I’m Sarah, I am the Head of Customer Service for a company called Sure Petcare (formerly SureFlap), and I have been to every previous Happy Workplace Conference.
Something I found when I started working at Sure Petcare is we had really great customer service. I thought that was great! I looked a little deeper into it. What I realised was actually that we loved coming to work every single day and we all loved working with our friends, so I started finding out why and how that leads to great customer service, so that is kind of the story I am going to tell you today. I will tell you a little bit about our business, then a little bit about some of the premises that we use from the Happy Manifesto.
So who are Sure Petcare? We started in 2007. Our MD’s cat Flipper had a problem with intruder cats getting in. Anyone who knows about animal behaviour knows Flipper was stressed because his territory was being invaded. Nick is an incredibly intelligent man so as he describes it, he just made a new technology which reads the identification microchip in the back of your cat that they get from the vets and gives your cat their own door key. That is super and it works amazingly and we have just grown from there.
We have an excellent company now. I started as the fourth person in the business so we have been really focused on customer service since day one. For the last seven years since I have worked there we have had a Net Promoter Score globally of over 95%; in some countries it is as high as 99%. We test that with every customer that we touch base with. I think even more so when I have been doing the research I have realised my favourite, even above the Net Promoter Score, is that in seven years in my department, focusing on creating a happy workplace and using those Happy Manifesto principles, we have had zero turnover in seven years. We have had some staff who have moved up, but everybody who started working with me is still in our company and I think that is an exceptional piece of information to be able to give and to share.
So I will talk a little bit about that. We like to give ‘puurfect’ customer service and I want to talk about my favourite customer service story that we have had for years. That story is my first employee, she told me this story about a customer who phoned up, it was Christmas time, a really elderly gentleman, he was a veteran and he was in tears so she came up to me and said ‘I have arranged for him to have a replacement of our cat flap, I have arranged for him to have a fitter to come ad fit it for free because he couldn’t do anything himself and it’s Christmas time and they are actually going to do it for free as well’. Such a lovely story and my favourite bit about the story is actually that customer was not a SureFlap customer, he was one of our competitors’ customers and he couldn’t get a hold of them for three months and so he ended up phoning us trying to get someone to help him.
My fantastic team didn’t ask, she just sorted the problem out for him, sent him one of our products, sent out a fitter and he is our happiest customer. He calls me every couple of months. We had a chat on his 90th birthday just before I went out on maternity leave and for me, that is really key to how my team work. They get trained for six months, I tell them not to worry if they don’t get the detail of our products for six months because they are quite technical. And then we trust them. I trust my team to do anything. They can go to people’s houses, and they do. They can have conversations like that and create that amazing service. It doesn’t do anything for the bottom line of the business so much, but the storytelling power within our business about that is how my team are allowed to behave, they have no SLAs so we measure customer service. How many people here have customer service (either internal or external) in their business?
One of the things for me that that does is that creates an idea. You can train people and you can test them and all those kinds of things but to me that story is a much more powerful way of sharing how to give great service and how we allow the team to do that. A lot of people come to us and are scared of the ‘no’ and they feel there are no rules so they do need to know where those boundaries are, those freedoms within the guidelines that Henry’s talks about. That is my favourite story of how we do that, and I would again consistently trust and train your staff and then just let them do their jobs because that is what they are good at, hopefully! Hopefully you have hired the right person.
Puurfect customer service is making it easy. Making it easy in customer service is the new great as far as customer service goes. My favourite statistic is that 80% of companies think they give great customer service, and 8% of their customers agree. I feel like that is the only statistic you ever need to think about, and I think that creating happiness or focusing on wellbeing in the workplace might be a similar number. Lots of companies talk the talk and they think they do a great job and they make all the right rules but if you ask their employees and they were able to talk about it, you might get a similar number. I don’t know that and I haven’t seen the figures but I wouldn’t be surprised. So I think one of the best things you can do is make it easy. One of the first years Henry had this conference we had Dom Monkhouse talking about his removing stupid rules, which I love. He pays his staff, or he did at the time, £50 if they can tell him a stupid rule in their business, and then he gets rid of it. I think that is amazing.
So I have taken a little bit of that, and a little bit of Shawn Achor, who is the Happiness Guru. If you haven’t heard of him, Google his TED talk about happiness at work which is amazing. He has a 20 second rule that he talks about, so as human beings by making something 20 seconds easier or 20 seconds harder you can actually change human behaviour. One of the things we try to do at work is to make little changes that make things either 20 seconds easier for your staff or for your customers to contact you, to make things better. They are so infinitesimal but in his study he talks about opening a door to get his guitar out prevented him from playing his guitar, so something so small can make a huge difference.
