A Guide To Serving Your Clients in Pet Loss
By Christina Gray
Pet lovers will tell you that losing a dog or cat is the same as losing a family member. Despite this, the pet grief journey is still a little misunderstood across both pet professionals and pet owners alike. And rightly so; finding the words or the right gestures is sometimes lost, and in a business, there are boundaries to consider, your level of involvement and much more.
In other words, like all grief, it’s a complicated topic that requires careful consideration. The following will provide some fresh ideas and actionable steps to manage pet loss experienced by the clients of your pet business.
Create a safe and comforting experience.
Your clients want a safe place to deal with personal issues like that of losing their beloved dog or cat. It’s a trying time with a lot of unknowns, uncertainty and questions, as you so well know. How you deliver on this experience from start to finish will reflect on your business, practices, and overall approach to service and client care. The bad times, if you will, and how they’re handled will set the tone for your client relationships moving forward.
In further exploring a comforting experience for your clients, it’s important to “get ahead of” these tough situations so you’re adapted and better prepared to handle your clients’ needs. Start with a framework and establish guidelines—from the communication process, tone and style to the environment you’d like to create, and lastly, how post-loss support will be managed. Having this in place will serve as a helpful blueprint for training your team, too.
This isn’t meant to be a script or cookie-cutter approach, but useful building blocks to learn and grow from. More seasoned professionals can leverage lessons, learnings and hands-on experiences with loss to identify any needed improvements or fresh ideas to better serve clients moving forward.
To gauge where you’re at or where you want to be, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- Does your team need more education or tools?
- Is there more help or resources you can offer?
- Are your clients getting what they need from you right now?
- Do you feel well enough equipped to get through conversations?
Answering these questions will reveal any blind spots which can then be corrected so you are better prepared.
Be transparent and open.
Now that we’ve covered how to create the right experience for your clients in their pet loss journey, another way to build off of this momentum is by offering proactive education.
It’s natural for people to avoid and only face loss when they absolutely have to. Loss, however, isn’t convenient and it never happens when you’re ready. It often leaves people feeling lost, confused, unprepared and fearful of the unknown. This mindset is something you can help shift by proactively arming your clients with helpful information, tools and resources so that they might be more prepared in the long-run.
Consider these actionable tips you can leverage right away, using some of the communication or media platforms you likely have in place:
- Include pet loss marketing materials at your business.
- Offer pet loss webinars or presentations at speaking events, local or otherwise, as helpful education.
- Incorporate loss-related FAQs on your website.
- Add a pet loss section to your client newsletter that you can continuously update with more relevant, related topics.
- Include pet loss topics as part of your social media program in an appropriate way.
- Use all of your marketing platforms and materials to point clients in the direction of pet loss support groups or resources if/when they need it.
By handling these sensitive issues with TLC, empathy and compassion, your clients will likely gain more confidence in your services, business and partnership, which provides a very healthy outcome.
Help them honor their pet.
Now that you’ve created a healing and helpful atmosphere within your facility or business to deal with pet loss, you can take a more involved role in post-loss, should it make sense for your business’s overall vision and growth goals.
More pet owners are embracing celebration-of-life services to honor their best animal friend. With this, buying unique and special gifts and keepsakes to use in the memorial service and cherish long after is how some are celebrating their pet’s legacy.
If you haven’t considered this idea yet, you can expand your services to include pet memorial offerings, including planning, gifts and keepsakes. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Help your clients celebrate their pets. This might include offering vendor suggestions for celebration-of-life planners, ideas and products like pet urns, decorations or memorial keepsakes. Additionally, you can use your media outlets to share memorial service ideas and tips to honor pets long after they’re gone.
- Consider creating loss rituals for your clients’ pets. This might include a short service after a death, lighting a candle, creating a video and more. This is a very special way to connect with your clients, too.
- Allow clients to host memorial services at your facility. Another consideration is to partner with other organizations that can do the hosting and perhaps you can help facilitate or sponsor the event—an added bonus for brand awareness.
- Pet loss therapists, mediums and related professionals are becoming an option for post-loss grief and healing. Consider bringing in these resources for talks or getting your clients in touch with these experts to help them through their healing journey.
Expand by offering gifts and keepsakes.
The power of simple gestures is what gifts and keepsakes are all about. They serve the purpose of creating joy in the moment and becoming part of the pet’s story. Consider retailing pet lifestyle products as a way to connect your clients with high-quality, precious and special gifts. In the moment, they may need it not only for themselves, but for other pet lovers that lost a pet, too. The designs should align with your business, business model, taste, aesthetic and more. And these products can be made available in your business, online or both.
I hope this inspires new ways to successfully manage through pet loss and help your clients through the ups and downs of their pet loss grief journeys.
Christina Gray is a seasoned writer, long-time animal lover and Chief Design Officer with House of Paws, an online pet lifestyle boutique featuring luxe and whimsical gifts and pet memorial keepsakes meant to spark joy and honor the legacy of the pets we’ve loved and lost. Christina covers pet loss topics and helps pet businesses and retailers expand their categories with uniquely designed, best-selling products. She can be reached at [email protected].