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How Do Pet Sitters Respond to Last Minute Bookings? [video]

hourglass photoAs most pet sitters know, the longer you’ve been in business, the more familiar you become with your own steps and processes.

Typically, a call or email comes in, you connect with the potential client, you spend time discussing all options.

Then you would set up a mutually convenient time to meet, receive the keys, get forms and agreements signed, work out payment, and the ball is rolling.

But what happens when a potential client contacts you in dire need for your services NOW?

As in right now. Like, tonight.

“Help! I forgot to book…”

That’s exactly what happened to me recently. I received an email from a woman who needed to drop off her cat that night. Well, actually, it was her bosses cat, and, as she puts it, “My boss forgot to book a sitter…”

↓ Listen Here to the Email I Received

What Do YOU Do?

Now, in all fairness, while this particular email admits that service is needed ASAP because of forgetfulness, what about last minute trips, or family emergencies?

And would your personal decision change because in this situation it was forgotten about?

We all know life happens. So, how do you handle these really last minute bookings? Do you pass altogether? Do you impose an additional fee? How do you properly set up the meet-n-greet, or get the keys, or get the forms signed?

Leave your comments below so we can continue to learn from each other!

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About Joshua Cary

Joshua Cary is an all around good guy. He is a filmmaker, web builder and business owner. He is a pet sitting business trainer, coach and instructor and has a passion for helping pet sitters build a strong business through a strong website. Joshua is also the co-founder of the Association of Pet Sitting Excellence (you should really check that out).

  • Kathy

    HOW DID YOU RESPOND?  I’d love to know what you do in this situation, since you are the “expert”.

    For us, it really depends on our schedule, the amount of time and the circumstances.  If we can accommodate a new client and still have everything in place before the service, then of course we would do it.  We usually try to work with such clients to find a solution that works for everyone.  If we can’t do it, I will usually recommend another pet sitter or suggest other options and thank them for considering us. 

    I always offer to send our new client packet to them and tell them that they may consider completing the paperwork and getting it back to us so that we have it on file.  If they are considering using our services at some point in the future, they may even want to do the initial consult beforehand.  That way, if and when something arises in the future and they need last minute services, we will be able to accommodate them.

    While we don’t like to turn down business, we can’t afford to compromise the quality of our services, either.

  • Kathy

    HOW DID YOU RESPOND?  I’d love to know what you do in this situation, since you are the “expert”.

    For us, it really depends on our schedule, the amount of time and the circumstances.  If we can accommodate a new client and still have everything in place before the service, then of course we would do it.  We usually try to work with such clients to find a solution that works for everyone.  If we can’t do it, I will usually recommend another pet sitter or suggest other options and thank them for considering us. 

    I always offer to send our new client packet to them and tell them that they may consider completing the paperwork and getting it back to us so that we have it on file.  If they are considering using our services at some point in the future, they may even want to do the initial consult beforehand.  That way, if and when something arises in the future and they need last minute services, we will be able to accommodate them.

    While we don’t like to turn down business, we can’t afford to compromise the quality of our services, either.

  • Amanda

    We often get these too, we ask them to pay online to Paypal immediately the meet and greet fee then we kkonw they are serious and will proceed with the booking.  Then at least if they duck out at the even more last minute “coz a friend is doing it now” we have not lost money on admin time and preparations.  This soon weedles out those who are just enquiring but are frantically trying to get a friend to do it instead.  If they do not pay or find someone else we recommend they register on board once they get back and become a Readykeyz holder.

    • Joshua Cary

      Amanda, we have fell victim to that too many times in the past, as well.

      All too often, these last minute requests are sent to as many local sitters as possible (it does make sense from their point of view).  Then, when one or two jump to accommodate, you’ll naturally hear the ‘I found someone else.’

      So in this case particularly, I think it makes the most sense to get an immediate financial commitment to protect yourself.  And in doing so, you’ll easily see if they are shopping all around town, like you pointed out.

  • Jody Smith

    For an existing customer we do what we can. For a new customer it all depends how busy we are, but I find most times when I call these last minute people back, that they already found care.
    I had a friend tell me once “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”.

    • Joshua Cary

      “I had a friend tell me once “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”.

      Excellently put, Jody!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cahillscritters Cahill’s Critter Care

    For an existing client I will bend over backward to accommodate them, usually doing the job myself.   If I have to ask a sitter or IC to bend over backward they aren’t usually willing to do so; that’s the situation I find myself in most often.
    If it’s a new person asking for last minute stuff- it depends on how last minute it is, and how much I have going on.  If  it’s a slow week, I will consider it; if it’s a busy week, I usually refer them to my local networking group’s website and wish them luck.

  • Michelle

    The first year or so that I was in business, I took every opportunity that came my way & would jump through hoops to accommodate these last minute calls.  What I have learned since then, once a last minute booker always a last minute booker.  Even when you explain to the client that going forward a 2 weeks advance notice is required.    Now, more often than not, I don’t take last minute bookings from new clients. I’d rather turn down the new business now, then get to the point where I
    am so annoyed by the client down the road that I consider ending the
    relationship.

