You can provide the best pet services in town, but still have open slots for appointments and no shows for those that are booked. You may need help communicating with prospective and current customers – and scheduling them once you have their attention. But there are only so many hours in the day, so how can you do this better?
Leverage technology: Use software tools for communication and scheduling.
These can help extend your reach and engagement, helping pet parents feel important to you while allowing you and your team to focus on the work at hand.
Below we’ve included a few things that can help you and your team leverage technology to better communicate with your customers and focus on providing the pets in your care with a satisfying experience.
What’s new? Pet parents will follow you on social media, especially if you supply them with tips and ideas they may find of interest. From a video of you explaining “grooming needs when you adopt a sheepdog” to photos of their furry friends “before and after” (with their permission of course), pet parents will be happy to follow you if they feel you “get” them and you offer great content. It is also a great way to share the latest in pet spa treatments, seasonal updates or other offerings.
Not every business owner has the bandwidth to manage a social media presence all alone, so make sure you consider the tools and resources available. One thing that can help is to collaborate with someone on your team or an outside agency to create some evergreen content (content that is timeless) that can be scheduled for release via social media automated posting software in between the more “just in time” or seasonal announcements.
While social media strategies can be useful for brand management and promotion, they’re also important tools for responding to customer comments and questions. According to findings in the journal Business Research, brands that interact with customers on social media are generally more profitable (Twitter published similar results about its users). Review social media demographics to determine where and how you invest your resources to reach your clients through their preferred platforms.
Today people are much more digitally savvy than in the past and they’ll expect you to have a fresh, easy to navigate and information-rich website. Your website is your “face to the world” – so be sure it looks good and is useful to your pet parents. According to Pew Research, about 85% of American adults own a smartphone while 93% use the internet, so having it be “responsive” or mobile-friendly is key.
If you’re new to digital marketing, there are many online resources offering tips to improve your business’ website. First and foremost, think like a customer and make the site about them and their pet. Some basics include easy-to-find contact information, a clear description of your business and its services, plus customer reviews that highlight the benefits of your pet care services.
And don’t forget the photographs! Pet care and services’ businesses can often be well represented with good images. Whether professional photos you’ve commissioned, high-resolution images provided by pet parents and/or sourced from a free resource of commercial quality photos such as Pexels, help tell your stories with good visuals.
Another tool that pet parents have come to expect is the opportunity to book and manage their pet’s appointments online. If not part of your current site, check out some options that could provide the functionality for you.
Consider your website as an opportunity to make a good first impression on the pet parents who will hopefully become long-term satisfied customers. The site should be useful and usable by them. Review it and think about whether or not your current format is representing your business the way you want it to -or if it could use a few touch ups.
Appointment scheduling should be a well-oiled machine that helps optimize and utilize your service hours, while minimizing wait times, empty appointment slots, and no-shows. An easy way to help get in touch with clients ahead of their scheduled visit is to use appointment reminders.
Appointment reminders–whether via text, an automated phone call, or a personal phone call–provide your staff with an opportunity to communicate important information that your clients need to have a successful visit. There are a variety of applications created for this purpose. The reminders can include timing, location, pre-visit advice, and more. It can also offer pet parents the opportunity to ask questions before they walk through your door.
There are tradeoffs for automated vs personal phone call reminders. Research shows that 98% of adults in the U.S. have access to a mobile phone with text messaging services, and 58% of consumers express a more positive outlook toward a business if it offers SMS capabilities. However, direct calls from your staff provide them the opportunity to develop personal relationships with clients that can help you retain their business.
Whatever method you choose will likely depend on your resources and staff bandwidth, but appointment reminders are an easy way to establish communication with your clients and improve your bottom line.
As you grow your business, you’ll want to evaluate tools that give you an edge and allow you to better scale. These can include customer relationship management (“CRM”) software, which helps you keep track of those who are important to your business, including suppliers, vendors, pets and their parents in context of their related activities. Some packages are specifically geared for certain types of businesses, including Pet Grooming and may include appointment scheduling/ reminders as part of the integrated package. Check with your trusted advisors for business technology to see if this type of solution is a fit for your business now or in future.
As a small business owner, you can’t always do everything you want at once. Instead, work with your marketing/communications advisors to identify your priorities. Communication is the key to most good relationships and finding ways to enhance your capabilities with tools that allow you to scale is good for your pet care business.