Having a great product without great support doesn’t mean anything – Interview with Sarah Metcalfe of SureFlap

Cat outside patio door

Today’s interview is with Sarah Metcalfe, Head of Customer Service at SureFlap, an award winning smart pet products manufacturer based in the UK. Sarah joins me today to talk customer feedback and innovation, what good service looks like and what it means for SureFlap and why employee engagement is integral to that.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Employee engagement, real-time feedback and organisational indigestion – Interview with Cheryl Johnson of Echo Global Logistics – and is number 175 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Here’s the highlights of my interview with Sarah:

  • SureFlap is a UK firm that is based just outside Cambridge and they make intelligent pet products.
  • Their first product was a microchip controlled cat flap that stops other cats from entering your house. The basic idea if to be able to give your cat their own ‘front door key’. They have now extended their range to a series of related intelligent pet products. Check out their range here.
  • SureFlap has used customer feedback to drive innovation and development of new and existing products.
  • They are consistently asking for feedback from their customers and their feedback links straight back into their engineering department.
  • They have chosen NPS as the metric that they use to monitor feedback but they also ask for feedback across the customer’s journey.
  • They ask for feedback 1 week after purchase to ask about the purchase experience and 1 month after purchase to gauge how the customer is getting on with the product, is it easy to use, how did they find the manual, do they need help etc etc.
  • How people respond to both these surveys allows them to identify problems based on customer responses (qualitative, scores and tracking of click throughs) and taht allows them to be proactive in reaching out to their customers with help/solutions etc before problems arise.
  • Customers may not have identified these things as problems as such but SureFlap’s experience allows them to see that the customer will have a problem at some point in the future and, thus, they are able to reach out and address this problem before it occurs.
  • They did start out with one survey to start with and that was 1 month after purchase. However, they found that they weren’t catching people fast enough and they were forgetting what their actual buying experience really was like. So, now they have multiple surveys aligned to their customers journey and lifecycle.
  • They read ever piece of qualitatively survey feedback that they receive.
  • They are launching a new community feature so that customers can self-serve or seek help from the community, particularly out of office hours.
  • However, this does not mean that they are scaling down their phone and email support but rather they see it as complimentary to those channels.
  • Sarah got her initial interview with SureFlap (she was one of the first 4 employees) after she had a rant about the importance of customer service to the recruitment consultant that SureFlap was using.
  • Having a great product without great support doesn’t mean anything.
  • Because they often sell through other parties, the only time that they interact with their customers is when they contact customer support.
  • They got rid of their money back guarantee and they now have a happiness guarantee. They are not interested in taking peoples money if they are not happy with the product.
  • They currently offer support (phone and email) to four languages (English, French, Dutch and German) out of their Cambridge office and will add more as they reach critical mass in a new language/territory. However, in the meantime they do support other languages (i.e. Italian, Spanish etc) but only via email right now.
  • If you treat your people well then they will treat your customers well and the money will follow.
  • The next big customer service challenge for SureFlap is how to provide service to connected products (Internet of Things -IoT).
  • However, the challenge is that they have to move from what is normally a one-off product purchase to a more ongoing relationship.
  • Sarah believes the key to that is via proactive service and how they can use they data that they will be able to gather from the connected products to solve customer problems before they happen.
  • You have to become experts in the things that affect your products. Nobody wants you to say “That’s BT’s fault”, for example.
  • They are building a whole ecosystem for taking care of your pets whether that is at home, on holiday, in your car etc.
  • Customer service is important but it really starts with treating your employees well.
  • Check out SureFlap’s new Microchip Pet Feeder, which has grown in popularity exponentially since it was launched and is changing pets lives.

About Sarah

Sarah MetcalfeSarah joined SureFlap six years ago, taking responsibility for the company’s customer service and guiding it through an extraordinary period of expansion and growth. She now leads a talented multi-lingual team who deliver outstanding customer service and happiness to all SureFlap customers around the world. Sarah is passionate about happiness in the workplace, and she knows the positive impact this has on the customer experience. Through continuing to innovate and improve the customer journey, SureFlap now has an amazing Net Promoter Score of 95+% with an increase in customer contact of over 50% over the last 12 months.

Originally from British Columbia, Canada, Sarah brings a wealth of customer service experience from a background that includes charities, logistics and manufacturing. She is inspired by the teachings of great customer service companies like Zappos and Happy Ltd.

Check out SureFlap’s range of products here, connect with Sarah on LinkedIn here and say Hi to SureFlap and Sarah on Twitter @SureFlap and @mervillesarah

Photo Credit: Wanna Be Creative via Compfight cc

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