    I chose to position my company as a dog walking company that also offers pet sitting (instead of vice-versa) & by doing so my M-F dog walking gig is sucessful enough to allow me the flexibilty to pick & choose my pet sitting clients and at this point I have decided to chose quality clients over quantity.   Whether that is the best way to do things or not – I don’t know but it is what works for me.

    • Joshua Cary

      Michelle,

      This is the part I love the most that you wrote: “What I have learned since then, once a last minute booker always a last minute booker.”

      So true, it seems.  And it’s great to hear that you were able to get to point in your business (and confident enough in yourself) to turn down (IE. Sayo ‘No’) to job requests that do not seem to be a good fit.

      Very smart to position your biz as a dog walking company that offer pet sitting and not vice versa.  The more you can become clear about what your business is – and isn’t – the better you’ll be able to serve the right clients for you.

  • Shannonspetsitting

    If I am able to help the potential client I will plain & simple. But I insist I meet with them in person at their home prior to their departure. Its amazing how many people are willing to not meet you, leave a key or just give out the code to their home & not think anything of it! If they can not meet with me before they leave I will not accept the job. Most people appreciate the professionalism of insisting on a face to face meeting. 

    If I am booked and know of a sitter who may be able to help them I will refer them to another business. 

    I pride myself on not just the quality of service I provide but the quality of my clients.  They are excellent pet owners who have their pets best interest in mind. I would rather turn away a potentially poor business & keep a smaller higher quality of clientele. This helps the integrity of my business & increases my business on a quality level.  

    I always wait for the bomb to drop the week before a holiday. My clients know I book way in advance for Holiday & therefore book me ahead of time. In my eyes the good pet sitters will be booked for Holidays because they are in such high demand for good services provided. Pet owners who decide to wait until the last minute to make arrangements for their pets for the Holidays personally annoy me because majority of the time the pets are an after thought. When and if I am able to take last minute potential clients I keep the philosophy they may be a one & done job. The people who use you once & you never hear from again. However there is always room for error. Some of my best most loyal clients are the last minute calls who I thought might be one & done’s. They learned their lesson of waiting until the last minute & really appreciated my professional courtesy & being able to help them out.

    Shannon ColeShannon’s Pet-Sitting”Quality Pet Care in the Comfort of Their Own Home”                                                       PHONE: (847) 987-4322WEBSITE:   http://www.shannonspetsitting.net/FACEBOOK:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shannons-Pet-Sitting/213606610805TWITTER:   http://twitter.com/ShannonPetSit

  • Miranda

    I had two ‘emergency’ requests this week.  I was ready to accommodate them (without charging extra), but then they found a friend to do it, as begrudged paying for services.  A professional service wasn’t on their priority list.  One had been let down by another friend.  I won’t be leaping to their aid in too much of a hurry if they call back.

    • Joshua Cary

      You live and learn, Miranda.  It’s nice to know that you were certainly ready to accommodate last minute before they chose another direction.  Nothing more you can do in that situation.  Simply put, they are not the client for you.

  • Cristina

    For new clients, I really only go above and beyond if it is not their fault or I just happen to be able to without conflicts with the current schedule. For example family emergencies, friend or other sitter cancelled on them, etc. Even then if it will majorly get in the way of our ability to honor our current clients requests I can’t take it. In general I avoid last minute clients and NEVER take last minute clients on a Sunday because a) like many people said they don’t always see it through anyways and waist your time & b) it sets a precedence for our on going relationship. Anyone who hits you up for service last minute, especially on a Sunday, when they could have planned it ahead of time will continue to do the same thing all the time and it will become very frustrating. I have also noticed these people can also be bad about paying on time. Probably because they don’t have their responsibilities together.

    For current clients I bend over backwards for sure although every long once and a while it’s just not possible because we’re all booked up. That is usually in the holiday season. I have many times gotten to a point where they are just being selfish and the late scheduling would be avoidable on their part, but because they know I am reliable they take it for granted. I do have client who are doctor’s etc. that told me ahead of time they would not be able to tell me too far in advance but they seriously wait until 12 am the day before to send me a whole week’s schedule with multiple bookings a day so I have to re-arrange the entire schedule for the week for most of my sitters early in the AM on Monday while trying to get to my first early job and respond to other emails/texts. This is where mistakes are made from rushing and it’s also just not fair. I have not figured out how to solve this problem. I actually really need some advice on it because I have several clients who need me on a weekly basis who are all doing this at once and causing me a lot of stress. A couple of them are not even in a profession who’s hours fluctuate. They’re just sloppy I guess. I thought of a late reservation fee to deter but just like my late payment fee I have already put into affect I am worried it will not help motivate them enough. Any advice?

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