The Real-Time Information Advantage of Digital Charting
By Garret Tadlock
Your team just got a call from a client who picked up their pet from your facility a few hours earlier. It could be one of a hundred different things; a scratch, a bad smell, a hot spot, remaining pills/medication, loss of appetite, loss of weight, etc.…What do you do? What do you say?
Dealing with difficult client conversations is something that you need to be well prepared for, but hope you don’t have to have. These calls can be an opportunity for your business to shine or, if you haven’t planned properly, they can be a ticking time bomb waiting to blow up your business.
After working with thousands of facilities and seeing the successful outcomes versus the less-than-desirable outcomes, there are clear advantages of real-time digital charting when delivering world-class pet care. By leveraging digital charting, you can ensure your processes, policies and staff responses will line up with your vision, passion and the mission behind your business and brand.
The Digital Difference
Client trust is broken when information is not immediately available. For facilities who are recording pet care details on paper run cards, notebooks or sticky notes, they are at a disadvantage. They can only say what they think, such as, “I’m sure our team did XYZ…but let me pull the run card, talk to staff, and get back to you shortly.” Even when the client is called back within 15 minutes, given all the details and told the team performed everything perfectly, the client experience is less than ideal and many clients have doubts about the accuracy of the reported details.
If your facility is using digital charting for pet care, that conversation is going to look very different. Charting everything in real-time not only helps protect you and your business, but it also gives your facility and staff the opportunity to shine when a client has questions, comments or concerns. Digital charting allows your team to use phones and tablets to improve documentation, staff communication and reinforces the brand message about your facility while delivering the highest quality of pet care.
Nose to Tail In-Take Assessment
When each guest arrives, a nose to tail assessment should be done for every pet. When your team notices anything abnormal, it should be documented with notes, pictures, and both time and employee stamped. This improves quality of care and staff communication because each shift has a clear understanding of which guests require a little extra attention. Above and beyond that, it will build an even greater level of trust when you can share your observations with the pet parent during check-out and have real-time documentation to back it up. Real-time charting and the right check-out policies will drastically reduce the post check-out phone calls from pet parents who think an injury or issue occurred while at your facility.
Every facility has a few clients who love their fur babies so much that they get tricky with pill counts. Maybe they decided to include one or two extra pills for the lodging stay to make sure that your team’s attention to detail is 100% accurate. When that pet parent calls back after check-out to express their concern and you can’t provide real-time documentation, the client trust and experience is drastically diminished. However, if during that phone call your front desk staff is equipped to provide a time, date and employee stamp for each medication that was delivered, the level of trust and their thoughts about the quality of care provided by your facility are elevated.
Food Consumption Tracking
Just like those tricky pill-counting pet parents, a few are also diligent about weight tracking before and after lodging stays. While an increase in activity during a lodging stay can assist in weight changes, having a real-time log of when each guest was fed, how much food was consumed and which employee provided the feeding reinforces your message of delivering the highest quality of care. Having the historical feeding logs can also provide your business an opportunity to elevate your customer service and provide personalized recommendations for guests who have a history of being light eaters the first few days.
Elimination tracking can prevent a catastrophic health crisis for a guest with an issue that the pet parent might not have been aware of when they left on vacation. Creating staff alerts for guests who haven’t had eliminations or who have had abnormal eliminations will allow your pet care team to focus a little more attention on specific guests and identify issues before it’s too late. Digital charting provides the ability to document the time, date and details of eliminations. All abnormal eliminations are documented and all in-house pets have a status to make it easier for all pet care staff to provide exceptional care.
Incidents & Injuries
Every pet business has incidents and injuries, but how they document, communicate and resolve the issue can be the difference between average and exceptional pet care. Tracking department, classification of incident, descriptions, actions, resolutions and applicable employee notes in real-time will ensure that any staff that has a conversation with the client is prepared, and that the business owner can identify opportunities for optimizing processes and policies that reduce incidents and injuries based upon trends over a period of time.
Digital Groom Cards & Targeted Compliance Texts
Pet parents like to see consistency when it comes to grooming; consistency when it comes to the look of the groom, but also the price and frequency. Having the ability to store digital images for preferred cuts for pets based upon feet, tail, body and face can make a world of difference. Groomers are getting busier and busier, and getting an appointment now is becoming more important than getting an appointment with a specific groomer.
If the owner of a goldendoodle waits 10 weeks between appointments, nobody is going to be happy. The pet is going to be super uncomfortable and the owner is going to be upset that their dog is getting a shave-down. And, the groomer is going to be unhappy because it will be a more difficult groom and they will have empathy for the goldendoodle enduring the longer groom. Using charting with targeted messages to send reminders to pet parents who haven’t had an appointment in four to six weeks can fill the schedule plus improve the customer, pet and groomer experience.
Making the Transition
Over the past five years, the technology available to the pet care industry has continued to rapidly change. If you are reading this and feeling a bit overwhelmed by your outdated processes and the thought of upgrading to a system that supports digital charting, you aren’t alone. The good news is that it doesn’t have to take weeks, cost thousands of dollars or require hundreds of labor hours to upgrade your system and processes.
When finding the right system to upgrade to, you will want to look for a few key criteria:
1. Staff Training. When making a shift that impacts pet care operations, you will want to make sure that staff training is included both for current employees and all future new-hires (especially if you have a decent turnover or seasonal team members).
2. System Access. Having the ability to control who can access the system, what they can see and from where they can access the software will be critical to maintain data security and prevent staff from making potentially bad decisions outside of work. You will want to make sure you have the option to restrict users based upon IP addresses.
3. Complete Digital Charting. If you are going to spend the time, money and staff hours to upgrade, you will want to make sure that you can document everything digitally. Don’t settle for a system that documents feedings and meds, but is missing body checks, eliminations or detailed incident tracking.
For those of you who followed your passion for animals and want to make sure your team is delivering on your promise to provide world-class pet care, don’t sit back and put off making a change. Take the next step and do a bit of research on what systems are available and are best for your business.
Garret Tadlock is Founder & CEO of PawLoyalty (www.pawloyalty.com) and has worked with thousands of Pet Care Professionals over the past decade to improve the pet & parent experience, educate staff on data-driven decision making and improve profitability across Daycare, Groomers, Trainers & Boarding facilities. With a proven track record in technology and automation, he always provides actionable tips & tricks that can be implemented by any facility (big or small, new or seasoned).