Do you have clients that request exact times for their visits? Has this been a headache to manage? Don’t worry, there is an easy solution.
Early in the stages of planning my pet sitting and dog walking company, I decided to offer visits during standard time slots rather than guaranteeing exact times — and I’m glad I did.
Organizing your services into time slots rather than offering visits at exact times will simplify your life and set clear expectations of what clients can expect from your service.
Example Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Time Slots
Here are the times slots we offer in our company. Below I will show how we use these time slots to schedule visits for cats and dogs.
Setting Your Standard Time Slots
We offer pet sitting during all of the time slots, but we only offer dog walking service between 9:00am and 5:00pm. This is because the morning, evening, and bedtime time slots always book up first with pet sitting. That means we can (and do) charge more for pet sitting compared to dog walking. So, I block dog walks from the early and late time slots, because I don’t want to offer a discounted service during our highest demand times. If someone truly wants early or late dog walks, they pay the higher rate.
Scheduling Services Using Time Slots
During the initial sales call, I ask the client if they have preferred times for the visits. Sometimes the client will know exactly what to set up for their pets. But if they are not sure, I will try to set up between 3-4 visits per day for dogs, and between 2-3 visits per day for cats. Not every client will want to book this much service, and not every pet needs this much care, but 2-4 visits per day is a good place to start.
Scheduling Three Visits Per Day
I work with the client to set up something that will work well for them and their pets based on mealtimes, timing for medications, and the pet’s regular schedule. I start by suggesting a:
- Morning visit
- Early Afternoon visit
- and a Bedtime Visit
I really like offering the early afternoon time slot when setting up three visits per day. This time slot was created to split the day almost right in half between the Morning and Bedtime visits. It’s a perfect mid-day break.
Adjusting Meal Times For Three Visits Per Day
If the client is not sure how to split up the meals (since most dogs eat in the morning and evening), I often suggest splitting the evening meal between the early afternoon and the bedtime visit. This way pups don’t have to wait too long between meals.
If the client does not want to split up the meals, I usually recommend doing an evening visit instead of the early afternoon visit, or go with four visits per day.
Scheduling Four Visits Per Day (Dogs)
Four visits per day is the best way to set up drop in visits for dogs. I usually suggest these time slots to start:
- Morning Visit
- Either a Mid-Day or Early Afternoon
- Evening Visit
- Bedtime Visit
The flextime service works well for some cat visits. Often, if a client does not have a specific time in mind for their cat visit, I will offer the flextime service. Flextime visits are nice because you can do the visit at any time during your daily route, which cuts down on travel time.
Mix & Match Visit Lengths
Our company offers 20, 30, 40, and 50 minute pet sitting visits. So, I am also sure to mention we can mix and match different length visits in any time slot to further customize the client’s service.
How To Tell Clients You Don’t Offer Visits At Specific Times
Most clients are easy to work with, and will understand why you offer time slots rather than guaranteeing exact times. But, in order to set up correct expectations from the beginning, it’s helpful to have some language to frame what you can and can’t offer.
When clients ask for a specific time I say something like: “We can’t guarantee a specific time, but we do guarantee that we will be there during the time slot. We can always shoot for a requested time.”
If the client is still hesitant, I explain a bit more about why we can’t offer exact times for visits. I’ll say, “The biggest factor that drives what time we get to your visit is where you are located on the sitter’s route. We might be going to two or three other visits during a time slot.” I might also mention, “Inevitably we will have a visit run long at some point during the day, and that messes with our ability to offer exact times for visits.”
If the client has a specific time they want us to shoot for, I repeat our policy in a different way, just to make sure the client and I are on the same page. Believe me, just because you say something once does not mean the client understands your policy. It’s worth making a clarification.
So, I say something like, “OK, I’ll put a note on your visit (and in the client’s profile) that shows your preferred time for the visits. I can’t guarantee we will always hit that exact time, but we will be there within the time slot. Is that OK?”
Underpromise and Overdeliver
Whenever I work with a client, I always make a point to underpromise, then work to exceed their expectations. Be careful not to sell anything you can’t overdeliver on. Because if you overpromise then struggle to deliver, your clients will lose trust in you, and you will eventually lose that client.
To make sure our business always underpromises and overdeliver, we run two sets of policies — Internal policies and External policies.
External Policy: We do not to guarantee to the client that we will be at their visit at a specific time.
Internal Policy: I make it clear we need to complete visits within the time slot. I also let my sitters know they should try to hit the requested time when possible.
What If A Sitter Is Running Late To a Timeslot
From time to time, you or your sitters will be running late for one reason or another. Usually it’s not a big deal, but it is important to be transparent with the client, and keep them updated if their visit time has been pushed back.
I tell every sitter and walker to message either the office or the client (depending on how your company’s communication policy is set up) if they are running more than 5 minutes past a time slot.
I Do Guarantee Specific Times For Meet & Greets
While we don’t offer specific times for dog walks or pet sitting visits, I do offer specific scheduled times for meet & greets. Most good pet sitting and dog walking clients are busy people. So, I don’t like the idea of making a client wait around for me, especially at the beginning of our professional relationship.
Again, if anyone is running more than 5 minutes late to a meet & greet, we are sure to let the client know so they are not waiting on us.
These are guides not rules
As with all of our guides, lessons, and certifications, this is meant to be a guide, not a set of rules. Your company will compete in a unique way that fits your market. But, I know business can be chaotic without solid processes in place. So, I’m happy to share everything we have learned with you, so you can grow a profitable and sustainable business that outperforms the competition. To learn more about how to set up your operations so you can scale your business, take our Pet Sitter and Dog Walker certification course today!