The months of November, December, and January are some of the busiest and most significant times of the year for pet care businesses. With tax season approaching and a substantial number of holidays on the horizon, it is essential to ensure that you have all of your proverbial ducks in a row before you have new and existing clients alike knocking down your door in need of someone to look after their pets. In fact, while most people look forward to the end of the year for the time they’ll be taking off, those days end up being when pet care professionals work their hardest.
That is why, in today’s post, we’ll take a look at some of the most common challenges that arise at the end of the year and go over some of the ways in which you can best use Time To Pet to set yourself, your staff, and your clients up for a successful holiday season and beyond.
The Steps To Staying Prepared
- Set up and verify your company’s holiday rates and pricing
- Ensure staff have entered all time off requests and availability
- Put service request blocks in place on dates you won’t be offering services
- Cancel or delete scheduled or pending Template services as needed on dates you aren’t offering services
- Update the Client App/Portal with holiday-related announcements
- Schedule mass client communications with important holiday information
- Ensure all of the pet and client details you have on file are up to date
- Get ready for tax season
- Follow up with clients regarding their holiday services and prep for next year
Continue reading to learn more about each of these items and how to accomplish them in Time To Pet below!
Set Up And Verify Holiday Rates/Pricing
While working the holidays is an expected (and often necessary) part of a pet care professional’s job, it doesn’t make the time spent away from family, friends, and beloved traditions any easier. The sacrifices you and your team are making to care for another person’s pets are significant, and you deserve to be paid for that time. Adding a holiday fee to your services is a standard, reasonable practice in the dog-walking and pet-sitting world and is a great way to ensure you and your staff are properly compensated.
Luckily, Time To Pet makes this easy by allowing you to create holidays that will add automated fees to your services that you can individualize to suit your company’s needs. You can also set up a separate holiday rate for your staff to be paid.
When you have finalized your company’s holiday pricing, verify they are correct for the current year. We also recommend taking a few extra minutes to go ahead and add any holidays that vary by date at this time. For example, Memorial Day varies by date each year.
If any events were scheduled prior to when your holiday rates were set, you can use Time To Pet’s Bulk Update tool to correct their rates using the “Update Holiday Rate” option.
If you need any guidance on deciding what holiday rates are right for your business, take a look at our Complete Guide to Setting Holiday Fees for Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers and our Free Holiday Fee Calculator for more information.
In addition, if you are raising your rates and need help navigating the change, we would recommend reviewing our help documentation on the topic. First, check out our rate increase webinar. If you have clients who need legacy rates set, these articles are very helpful: Best Practices For Locking In Legacy Rates for Existing Clients When Raising Rates For New Clients and Best Practices For Updating Legacy Client Rates.
Have Staff Put In All Time Off Requests
While the end of the year is a busy time for pet care providers as many clients are vacationing or off to visit family, and working the holidays is part of the job, the fact remains that some staff members may go on trips of their own or would like to carve out some time to spend with their loved ones. To ensure that you and your staff members have the time to yourselves that you deserve, have all staff members input their time off requests or submit their availability through Time To Pet and make sure to approve or deny them as needed or add them to the calendar yourself so that they all appear as they should on the calendar. You can also use the Conflict Mode filter accessible through the Scheduler to double-check that no one has been assigned to a visit during their approved time off.
Put Service Request Blocks In Place
If there are any dates throughout the holiday season that you won’t be offering service to clients, you want to be sure that those times aren’t available to select through the Client App/Portal. To ensure that they aren’t selectable for certain blocks of time or for full-service days, you can use the “Block Requests” feature found on the Scheduler in order to do so. Once you have put these blocks in place, they will be viewable on your calendar.
Cancel/Delete Template Services As Needed
If you have any pending or approved Template services that land on holidays or dates you won’t be servicing, be certain to review all of your Templates and cancel or delete those services to avoid any scheduling confusion or charging clients unnecessarily.
There is no way to automatically block Template services from being scheduled on service block days, however, if the Template services are already approved on your Scheduler, you can cancel them in bulk (or delete them in bulk) using the Bulk Update tool.
For Template services that are still pending on those dates, you can delete them on the Template's calendar. Alternatively, you can manually approve them, then cancel or delete them from the schedule.
Another option would be to Bulk Approve your Templates through the holiday(s) and then use the Bulk Update tool to cancel or delete them from the schedule all at once.
For more information on cancelling and editing future template services, please see our help article here: Cancelling And Modifying Future Template Events
Update The Client App & Client Portal With Holiday Announcements
When it comes to the end of the year, there are many important schedule changes, policies, and additional fees that you need to inform your clients about. In Time To Pet, there are two distinct places where you can add announcements for your clients to view when they are logged in to their Client Portal or Mobile App.
The first is the "Portal Notification", which is a feature that can be utilized for general announcements and that, when activated, will show a customized message in the form of a banner at the top of every page of a client’s App or Portal. You can also set an expiration date for the notification. To add a portal notification, navigate to Settings > Client Settings > Portal Settings.
The second is the “Service Request Form”, which is a message that will only be visible to clients when they request services on their "Schedule" tab from their App or Portal. You can customize this message to your liking under Settings > Company Settings > Messaging with the “App/Portal - Service Request Form” message.
