Six Things Pet Owners Wish Their Pet Sitters Knew
Every pet owner wants a top-notch pet sitter. People who enter the field of pet sitting with passion and sincerity want to be known as top-notch pet sitters.
There are perfectly wonderful pet sitters out there who truly love each pet and loves spending time with them, caring for them, and building great relationships with them.
However, some of these perfectly wonderful pet sitters can ding, or totally ruin, their reputation in the eyes of pet owners by messing up in some very basic ways.
Before I became a professional pet sitter I was a pet owner in need of a pet sitter for my sweet cockatiel, Puffy so I can speak from both sides of the fence on this topic.
I've also talked to some pet sitters who didn't have a clue how some of their business practices negatively affected their reputation.
Here are six things that pet sitters can do that can hurt their business reputation, along with six things to prevent this from happening in the first place.
Making these mistakes can cause a pet sitter to end up with fewer clients, fewer long-standing clients, and fewer instances of "word of mouth" recommendations to friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members.
1. PHONE CALLS
"My pet sitter doesn't respond to my phone messages - sometimes for more than three days. This stresses me out."
Problem: Not returning phone calls to clients in a timely manner. This can cause frustration and anxiety in the hearts and minds of clients.
Solution: Let clients know from the get-go your turnaround time for phone calls. Is it a call back promised within 12 or 24 hours? State it at the Meet and Greet and on your voice mail message. Follow through on calls. Never ignore a call.
2. E-MAILS /TEXT MESSAGES
"My pet sitter seems to ignore my e-mails and texts yet she told me at our Meet and Greet that she checks her messages every few hours, even when she is busy."
Problem: Not responding to e-mails in a timely manner, which will also result in frustration and anxiety.
Solution: Same as phone calls. Personally, I don't trust technology, so I would tell clients if they didn't hear back from me within a certain amount of time to call. I would prefer calls over e-mails any day. State that.
"My pet sitter was really friendly at our Meet and Greet, but since then he's been a bit snappy and cold with me. I don't think he is listening to me."
Problem: Customer service. Customer service. Customer service. When pet sitters are not pleasant, warm, friendly, and open clients can feel disrespected and that their pet sitter doesn't care about them or their pets.
Solution: Take a deep breath and visibly smile before picking up the phone to talk to a client. It makes a difference in your voice. The same thing for in-person meetings - check your attitude before interacting. If you've had a bad day personally, show some self-control and don't express it to clients. Be professional.
"My neighbor told me that she met up with our pet sitter while he was out walking our dogs. She greeted the dogs and told him she was my neighbor. He proceeded to tell her some details of where we were, why we went away, and that we left our house a little messier than normal when we go away. I feel like he violated our privacy and trust. It is none of my neighbor's business. Now I don't feel comfortable having him pet sit for us anymore."
Problem: When pet sitters break confidentiality about a client's family situation, who they are pet sitting for, and when, and what personal or valuable items are in a client's home. It is all about Trust. Break the trust and it is a long climb back to regain that level of trust again.
Solution: Make confidentiality a priority. If clients' neighbors or friends, or yours', get too curious about a particular client's home or pets, then politely state your confidentiality policy. If you need to share about a situation or a pet with someone because you need advice or opinions, then do not mention names, locations, etc... As they say in some movies "The names have been changed to protect the innocent".
5. REPEATEDLY BREAKING PROMISES
"My pet sitter either neglected or forgot to take in the mail a few days during our trip. I know this because my neighbor across the street noticed that the mail had piled up a few days before she took it in. She also forgot to e-mail us daily updates while we were away and we were worried that she didn't even come every day, although she said she did. She didn't apologize for not e-mailing and just said she was busy, and she never let us know that she forgot about the mail every day. How do I know what else she had forgotten during the time we were away?"
Problem: Occasionally a pet sitter might forget to do something that a client requested - like perhaps one day they forgot to take in the mail, forgot to give a dog a pill, or forgot to e-mail an update to a client away on vacation. Pet sitters are human and occasionally things can be forgotten. But when a pet sitter is repeatedly lax in their duties, owners will not be pleased. It may cost the pet sitter a client.
Solution: Take responsibility. Apologize. Fess up from the get-go. Be more careful in the future. If you've really messed up then I'd recommend you reimburse the client for the pet visit with a written apology note.
"Two days before our trip, my solo pet sitter called and canceled, living us stuck to scramble and find another pet sitter just before our trip. He apologized but that didn't help because it causes us more last-minute stress. It wasn't even for an emergency - he said he had an opportunity to go away for the weekend with some friends so he took it. He did this once before too. We are not going to use him again."
Problem: If a pet sitter cancels their services without plenty of notice leaving a pet owner high and dry without a pet sitter.
Solution: Plan your personal schedule, like vacations and big family commitments, months in advance as you can and let clients know you won't be available. I always viewed a pet sitting commitment as set in stone and that took priority over anything else. Ex: I missed a very good friend's funeral in another state because I was a solo pet sitter and had a full roster of pets for the days I'd have to be away. I couldn't in good conscience cancel pet sitting two days before I was scheduled to pet sit. If you are a pet sitting company, then you will have employees or ICs (Independent Contractors) that you can call to cover for you.
Be a conscientious pet sitter. Be professional. Go the extra mile for clients. It is all about customer service, care, attention, generosity, knowing how to run a business correctly, and trying to be the best pet sitter you can be.