software, the human interaction gets missed. My experience is that personal, one on one communications will beat an automated email every time. But wait, you need dedicated staff who can write well for that….

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