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A Rare Look For Pet Sitters Inside The Minds Of Your Clients [video]

How often do we as pet sitters get to be a fly on the wall and listen in on an actual gripe from a pet owner?

And how valuable would it be to hear what is currently bothering a client most about her pet sitter?

Well, through a friend of a friend, I got into a conversation with a woman about pet sitting in general and she decided to share this story with me.

Click below to read the transcript of this video.

She writes:

“I’m pretty happy with my current pet sitter, but she seems so stressed and rushed in every communication I have with her lately that I wonder if she’s really spending the amount of time with my dogs that she says she is.

Her handwriting on the notes she leaves, for example, shows her stress or hurry (messy, scrawling, very slanted, abbreviations), and she hasn’t been using any formatted note lately (with her name on it or something “official”); it’s just note paper, usually from the tablet I have on my kitchen counter. Last time the report was in a corner of the note I left for her, and it doesn’t look good.

“Bottom line is trust your gut! It sounds like something is way off. Have you considered asking your pet sitter directly why the ‘rushed and stressed looking notes?’

“That’s a good point about trusting my gut. I feel I can trust her in most ways. And I know my dogs like her. I think I’ll just ask my neighbor to let me know how long her car is here (I’m in the suburbs with a driveway so it’s pretty easy to do).

“I don’t think she would handle a direct question about the notes very well, and I’m not sure it’s fair to ask since there could be other reasons–maybe she has so much fun with my dogs that time slips away and suddenly she realizes and writes the note quickly! That’s possible, but it doesn’t look good.

“I do prefer a nicely-formatted note–it’s more professional and it feels more respectful to me than a hastily scribbled note on just anything. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive; it could even be an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper cut into 4 with checkboxes done up on Word or something, for that matter. Maybe I’ll offer to design a master copy she can use for copying; that would be a way to open up the subject, anyway.”

My Thought:

So how wonderful is it to get this insight. There’s a few things going on here. First, it seems like the pet sitter has either lost interest or pride in the work she’s doing, OR her business is growing and she is trying desperately to keep up.

In either case, it’s not good for her, so what can you as pet sitter learn from this?

For one thing, remember that you work for your client. It is your responsibility to perform the service that your client hired you for and is paying you for as professionally and respectfully as possible.

Also, it’s obvious that even though we do not perform our job in the presence of our client (and because pets can’t speak), does not mean that we are not being monitored, watched or evaluated.

Something as simple as the notes you leave can leave clues and insight into the job performed.

So back to the original client here… how eye opening is this insight from a pet owner? Do you think the pet sitter knows or even cares that there might be an issue here?

As you see, this client is a bit hesitant to confront the sitter with her big concern.

While none of us love, desire or hope for confrontation in any way, how impressively amazing would it be for you to, out of the blue, check in with all your current clients with something like this:

I just want to say thank you for sticking with me as your pet sitter. It really means a lot as my business continues to grow.

From the obvious look of things, Fido and I seem to get along wonderfully. However, I also recognize that it’s equally important to keep the ‘human’ client just as happy, and I want you to know that I value your ongoing input and feedback.

If there is ever anything that you’d like to ask me about, or have a question for me regarding the service I provide, I want you to know that you can approach me directly with any thoughts or concerns.

I want to do the best job possible for both you and Fido, and this kind of direct feedback will allow me to do so.”

This will not only impress your client, but it will also assure that you maintain an active, happy, and lifelong relationship with your client, and it will also indirectly provide you with some amazing positive feedback you can use as well.

Bottom line, take pride in the work we do as professional pet sitters, and realize that nothing goes unnoticed by the clients who are paying our salaries.

[/spoiler]So, what do you make of all this? Have you ever been confronted by a client of yours with something like this? How do you think the client should handle this? Should she ignore it, or does something need to be said?

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. . .

Josh Cary is a respected and well sought-after speaker and business consultant within the professional pet care industry. Since 2009, having grown his own pet sitting business, Josh provides his industry with the tools, support, and resources to build and maintain a thriving and respected pet business.

With a strong focus on digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and website development, Josh’s one mission is to help you Get Found First through a professional and effective website.

This Post Has 33 Comments

  1. This is great. I needed to hear this because when it is hot or your schedule is tight it is very easy to scribble a note sloppy. It also is hard to come up with something different to say day after day. I forgot the impression my notes leave and will definatley take as much pride in my notes as my active service!!
    Rani of Care 4 Paws LLC

    1.  Hi Rani,

      Glad this resonated with you.  I understand that it could be challenging to come up with different things to write each time, so would a solution be to print up some forms with check boxes on it and a small space for additional comments, like the client suggested in the video?

