|Providing pet-sitting services in Newcastle for 25 years. Estd.1992 |
|POSTAL: Paws Indoors, Garden Village News, Gosforth, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE3 5BS |
T: Office 0191 2844131 Txt: 07940 339684
These first two pieces are taken from an article written for the Paws Indoors Visitor network. They were first published in our Handbook Volume One in 1994. A combined revised version appeared in UKPets in 2003.
VISITOR & CLIENT (1)
Follow a standard Method.
Establish professional, mutually respectful relationships with your clients and respect their needs..
But - agree to adjust your service to suit individual needs only in so far as they fall within the scope of the Method that you work to. (The Method is part of the licence agreement between the company and its Visitors).
Provide a consistently high quality service to the client.
Deal discreetly with your client in respect of information about them, about yourself, the network and other clients.
In return your clients will recognise the limits of the service and won't ask you to exceed them. They will be clear about your fees and likely to pay you on time. They will respect your need for discretion.
Remain professional throughout..
Sometimes you are asked to provide services out-of-the-ordinary. Is this covered by the Method? You may find it difficult to refuse such a request.
Will it take up more time or affect the quality of service you give to other clients? Is it cost effective?
You may open the way for more requests to be made in the future. Might this cause a break down in the relationship? Where such a break down occurs you may lose the custom and even generate bad publicity.
Similar requests may be made by other future pet owners who hear of the service from the original client. This will cause problems for your Co-ordinator who has then to explain the limits of the service. If this leaves the future client dissatisfied we may lose further custom either for yourself or for another Visitor.
Finally, you could be making it difficult for another Visitor to take over from you in an emergency. It is important to adhere to standardised procedures across the whole network. Clients should be confident that no matter which Visitor provides the service, the quality will always remain the same.
In operating outside the Method you will create procedural problems which may:
Put you in breach of the terms of your Licence Agreement.
Invalidate your liability insurance.
Create confusion between yourself and your Co-ordinator.
Lead to additional operational and security problems.
Your client may come to feel that your close relationship ought to enable you to discuss matters other than the business in hand. Please be discreet.
Begin your professional relationship by making a good first impression.
To establish a professional relationship it is important that you make a good first impression.
Be well prepared
Be suitably dressed
Arrive on time
If you are new to Visiting don't worry if you are feeling nervous. If your client can see that you intend to provide a good service to them they will be happy to have met you.
Remember also that your Co-ordinator will have done their very best to prepare the ground for you. They will have dealt with most of the client's misunderstandings, queries and objections and opened the door for you to present yourself in the best possible light.
Conducting the Interview
It is very important to take control of any interview right from the start. I will use a Booking Appointment to explain.
On the doorstep:
Stand back away from the door so that you do not present a threat when it is opened. Smile! Be prepared to shake hands. Wait to be invited in.
To begin the interview:
a) Explain the procedure that you will go through to take the booking, show the forms to the client and explain that you will ask them to sign the forms at the end to confirm that the details are correct.
b) Next - Explain the nature of your contract with Paws Indoors, ask the client if they have any questions of their own, they may be concerned about the security of their keys for instance, answer these questions before going on.
c) Check the details of any incomplete information which might jeopardise the booking, e.g. if your Co-ordinator has told you that there was not time to send out a price list, the client may not yet know the prices. You may not have been given the exact booking dates, clear these things up now.
d) Move onto the Instruction Sheet. Explain that you will be able to take most of the information sitting down but that you would like to be shown around the property at a later stage.
You may find yourself with a cat in arms following the client around the house. You could end up trying to remember full instructions on the alarm or how to run the heating system before even putting pen to paper! Explain that you need to write all of this down, before you forget it.
Don't be afraid to sit on the floor with the dog's head on your lap - it may be difficult to write but you are making a good impression!
Discussing the animals - find out who is the main carer and address your questions to them. If the animal belongs to a child and the child is present, talk to them about their pet, refer to the parents when a point needs to be made clear.
Be prepared to pause the conversation to write something down, you may find it helps to repeat back what you have written.
If your client is unsure of anything, e.g. whether or not to keep the cat indoors, to let the dog off the lead on walks, whether to set the alarm or leave it off, - you can advise them, (always on the side of caution and security) but if they remain unsure, just leave the topic for now and move onto the next. After they've had time to think about it they may come up with their decision. Alternatively, you may have to enter TBC (To Be Confirmed) on your form in which case you will need to ask for the information again when you return to collect keys.
When you are ready, ask your client to show you around the property, concentrate on what the client is saying. Be observant, keep comments about the property restricted to your interest in its security and maintenance and the welfare of the animals.
When you think you have everything you need, ask the client if they can think of anything else. (You may choose to do this at the end of each stage - for example at the end of the section on pets before going onto the property details). This also gives you time to think of something you might have missed.
When the client is reading over your forms please remember that on first sight they can seem rather complicated so help them out - don't let them sign anything that they do not really understand.
At the end of a Booking Appointment sort out the paperwork, exchange forms, fees, keys etc. as necessary. Reassure yourself that the client is comfortable with the arrangements - ask yourself this question:
Have I given peace of mind?
Double check that you have everything you need.
Advise the client that they can call the office at any time. You may also feel that a particular client may benefit from a final call from you before they go away (especially if you have already collected their keys).
One last thought. You will find it a useful exercise to ask yourself why this client is using the service. The answer is not always obvious and may not be the reason given to you by the client. Knowing this may affect the way you deal with them in the future.
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