Part Two: The two most important things people expect from a pet sitter
In Part One, I identified the two most important things that pet owners expect from their pet sitters. One was trust and the other was the gift of peace of mind.
Let's unpack this a little bit, shall we?
Trust and peace of mind do not come automatically in a pet sitter/pet-owner relationship. Sure, there are a few potential clients that might be fine with tossing the keys to their home to you and in a willy nilly sort of way spontaneously trust you with their pets even though they don't know you from Adam (or Eve), but the majority of people are really careful about who they trust with the care of their homes and pets.
In fact, if you run across a potential client who does want to just toss you the house keys and seems flippant about the importance of the services you provide, then make sure you do a good job screening that client to make sure it is someone that you'll have a good connection with.
I promised you some practical ways of how to build trust and increase a client's peace of mind leaving their pets in your care, and here they are. By the way, these points are also helpful for potential pet sitting clients too.
Here, in no specific order, I present 6 practical points for you to ponder:
1. RESPOND: Right from the get-go, when a potential client leaves you an initial message inquiring about your services, make sure to respond in a timely manner. At the outset, respond in less than 24 hours, but a lot sooner than that would be stellar for trust-building. If there's a reason why you couldn't call them back within 24 hours, then make sure you apologize when you do connect with them and give them an honest reason why you weren't able to get back to them. After all, pet sitters are only human and sometimes extenuating circumstances arise and messages can't be returned within a day's time, but that should be a rarity.
2. BE ON TIME: When you show up for the initial meet and greet visit (more on what a meet and greet entails will be given to you in a future post), arrive about five minutes in advance. So, if your appointment is scheduled for 2:00 PM, knock on the door at 1:55 PM. Don't arrive too early though because they may not be prepared. If a time frame for pet visits is discussed, arrive within that time frame. If extenuating services make the visit delayed, then explain the reasons to the client.
It should go without saying, but I am saying it just in case somebody does need to hear it, that pet visits should never be skipped or forgotten, so make sure to keep a good schedule so you show up where you are supposed to be at the correct time.
3. COMMUNICATION: Communicate well on all points of pet care and concerns and anything that might happen within or about the client's home. If you make a mistake, own up to it. An example of that might be that the client asked you to take in the mail each day, but you forgot to do so on the first day, then make sure to tell the client it was forgotten and then document that you then brought in the mail every day from that point forward. Why is that necessary? Neighbors might be keeping watch and may tattle on you to your client and say something like "Didn't you tell me your pet sitter was going to pick up the mail every day? Well, she only went checked the mail every few days". Little things like this do matter. If not the neighbor, then the nanny-cam might pick up that you are shirking certain responsibilities.
Here is a true example for you to ponder: One time I was returning a dog from her daily walk and I went to fill up the water bowl with fresh water before leaving. While doing so my elbow accidentally knocked over a wine glass that was left on the counter and it broke. After cleaning it up so all was safe for the pet, I stayed a few minutes later, wrote a note to the client with an apology and offered to pay the damages. The client was very pleased with my honesty and said not to worry, and all was well. But wouldn't it have been horrible if I didn't say anything at all and just threw the broken glass in the trash? Later on, she would have noticed it and then it would be an embarrassment to me and a ding or more, to the trust she had placed in me. Always best to own up to a mistake.
While the client is away make sure to communicate as discussed during the initial meet and greet or via subsequent phone calls once you are their regular sitter. If the client is expecting a text from you every day around a certain time with a pet update, don't forget to carry through. If not, you will cause anxiety for a client and that could ruin one of their vacation days worrying about what is going on back home.
4. BE RESPONSIBLE: Follow through on all the agreed-upon tasks you previously discussed with the client. A new client, and even a not-so-knew client, might actually test you on this. For example, if you tell a client that the litter box is sifted at every visit but you don't do it, this could be a problem that will ding someone's ability to rely on you.
Let me explain: Perhaps you are thinking, how would the client know if I don't sift the litter box at every visit - I'll just make sure to clean it at the last visit before the client is scheduled to return home. Ah, but what could happen with this plan? Sometimes a client may return home earlier than expected only to find that the litter box hasn't been cleaned in four days! Then you are busted and your trustworthiness goes out the window. Keep in mind that people have cameras around their homes so it is important to keep trust and do what you are supposed to do. I always told clients that I sifted the litter box at every visit and I did so. Promise the best care and deliver the best care.
5. BE GENUINE: Really care. Let your clients hear the care you have for their pets in what you say and how you conduct yourself. Pet sitting is about caring and heart as well as earning income, so if you are thinking of becoming a pet sitter just to make money, I'd advise you to reconsider.
6. BE RESPECTFUL: Show respect in your speech and how you treat someone's pets and how you conduct yourself in public with their pet, and how you act in their homes (more about the home care aspect of a pet sitting service in a future post).
If you are diligent in these 6 basic but important points, you will have happy clients and you will build and keep a good connection with them for many years to come. Not only that, they will recommend you to others and your business will grow.