Working now as Chief Executive Officer, Uwe Regenbogen is responsible for corporate financial planning and legal issues, IT infrastructure and the overall strategic orientation of the growing Internet company. In this general leadership role, Uwe is focused on setting a course that sustains the outstanding double-digit growth that the company has experienced in recent years. “We have to ask ourselves, why is it really that we've been able to have such success,” he points out. Uwe attributes AuPairWorld's unusually strong growth to the company's unwavering focus on opening the door for more and more people to take advantage of the the au pair model's distinctive benefits.
“What we have always wanted to facilitate and continue to make our top priority is the classic au pair experience. This is a relationship and a way of organising help with childcare that simply has terrific things to offer to everyone concerned,” he declares. “For us at AuPairWorld, that means 30 hours of au pair work per week and not 45, it means giving a reasonable amount of pocket money for these services, and most of all it means really bringing the au pair into the family for mutual cultural exchange.”
Under Uwe's guidance the company has brought this understanding of au pairing together with an ever expanding set of Internet-based services as well as committed one-on-one customer support when it is required. “We keep on growing because people come to trust us, use our services again and recommend us to others. We see this trust relationship as one of our most important assets,” he explains.
In the CEO role, Uwe keeps an eye on a wide range of business issues that need to be addressed in order to fulfil this essential mission. As more and more au pairs and host families turn to AuPairWorld, IT infrastructure needs to be expanded and the whole range of associated business processes are continually being evaluated and optimised when necessary.
“Technically, procedurally, organisationally, we want to make it so that it keeps on getting simpler, safer, easier to become an au pair or to invite an aupair to join a host family.” This is Uwe's description of his daily work. “This past year we've had an increase of 45% in the number of au pairs we're serving and 33% in the number of host families. Growth at this rate brings challenges – that's for sure. And we're very pleased to be facing them!”
"We're seeking technology that lets our users do what they want in a way that feels good."
Heike Fischer serves as Chief Product Officer for AuPairWorld. In this position, her responsibilities are centered around the ongoing development of the various web functions AuPairWorld provides to its users.
In taking care of this functionality, Heike and her 8-member team work on maintaining and developing the means by which au pairs and host families can find each other on the AuPairWorld website and exchange information on the way to arranging an au pair placement. Although this depends on a highly technical environment, Heike emphasises that the user experience of the site must remain simple and easy to manage. “We're not interested in tricks and gimmicks and fancy technology for the sake of being fancy,” she explains. “We work on complicated things in the so-called back-end of the website to make things simple for users in the front-end, in their everyday interactions with the site and with each other.”
An important milestone of the past year was the implementation in June of so-called Responsive Web Design on the website – a system that automatically recognises the format of the device accessing the site and scales the presentation of the webpages to fit the device. This makes it possible to use AuPairWorld comfortably with mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. For Heike, this is an essential foundation for the further development of a fully mobile environment for AupairWorld. “For au pairs and for host families too, mobile devices belong more and more to their standard equipment for doing things online. Our job is to be there with the technology that lets users do what they want in a way that feels good.”
Another important focal point for Heike and her team is the ongoing optimisation of the dedicated messaging system that AuPairWorld provides to au pairs and host families for making contact with each other in a secure and protected virtual environment. A variety of changes in design and in the supporting technology should make the system more intuitive and comfortable to use. “As the platform on which au pairs and host families make their first contacts which finally develop into au pair placements, the messaging system is an absolutely key part of what we give to our users,” says Heike in explaining the extensive resources that are being dedicated to this effort. “It's proving to be a big job, but we're confident we will soon have a system that will do even more to help our users communicate simply, easily and effectively.”
Ann-Kristin Schell is the company's Chief Operations Officer. In this capacity, one of her main responsibilities is ensuring high and consistent quality in the au pair and host family profiles appearing on AuPairWorld. This is a key element in making sure that the website really delivers what its users are looking for – namely, an effective way of making contact with au pairing counterparts who are genuinely interested in sharing the benefits of the au pair experience.
On average more than one thousand new registrations come into AuPairWorld each day. It is a complex (and growing) challenge to ensure that the information provided by users is properly displayed in valid up-to-date profiles that really make it possible for host families and au pairs to find each other.
To make this happen, Ann-Kristin oversees a multilingual team of 8 employees who together keep a close eye on the incoming profiles. This means using a variety of IT tools and techniques to inspect the incoming data and to identify possible problems. In addition, there also is a considerable amount of personal checking and follow-up work that takes place. Ann-Kristin describes it this way: “As a website that brings people together for an important type of interpersonal exchange, we have to take a personal approach to the data we're receiving. It's not always easy from a time management standpoint, but making things work for our users at a personal level is ultimately what it's all about.”
The personal approach taken by Ann-Kristin's team in profile checking is also reflected in the one-on-one support services that they provide in answering user inquiries and solving user problems with comprehensive telephone and email support services. Ann-Kristin remarks, “Our Operations team includes members from Germany, Poland, Spain, the USA, Italy and Jordan. This makes for a fun and lively office environment and it also lets us give our international customer base the support that they need. But on top of this it is also an example of exactly what AuPairWorld is trying to promote in facilitating au pair placements – international understanding and cooperation in everyday life.”