Microchipping pets is already common in the UK but from April will become mandatory for all dogs more that eight weeks old. The chip carries owner ID information, and now a UK company has developed pet doors that are operated by pets’ microchips, allowing safe access while keeping unwanted visitors at bay.
Since launching in 2009, SureFlap has doubled in size, sold more than 450,000 items in 2014 alone, and started exporting to Denmark, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.
Sigmund Freud once said “time spent with cats is never time wasted”, and this couldn’t be more apt for SureFlap’s Founder and Cambridge physicist, Dr Nick Hill. An avid cat lover, Nick used to regularly experience neighbourhood cats entering his home through the cat flap and frustrating his cat, Flipper.
He needed a solution and after three years of research and development, Nick had designed an innovative microchip-operated cat flap: allowing cats’ safe, secure, access into their homes, without the need of a collar. The SureFlap Microchip Cat Flap scans a cat’s existing identification microchip before granting authorised animals safe entry.
“I wanted an answer to a problem that numerous cat owners face on a regular basis and something which used to cause Flipper a lot of distress,” states Dr Nick Hill. “The product idea came to me when I realised Flipper had his own backdoor key – his microchip – which could let him in, while locking out any unwanted guests.”
Since launching in 2009, SureFlap has gone from strength to strength, doubling its turnover and employing 21 new team members between 2013 and 2015 alone. Its product range has expanded too and now includes a larger size Microchip Pet Door for large cats and small dogs, a DualScan Cat Flap for homes where some pets need to be kept indoors whilst others are allowed out. At the end of 2014, SureFlap also launched a Microchip Pet Feeder that stops pets from stealing each other’s food – especially handy if one cat’s food is medicated.
Besides offering revolutionary technology and design, SureFlap prides itself on delivering an exceptional customer service. This dedication is characterised by the company’s willingness to, in some circumstances, modify SureFlap products to fit special customer requirements.
“For a customer with arthritis, we have made adjustments so it’s easier to operate the manual lock,” states Dr Hill. “Likewise, for an ageing cat, we can use a weaker magnet allowing the cat to push open the door more easily once unlocked – we want to make life easier for pets and their owners alike.”
Overall, SureFlap has improved the lives of over half a million pets and pet doors have been installed in over 350,000 homes worldwide.
Following success in the UK, SureFlap looked to conquer overseas markets and initially expanded into Denmark and Germany, in 2008. Now the company operates worldwide with a supply chain that stretches as far as Australia and New Zealand. Still, regardless of the distance, SureFlap is insistent that customer experience remains paramount.
As a result, for those outside the UK, orders can be shipped using FedEx International Priority, a service that provides time-definite delivery worldwide. Sarah Metcalfe, Customer Service Manager at SureFlap comments: “We often use FedEx International Priority when we’ve been working on a specially modified order, as it ensures our products arrive on time and in pristine condition right to the customer’s door.”
Additionally, as a company that primarily sells through pet shops and websites, SureFlap has always sought opportunities to interact with its global customers on a local level. “This ethos needs to be represented by our external providers, who become public faces of our company,” states Metcalfe. “With FedEx, we are able to talk to a customer in Europe or the USA one day and have our product in their hands the next; giving us that personable easy access, which is essential to our business.”
SureFlap also uses the FedEx Priority Alert delivery solution to streamline its processes and has a 97% customer satisfaction rate throughout Europe, which means the vast majority of its customers would recommend SureFlap to others.
Constantly looking for other growth opportunities, SureFlap exhibits all around the world and relies on FedEx to not only get its products there but its exhibition stand too. “We use also FedEx Priority Alert to make sure our stand and demo products arrive during the required delivery slots set by the event organisers. It is easy to use and means we do not have to track or worry about the whereabouts of our items,” states Metcalfe.
FedEx Priority Alert provides around-the-clock monitoring and notifications, and SureFlap uses it for its time-critical shipments, particularly when ensuring its exhibition equipment arrives promptly.
In 2014, the company sold over 450,000 items across the globe and used FedEx for its everyday shipments.
Exceeding its customers’ expectations is absolutely critical, so the customer service, engineering and marketing teams at SureFlap continuously liaise with vets and pet owners to gain insight into how products can continually be further improved.
After launching its latest product the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder in 2014, SureFlap aims to revolutionise the way cats are fed in multiple pet homes. The feeder stops other pets from stealing food whilst also keeping food fresher and free from flies. This makes it ideal for animals on medication and prescription diets. “This product doesn’t just help cats,” states Dr Hill, “it can monitor and regulate the eating habits of all microchipped animals.”
Owing to previous success, the only challenge the company foresees is business provision and meeting demand. Metcalfe confirms: “We strive to continuously maintain our innovative ethos and develop new and existing products on a regular basis. It’s an exciting market with huge opportunities available and with the right provider, like FedEx, we are sure we can deliver exceptional service, regardless of the country we’re shipping to.”