Keep Your Business Healthy During a Canine Cough Outbreak
By Jess Zellmer
If you had told me that day about the month we had ahead of us, I would have wanted to close the doors, hop in the car and drive away. Ignorance was bliss on that day.
Quickly, reality set in. The phone calls from customers and vets would begin to pour in over the next few days. Just to add to the fun, Thanksgiving Weekend was right around the corner. My husband and I took to the internet to look for resources on how to handle a canine cough outbreak. Much to our surprise, there was very little detailed information on the topic.
After a painful, tiring, and stressful six weeks, the outbreak was over. The only bright side of the entire situation was that the “How to Handle a Canine Cough Outbreak” portion of our procedures manual was now complete. The communication plan featured here is not perfect, but an analysis of our tracking data revealed a fantastic statistic. Almost all of the guests that got the bug returned to our facility within the six month period after the outbreak.
During our ordeal, we discovered that customer communication was key. Proactive phone calls and emails went much more smoothly than the reactive ones. During the first few days we tried to keep the issue “quiet.” It quickly became clear that this was not a feasible solution, especially considering that we are in a fairly small town. We made the decision to be as transparent as possible.
Via email, we provided our customers information on canine cough. We let them know that we were experiencing it and gave them the option to find an alternative if they desired. Very few customers cancelled reservations. Some called with questions or to request more information. We tried to ensure that a manager or owner was taking most of the phone calls that came in to the facility during the outbreak.
A quick email inquiring about how the dog is recovering goes a long way. It shows the customer that we are taking the situation seriously and that the health and well-being of their pet is the highest priority.
Proactive communication is key in customer retention through a canine cough outbreak. We found that almost all of the customers were understanding and many times sympathetic to what we were going through. Personal calls are a nice touch but email can be quite effective. In the end we had over 35 dogs that were diagnosed with canine cough after visiting our facility. In the six months after the ordeal, all but 1 had returned to our facility for another stay. We attribute this success to our proactive and organized customer communication.
Jess Zellmer and her husband Dave own and operate Paws in Motion, a Dog Daycare and Boarding Facility in King George, Virginia. Their center specializes in offering small playgroups with a highly attentive staff to ensure a safe and fun environment for each canine guest. The couple previously owned A Dog’s Dream Pet Sitting Service in Fredericksburg, VA and have been caring for pets in their community for over ten years.