As a pet sitter or dog walker, there are many reasons you may need or want to turn down a service request. Maybe you were planning on taking the weekend off and won’t be available to care for any pets during that time. Maybe your client is requesting a service or task that you’re uncomfortable completing, goes against your policies, or won’t produce much return on investment. Whatever the reason, it’s important to get comfortable with “saying no” while remaining polite and tactful in order to let pet parent clients down easily and maintain your business reputation.
In this lesson, we’ll provide general guidelines to follow when saying “no” to your clients.
Remember The “Why”
In order to successfully master the art of saying “no”, you first and foremost have to be confident in your decision to do so. Remembering the “why” is a great way to keep confident in your decisions. Have you ever said “yes” to a client when you really didn’t want to, then immediately regretted it? If you didn’t immediately regret it, did you find yourself resentful while completing the service? Regret and resentment aren’t healthy emotions, and they are heavy contributors to burnout and the closing of pet care businesses.
To avoid these negative feelings and maintain your boundaries, remember that even though you got into this business because you love pets and enjoy your job, you can’t say yes to everyone and everything. You have to make sure that your business is profitable in order for it to survive, you have to take frequent time off to maintain a healthy work-life balance, you have to take on clients and pets that you feel comfortable with in order to provide five-star service, and most of all, you have to stick to your policies in order to support all of the above.
Remain Calm And Respectful
Your tone and demeanor when turning down a client or service request can make the difference between a positive outcome and a bad review. Regardless of why you’re saying “no”, it’s important to have empathy for the client and to express that empathy in the way you turn them down.
For example, if a client requests cat sitting with just one visit every two days, but your policy requires a minimum of one visit every day, you would want to make sure that you don’t make any assumptions about why the client is requesting only one visit every other day. It could be due to their budget, they may have someone else lined up to watch the cat the other days, or they may simply think that one visit every other day is adequate for their cat. In any case, make sure to explain your policy and the reasons behind it without making your client feel stupid or ashamed. They may even agree with you after hearing your explanation and agree to everyday visits instead!
Plan Your Conversation Ahead Of Time
Not everyone is able to “think on their toes” and give the perfect response to a client without first planning what they’re going to say. If you’re one of those people, take a moment to jot down some points before responding to your client’s request. Think about why you’re saying “no” - does some part of the request go against your company’s policies? Are you scheduled to take time off during the time of the request? Is the pet aggressive or does it require care outside the scope of what you’re comfortable with? Whatever the reason, jot them down and come up with some tactful ways to deliver that information to the client. For advice on specific situations, there are many Facebook groups you can join where you can explain the situation to the group and receive feedback from other members.
Anticipating Client Needs & Questions
When clients are able to easily find the answers to their questions, they are less likely to make inquiries because they were able to find all of the information they need without actually contacting you. Including a comprehensive description of the services you offer and a detailed FAQ that includes your policies and procedures on your website can go a long way to prevent excessive client inquiries. You should also include as much information as possible in your contract, on your social media pages, your client-facing scheduling software, your company’s voicemail or virtual answering machine, your Google My Business listing, and in any auto-replies sent through any of these methods. By having the answers to your client’s questions in as many places as possible, you will reduce the need for clients to make requests where the answer is “no”.
The most effective way to soften the blow of saying “no” is saying “yes” to something else. Whenever possible, offer your client an alternative that takes care of most, if not all, of their needs. For example, if you have to say “no” because you won’t be available on the dates requested, refer them to another local pet sitting company that you have already confirmed availability with. If a client is requesting overnight services that you don’t offer, recommend extended late-night and early-morning visits instead. Whatever the situation, focusing on what you can do versus what you can’t do will show your clients that you want to help and are doing everything in your power to assist them.