At Sure Petcare, a Happy Workplace is More About What Leadership Doesn’t Do

In: BlogDate: May 14, 2020By: Billy Burgess

Sarah Metcalfe is Head of Customer Service at Sure Petcare and she knows that a happy workplace is essential for enhancing the customer experience. When she asked her team, “what makes you happy at work?” what stood out was that it’s really more about what leadership doesn’t do.

For example, they don’t impose SLAs or metrics. They don’t get mad if staff are late because they’re stuck in traffic. They don’t measure people and don’t ask them how long they’re going to be on the phone for.

In this short video from the 2019 Happy Workplaces Conference, Sarah explains what gives her team the ability to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy.

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At Sure Petcare, a happy workplace is more about what leadership doesn’t do

So I did what I always do, actually, which is part of the key – I asked my team, ‘what makes you happy at work?’ And they said a lot of things about it being easy to get help, not having their performance assessed, freedom, control, flexibility; all of those pieces I think we’ve heard over and over again today.

But the thing that stood out for me really actually was it was really more about what I don’t do. So in a customer service environment, we’re very keen on metrics. We love what we call SLAs, which are service level agreements, which makes no sense, actually. We like to measure all sorts of things like average handling time and first call resolution and ten out of ten call metrics. And I think that’s a really great way to destroy the customer experience and provide the worst possible customer service you can.

I’ll give you an example of that. A ten out of ten call metric could go just like this: ‘Hello Henry,’ so I’ve ticked that I’ve used his first name. ‘How are you today?’ I have greeted him in a kind and friendly manner. And then after not solving his problem I could end the call by saying, ‘Is there anything else I can do to help you today?’ And that would score a ten out of ten in our customer service world.

So I don’t actually have SLAs or metrics. I really believe in training my team very, very well. So I tell them to give themselves six months before they should feel comfortable and confident with our products. Other things I don’t do – I don’t get mad if they’re late because they’re stuck in traffic. That came up from five different people. I don’t measure people. I don’t ask them how long they’re going to be on the phone for. I train them very, very well and then I let them do their jobs with a very clear guideline that their job is to do what it is that makes the customer happy.

A number of years ago we switched from having a 30 day money back guarantee to a 30 day happiness guarantee, because actually most people who interact with you, your service, your product – and this goes for internal as well – they don’t want their money back. They’re not going to buy your product because they want their money back. They buy your product because they want to be happy with it. So what’s the problem you’re trying to solve with your product? Then they want to be happy with it.

My team have the ability to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy. And that means they can go to their homes, they can phone up fitters and have them come in and do that. It means we don’t make customers take their cat flap out of their door and send it to us so we can fix it. We trust our customers and we just send them a replacement and a free post bag and we get it back when they’re ready and when it’s convenient for them.

Sure Petcare has been intent on creating an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work. They don’t want employees adopting a formal work persona; they should feel comfortable enough to express themselves. “All of the rest of the pieces about delivering great service come from having those connections and those relationships,” says Sarah.

Prior to talking at the 2019 Happy Workplaces conference, Sarah asked her people what makes them happy at work. The answers included how easy it is to get help, the fact they don’t have their performances assessed, and being given freedom, control and flexibility. However, what really stood out for Sarah were the things she doesn’t do.

“I train them very, very well and then I let them do their jobs with a very clear guideline that their job is to do what it is that makes the customer happy,” says Sarah.

Resources and related content

  • 12 Ways in Which Toyota Create a Great Workplace — Henry Stewart visited Toyota and learned about 'kaizen'. Each member of staff is expected to come up with at least two kaizen, or improvements, each month. They are allocated 15 minutes a day to identify and test these.
  • Leading in Agile Environments — Happy has partnered with Adventures in Agile to offer this two-day transformational workshop to develop leaders driven by purpose, creativity, curiosity, and empathy.

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About Sarah

Originally from British Columbia, Sarah has a wealth of customer service experience from a background that includes charities, logistics and manufacturing. Sarah joined Sure Petcare in 2010 (then SureFlap), 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 Sure Petcare customers around the world.

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