You can use both of these features to convey an array of important information. For example, for the holiday season, you could use them to communicate when the upcoming holiday period will be for your company (e.g., December 20th - January 1st), the deadline to request services and make reservations with your team, the deadline to cancel services, and what your holiday scheduling, cancellation, and pricing policies are.
Schedule Mass Client Communications
There are some communications that aren’t suitable to be made through Portal Notifications or the Service Request Form, or perhaps some clients prefer to receive updates through email instead of their Time To Pet Apps or Portals. Whatever the reason and whether you want your communication to be sent to all of your clients or only a small subset of them, you can send mass emails to your clients directly from the Message Center by clicking the “Email Clients” tab.
Mass emails are called Email Campaigns in Time To Pet, and they can be as straightforward as a plain text email or more elaborate messages that feature newsletter-type graphics created in other design programs. You can also choose to send them instantaneously or schedule them in advance.
Some topics you may wish to include in a mass communication to your clients around the holidays are as follows: reminding clients of your company’s holiday rates; outlining your holiday policies regarding scheduling and cancelling services; letting clients know the cut-off date for sending in holiday service requests; and reminding them to update their details, access instructions, and pet information through their Client Portals.
Speaking of the cut-off date for requests, while we do not have a waitlist feature, we do have two methods to assist with creating a waiting list for your company that you can find here: Best Practices For Creating A Waitlist
For detailed instructions on creating your own email campaigns, please see our help article here: Sending Mass Emails To Clients
Ensure All Client & Pet Information Is Current
It isn’t uncommon for some pet care clients to be infrequent fliers when it comes to requesting services for their furry family members. Oftentimes, they might only need care around the holidays, and you may go months (or sometimes even years) without scheduling any visits with them.
For this reason, it is crucial that, before the holiday season truly kicks into gear, you ensure that you and your team are not caught unaware by outdated pet or client details. Whether it’s regarding obsolete access instructions, a change in a supply’s location, or a pet has been prescribed a new dosage or medication, you can easily end up in a perilous situation if your team doesn’t have all the necessary information.
Reminding clients by way of mass email, as we mentioned in our last point, or reaching out to your clients personally to collect updated information are great ways to not only ensure you have the correct instructions for your team but can also be an excellent opportunity to bond with your clients, as well. To determine what clients it would be most relevant to send such messaging to, you can use our Client Reporting to filter when clients last scheduled services.
Prepare For Tax Season
Tax season can add a lot of stress to an already hectic time of year, which is why Time To Pet is here to help! While our software cannot track business expenses or payroll taxes, we do offer a number of payment reports and track a lot of data that is vital to your business and its taxes. This information can then be shared with your bookkeeper or a tax professional, who will provide the necessary guidance for your company’s tax situation.
We would like to emphasize at this point that our team at Time To Pet are not qualified accountants or tax professionals, and we cannot offer advice on these matters. What we can do, however, is advise you on how and where you can extract the information you need for your tax preparation process.
For more information on what tax-relevant information is available to you within Time To Pet and where it can be found on our platform, please see our following help documentation: Tax Season
While you might think your work is done when New Year’s Day comes to pass and business starts to quiet down, think again! As your current holiday season winds down, you want to be certain that you are already looking ahead to next year’s in order to give yourself a head start on the work.
As we mentioned previously, Time To Pet allows you to create holidays for your company that you can decide vary by year what date they fall on, or occur on the same calendar date each year. Using the Tasks feature of Time To Pet or a reminder on your preferred Calendar app, you can set a reminder for yourself or another staff member to adjust the new year’s holiday dates in Time To Pet and on your website and holiday policy.
You can also reach out to the clients who scheduled visits with your company during the holidays about leaving a rating or review describing their experience with your team through a Mass Email Campaign. You can ask clients to leave a rating or review on your website or a preferred social media platform, or you can ask them to evaluate your company’s service through Time To Pet’s Happiness Scores. These surveys allow clients to not only rate their visits once they’ve been completed but to provide additional feedback that you can share with their assigned sitter.
Pet Birthday Greetings: Another small but impactful way to show clients you care around the holidays is to schedule messages in advance for any pets whose birthdays occur throughout the end of the year. Doing so will allow your clients to receive your heartfelt wishes but save you some time as you won’t have to keep track of pet birthdays on top of everything else during one of the busiest times of the year. You can do so through Time To Pet’s birthday reminder feature or by exporting your company’s pet data and filtering by their birthdays to determine which birthdays you need to prioritize.
Gift Cards: If you have Gift Cards enabled for your company, you can send instructions via mass email to your clients on how they can be purchased through their Client Portal and given to their friends and family members. Please note, however, that both the purchaser of the Gift Card and the recipient must have an active Time To Pet account.
When a client purchases a gift card, we will mark the payment with a "Gift Card" tag wherever possible inside your Dashboard. To then transfer the gift card amount from the client that purchased the gift card to its intended recipient, you will first want to create an invoice on the original purchaser’s account with a custom line item for the gift card’s amount. Then, apply the open payment to that invoice. This will clear the open payment from the original purchaser’s account.
Next, follow the steps in our help article here to apply a credit in the amount of the gift card to the intended recipient’s account: Applying And Redeeming Client Credit
We hope that you have a safe, profitable, and enjoyable holiday season!