Business and Operations
Employee Care Program
By Canadian Pizza
Pizza Nova Delivers Quality and Compassion
By Canadian Pizza
Pick up the phone to order a pizza. A call centre
employee answers, takes your order, and transmits it to the local
franchisee’s pizzeria for preparation and pickup or delivery.
Unique Sideline In Industry – Pizza Nova Delivers Quality and Compassion
Pick up the phone to order a pizza. A call centre employee answers, takes your order, and transmits it to the local franchisee’s pizzeria for preparation and pickup or delivery.
Sounds simple? Well, it isn’t.
Those first few seconds of contact between the customer and the call centre are a critical part of a successful franchise, and one that the individual franchisee has no control over. If a well-trained call centre employee is cheerful, focused and motivated, it’s likely to be a successful sale and a boost to repeat business. If not, the franchisee may lose business or acquire a problem sale to sort out, without knowing why.
According to Domenic Primucci, Pizza Nova’s vice-president of marketing and purchasing, “Our company was founded on the principle that a company is only as good as its employees, and that superior quality and service is the key to business success.
And we believe that loyalty goes in both directions. Happy employees make a better business. Happy customers build the brand’s reputation.”
In line with that philosophy, over the past year and a half, Pizza Nova has implemented a unique Employee Care program. Any Pizza Nova employee who has personal or family concerns that they need help with can get advice on a confidential basis from one of the company’s long-time managers, who is also a certified social worker.
This counselling service is also extended to all franchisees and their employees.
The person responsible for this program at Pizza Nova is Mary Lacaria, a manager of the company’s call centre. According to Primucci, Lacaria was one of the original four employees who started the Pizza Nova call centre in 1984. At the same time as she worked for the company, she was pursuing her studies in social work, eventually gaining undergraduate degrees in psychology and social work.
Lacaria also worked as a crisis centre volunteer for many years, beginning in 1987, developing great personal empathy and skills in understanding people in need, and directing them to services that could help them with their problems.
A couple of years ago, she was approached by Pizza Nova’s founder Sam Primucci, with the idea of using her wealth of skills and experience in social work to establish an “open door” for counselling Pizza Nova’s employees.
Lacaria thought this was “a wonderful idea.” She spent the better part of a year researching the legal and practical aspects of an in-house counselling program before offering it to all the company’s staff, both in the call centre and throughout the rest of the company.
Now, Lacaria says of her experience with the Employee Care program, “It’s very rewarding work; stressful at times, but much appreciated by the community that uses the services. I do enjoy it. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in mental health working with the Canadian Mental Health Association and six years at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre outreach program.
“My work and educational career, as a volunteer and a student as well as a manager, has taught me how to balance many responsibilities at once, to budget time and use every minute. It’s something I’ve been dedicated to throughout my adult life. I feel passionate about it, and I’ve devoted a lot of time to mental health. When Sam asked, I jumped at the chance to establish the Employee Care program here.
“Not too many employers would offer this sort of program,” she says.
“Although Pizza Nova is growing, it still has its family-oriented outlook. The Primucci’s really do care for the people who work here. It shows the kind of people they are, and the kind of business they run,” Lacaria adds.
“Pizza Nova doesn’t have a big turnover rate for the full-time employees.
“There aren’t many other companies where the employees know the owner, and see him on a regular basis. In here, there’s a face to the name. Sam will actually be in the kitchen … talking and listening to the staff.”
Now, three nights a week her door is open to all Pizza Nova employees who need to talk about personal and family problems. Lacaria is able to help employees to understand a broad range of life situations and personal and family issues, and to refer them to the most appropriate social agencies or other community services.
It should be emphasized that Pizza Nova’s Employee Care program is an advisory and referral service, and doesn’t directly offer therapy or treatment. As such, says Primucci, “It is very much appreciated by our employees because Mary sees a fair number of them every week. Our employees are using this program, and benefiting from it.”
In the call centre especially, there are many part-time workers. They have different life stresses, often balancing education, family life and a variable work schedule.
“For many of them, working at Pizza Nova is a very positive step in their career path,” says Mary.
The Employee Care program differentiates working at Pizza Nova from other part-time work experiences, in a positive way.
Most of the Pizza Nova employees outside the call centre though, according to both Lacaria and Primucci, are long-time employees, who value the family atmosphere of the company. Both groups appreciate the Employee Care program’s open door, the sympathetic ear and the expert directions toward whatever help is needed.
According to Sam Primucci, the Employee Care program is also open to the franchisees of Pizza Nova outlets.
“Our franchisees have stresses as well,” he adds. “Some are new to Canada, they all work long hours, and they too may experience personal and family life stresses related to the many hours they put into building their businesses.”
Whatever their problems, whatever they need to speak about, Lacaria is there to listen and to help.
“The Pizza Nova Employee Care program is a symbol of what distinguishes us from other companies,” says Domenic Primucci. “You’re only as good as your employees: if they are happy at work and committed to you, they will produce for you. But you have to look after them.
“We have always aimed to lead through quality in the pizza market. Our pizzas actually are better than those of our competitors,” he says. “We take more time and spend more money on quality ingredients when making them. And, we’ve always extended our concern for quality to invest in our people, who are the most important part of the whole organization.” •