      That way you can check the appropriate boxes and leave an additional thought or two on the day’s event.  Your clients are not looking for a new novel each day.  They simply want to know that all went as planned and things are on track.

      1. Josh – WOW light bulb moment – I always leave notes for the most part on my own forms i make up but over the last year or so i have found that if client gone for more than 10 days or so i don’t – just a summery at the end etc  – with occasional e-mail to them while away

        I recently had a very OCD cat client (wonderful lady and great cats) who always is respectful of me send an e-mail to me after the return of her 2 week trip about me calling her to catch up on how the cats did – i could sense her disappointment in me not leaving the daily notes like usual -and explained to her that my notes are usually sorta boring and didn’t leave due to that because was gone for so long.  I just sent her and e-mail regarding this subject and how it affected me and apologized and told her how it didn’t think about the human client side of this 

        THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU   – after all these years we still continue to learn

  2. I use a custom daily activity log for each and every visit (complete with my logo and a space for the pet names and the date).  It is basically a table with a list of all the activities on one side and a few columns for the times of the visits (both arrival and departure times).  So, essentially, I check off the activities I’ve performed and write additional notes in the space provided on the bottom.  The good thing about it is that if I make several visits in one day, I can use the same form!  I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on it and have revised/updated it so that it reflects the types of visits that I do! 

    1.  Thanks for sharing your system, Kathy.  It sounds like that approach solves many issues at once.  It makes it easy for the pet sitter to select the appropriate marks, allows a quick way to create your notes, and looks professional to your client.  A win all around.

  3. Oh dear, I am guilty of this! I never imagined a client would find my choice to leave a note on the tablet on their counter to be unprofessional. Thank you for sharing this eye-opening lesson!

    1.  Exactly, who knew?!  Everything we do inside a client’s home is being observed on some level.  Glad this helped you out.

  4. Thanks Josh! I will share this with a few of my sitters. We text clients. One sitter, in particular, texts messages such as, “Cats fed. All is well.” I’ve told her time and time again not to do this…it makes it sound like she throws the food down and leaves. She replied that the cats are boring and she has a hard time coming up with things to say. I’m sorry, but whenever I do a pet sit, something newsworthy always happens within the half hour that I’m there. Here ultra brief texts also flagged me to suspect her. I started checking her work. Long story short, I will not be using her. She is an IC, so there’s nothing I can say…just no work for her. Finding and keeping good clients is my number one goal. I don’t need a bad sitter screwing things up and ruining my business. It’s also not fair to my sitters who do a great job.

  5. One other comment….I believe every neighborhood has a Mrs. Kravitz (nosey neighbor who is the self appointed neighborhood watch person). Neighbors watch and tell. If you suspect a sitter is not staying the contracted amount of time, you need to sit down with them and talk about it.

  6. My clients prefer text messages over paper notes or even a pic/video of their pet(s).  They do not want more paper to deal with.  

    1.  Hey Dedi,

      Do you suggest text/pic over paper notes, or do your clients decide which they prefer?

    2. Mine do, too, but the same message goes for texts. If you just text, “Box cleaned, cat fed and water changed,” it sounds like you were there 5 minutes. This is what I like to see in a text: “Good morning, all. Everyone here is missing you. All cats want to be outside on this fantastic fall morning. Being housebound, Miss Bug took to the carrier right after breakfast where she can’t see sunshine endlessly ricocheting. She purrs as long as I sit on the floor and pet her; then she goes back to sleep. Miles had a good walk and a few seconds of free ranging when I unhooked the leash. Don’t fret too much. The entire campus is asleep like Bug. “

  7. I leave my clients notes on my company note paper or on a visit report sheet I made up on the computer. I also. send text messages & picture texts.
    But I have aweful handwriting. so this brought to my attention that I have to do my best to write as neatly as possible.

  8. WOW!!! This could not have come for me at a better time.  As hard as I think we all try to do our best..I am humbled to say I have fallen into a place I had promised myself I would not go when I started my business.  This has caused me pause and to stop and take a deep breath and I thank you Josh for that.

    All the things/little and big that have made me what I am and have stood me out from other petsitters I can see myself slowly compromise as my business grows in an attempt to keep up with the growth.  Even something as what would seem small….my clients notes….I can remember taking my time and writing stories about my time with Fido…now I rush through that part….