That is something we did on a retreat. We took those ideas and the Happy Manifesto and we talked a lot about our culture and what we wanted in our customer service team. We made a list of things that are 20 seconds too hard for our customers and our staff. We have that list on the wall and we have crossed them out as we have been able to do that. That is something I would just like you to take a minute on your tables and talk about.
Is there something you could make 20 seconds easier when you get back to the office tomorrow for your staff or for your customers or for yourself that would make a change?
The last thing I will talk about in terms of customer service is just to listen. That is the number one thing that you can do. I think that has come across already from Peter Cheese earlier.
Listen to your staff. My staff are empowered to make changes in our business. They can change our database, they can go talk to our CEO, they can go talk to our engineers and suggest changes and make things different and most of the products we have come out with, either new products, our modifications or our changes have come from my team being able to talk to the customers.
That is something really key that people don’t think about. Customer service is generally an afterthought like something you do after your business and actually that is totally wrong because they are the people who are talking to your customers every day. So we with our Net Promoter Score found that every time that we actually go to speak to a customer our NPS score went up. So when we talked to them a week after customer service we get an 87% score, when we talk to them a month after it goes up to 91% and then when they talk to our customer service team, it’s at 95%. So every time we talk to those customers we are making a big difference to the way they feel about us. So your customer service staff are really your first and only line to your customers so if you are not listening to them then I think you are in the wrong job. They are the people who can tell you the most about your business, they will be able to tell you how to fix problems, and if you give them that opportunity, they are going to make stuff faster, cheaper, better and everything. My team do the business, they are amazing.
I would like you to just think really quickly about someone in your work who is on the front line that maybe you could talk to when you get in tomorrow or next week and ask them how you could make your business better.
So happy workplaces means business success and I was hoping that Henry was going to speak before me to talk about all the fantastic financials but they are there and they are in the book but anybody who doesn’t know but happy workplaces return much better than your standard FTSE or anything like that. Google the Parnassus Fund, I really want someone to start one in the UK so I can put my pension into it because it is amazing. When you do that you have this amazing business success. I think everybody knows John Lewis is amazing, and what do they do? They focus on the happiness of their staff. We have done the same; we grew over 40 times in the first five years of business. We had an average of 68% year on year growth and when I started we were just four people so this focus has started right from the beginning. We were recently acquired and that has its own challenges but we have been able to keep our culture.
I think the financial benefits of a happy workplace are starting to be well known but if you add that, and you have a happy workplace, great customer service follows. So added to all the financial benefits there you have $338 billion worth of lost revenue from bad customer service. So imagine happy workplaces, boom, you are getting part of that. 60% of customers are going to pay you more for a better experience, so once again, by focusing on your happy staff, you are getting 60% of customers who will pay you more. It’s fantastic, who doesn’t want that? 24% of customers are going to do business with you for two years more just from one positive interaction.
So again focusing on your happy staff, you get all the benefits of great customer service and there are tonnes of them. I could talk about that all day. So a really quick question about why aren’t you doing this already? This is something I struggled with because I am not the head of my company. I think some people don’t have management buy in, so you think you can’t do anything.
What I ended up doing was taking on the ideas of tribal leadership which is just to create a pocket of greatness. If you can work and use those Happy Manifesto principles in the area that you are responsible for then you are going to start to get the great results and people are going to start to perk up and take notice.
A couple of years ago the rest of my business went ‘how come customer service are doing so well? How come they are always having a good time together? Why don’t they have any turnover?’ They started to pick up and to take notice so you can do that. Whatever circle that you have, if you are not the owner or someone who can make those changes, you can still create that fantastic little pocket of success.
The other bit is maybe you think you are? Maybe you are part of that 80% that thinks they are doing a great job but other people don’t. I always think if you think you are doing a great job then ask around, think again, check with people and listen to what they are saying. Allow your customers and allow your staff to tell you where you got it wrong. For every one customer who tells you they have a problem there are 26 people who didn’t bother to contact you so it could be your one chance to fix a really significant problem.
So there are a few, quick, easy steps to get started. I would suggest to make a happy workplace it will make customer service an organisational focus and you will get some of that money, because it’s amazing what that will do for your organisation. Get out of the way, train your people, trust them and let them do their jobs. They want to do their jobs, they really do. Make it easy, so again think of that 20 second rule. If you can do that tomorrow I would recommend doing it. And then listen to your customer and your employee feedback.
I think if you can do those small things, it’s just the start but it will make an amazing change in your organisation.