“Is My Dog Eating?” Reduce Stress By Simplifying Client Communication
By Teena Patel
Have you or your staff ever felt overwhelmed with client communication? Communicating with clients during a pet’s stay can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right plan, tools, and a hefty dose of teamwork you can streamline how you update clients.
There’s a reason this saying is so popular—it’s true! Take the time to develop a thoughtful plan and process for how your business will communicate with clients during their pet’s stay, and use real data to support your intended plan.
First, look at the average length of an overnight stay during the past 3 to 6 months. Then ask yourself, “What is the minimum number of times we can commit to updating clients during a pet’s average stay, even if things get hectic?”
If the average stay is 3 days, and you can commit to sending an email or text update (preferably with photos) once during that time, communicate that expectation to your clients. Every facility’s schedule will look different, but the promise you make to your clients needs to represent the minimum commitment you can make, otherwise they’ll call every day.
At Doglando, we commit to sending an update once every 3 days. We’ve determined this to be the minimum obligation that we can meet—in fact, our average for client communication is daily. If you can beat your promise, that’s great! If not, you know what you’ll be able to do regardless of how busy things might get.
We’re proactive in our communication and set these expectations from the beginning, and as a result we don’t receive many extra calls asking for updates. Our clients know how frequently they’ll hear from us, and the trust we’ve built with each client helps them feel comfortable with this rate of communication. We can do this because client relationships are so important in the success of our business and in the lives of the dogs we care for, and maintaining those relationships is something we actively focus on every day.
It’s something that’s admittedly difficult when you care for large numbers of dogs each day, or when you’re unfamiliar with what it takes to forge those relationships. It’s not impossible—especially when you involve all members of your team.
When working out your client communication strategy, your next step is to have your front desk employee share some of the most common questions people ask when they call during their pet’s stay. What questions are people asking over and over again? Make a list of those questions and compare it to the data you’ve collected. Based on that information, create a template that includes a list of the most commonly asked questions. When you (or a member of your team) sends updates, be sure to include information that addresses the most common inquiries, plus some fun notes about what the pet has been up to. Personalization and care is key to building client trust. And, when you proactively set expectations and anticipate the needs of your clientele, you won’t receive as many calls.
If you care for a larger number of dogs, you should use technology to make client communication easier. Even if your business is on the smaller side, technology can help alleviate much of the stress that comes with client communication. Texts and emails are easy to use, and effective. You’ll just have to determine which staff members will be responsible for sending them.
Clients love photos, but taking and sending photos requires more manpower. Webcams involve a similar increase in effort, and they might not even reduce the number of calls you receive. Surprisingly, we’ve found that webcams often increase the number of calls received, and therefore the amount of work that needs to be done. Sometimes, they have questions about what they can’t see on the cameras. Other times, they may be concerned about what they’re seeing because they can’t see the entire picture. It’s something to consider when creating your process.
Technology will help with the ease of information delivery, but it can’t automate things entirely. Each update you send still needs to be specific to the dog, and that’s where internal communication comes into play.
When your team communicates effectively, the pet’s experience is improved and client communication will be easier. At Doglando, our Front Desk Manager sends out a daily email to the entire team. Along with the number of dogs that came to our facility, these emails include information about specific dogs; everything from behaviors our Play Professors have noticed to birthdays. This helps us personalize every update we send out, without any extra headaches.
If you’re struggling to keep up with the demands of client communication, first consider how effective your internal communication systems are. From daily emails to notes on a whiteboard in your staff room, there are many ways to keep everyone in the loop regarding details about the pets in your care. And when your team communicates effectively, pet care and client communication will improve by leaps and bounds.