    Yesterday, I stopped each time I wrote my note….took a deep breath..exhaled and reminded myself why my clients love me and why I stand out from others…is it worth rushing to lose all that I have worked for….I even found myself enjoying my visits more…. Thank you…thank you…thank you…..

    1.  Hey there Pam,  It’s always a pleasure to see you stop by!  And I’m happy to know this resonated with you and you were able to “go back to basics.”  Continue to do what sets you apart.  You are very welcome.

  9.  Sheetal, That notebook sounds amazing.  I’d love to get a look at it.  Can you take a picture of it for us?  Also, if there are some hand-written testimonials on the pages, it would look great to take a clear picture of them and post on your website as a testimonial (with the owner’s permission).

    Hand-written notes like that look great on a website!  Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Josh. You’re welcome! The notebook is a simple notebook from Staples. I take a color
      printout with all my business logo and info. and paste it on the outside. I do have some really nice testimonials on Holiday cards from clients. Thanks for the great idea!

      I’m sharing a picture I just took of the front cover.Thanks!

      1.  Love it!  What a great concept.  So if I understand correctly, this notebook is used for just one of your clients?  And do you have other notebooks for additional clients, or is this the only one you do it with?  Then this notebook is full with notes and updates back and forth between you and client.  Really cool.  I personally would love to be a client of yours just so I could have that memoir.  You should totally promote this on your website for new clients!

        1. Thanks Josh! It is a huge compliment coming from you. Yes, I do use individual notebooks for each client and they remain with the client once I finish a notebook. I do mention on my website that I write daily dog walking journals at each visit, but never realized until now that it is a huge selling point. Thanks for the fantastic advise!

  10. We also use a notebook for every client. We record the date, the day,  the time we arrive & leave and  detailed notes. We keep the clients paperwork and any other written directions in the notebook. I also will put our business cards in the notebook pocket.  Both myself and any IC’s visiting also read all the paper work & notes and check off and write our names on each page. We also leave notes and reminders for each other in the notebook so nothing is forgotten & the client can see we are communicating. We also mark visits complete and write a short note in Leash Time, our pet sitting program. Lastly, I send a welcome home letter to each client. I think I will add something in the welcome home letter so people feel comfortable letting us know of any concerns they may have.  Thank you!

  11. I was just wondering how clients feel about leaving a notebook at their house. I have often thought about making everyone their own notebook instead of using the report cards each visit. I just wasn’t sure how clients would feel about having a notebook laying around.
    I loved this article and sent a copy of it to all of our ICs. I never thought much about it before and I’m guilty of writing rushed notes myself not thinking about how it looks. I’ve always thought about how important the report card is to leave but never the actual note that I’m leaving and it seems so obvious! Thank you for the article it was a reall eye opener and we will not be leaving rushed notes anymore.

    1. Hi Mary Jo, I would imagine that if you ask your clients if they would mind a notebook left in their house as a way to communicate each day, they would be thrilled to have it. The ones that don’t want it would let you know (“Thanks but no thanks). My point is simply this: In order to find out how clients would feel about leaving a notebook behind, just ASK them! Most, I’m quite sure, will love the idea! Let us know.

    1. Busy is good, Sue! But of course with busy comes more responsibility. Keep me posted on your wonderful progress.

  12. I agree! I actually include this in my training. Short texts are unacceptable. Texts should give the accurate impression that we were happily interacting with the pets in a relaxed manner. Not rushed!

  13. This is also a reason why I switched to many employees covering small territories….quality vs. quantity. No burn out.

  14. One more comment….one of my clients has a notebook. The sitter on this job has beautiful handwriting and leaves long, detailed, descriptive notes. The client loves Mary, even though she really is no better than the other sitters. I’ve also noticed a correlation between happy, long texts and nice photos and TIPS!

  15. Wonderful! Thanks for making me remember what is important and to never neglect the small but vital details.

    1. Happy to help, David! Often times, it’s the little things we overlook. PS: How is business overall going for you these days? Thanks for stopping by.

  16. This is some really good information about pet sitting. I am thinking about getting a puppy, and I will need to find a pet sitter for when I travel for work. So, I liked your suggestion about seeing if the sitter responds to your questions in a stressed or rushed way. After all, they will need to be able to communicate well with me and take care of my new puppy.

    1. That is true, Ivy! And I am so glad you got value out of this article. It looks like you also run a pet business. How is everything going for you today?

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