The consistent efforts a kennel boarding service owner makes to attract new clients and keep the kennels full of canines takes a lot of customer service etiquette and a good dose of patience.
Client retention strategies can be tricky, especially as dogs cannot speak, at least aside from how they behave and react if once they’ve left the premises they are brought back for another visit. Most dog owners will perceive any negative reaction from their beloved pet on a return visit as an indication that their dog must have been either neglected, mistreated, or at a minimum discount the boarding kennel as the best place to bring their dog to stay.
How can the busy kennel boarding service owner mitigate the risk of this happening and retain those hard-to-secure clients that they have worked so hard to satisfy?
Here are a few suggestions on practices to incorporate in your business model and dog care practices to help assuage the issue.
Treat Canine Residents as Individuals
Just like humans, all dogs do not get along or become best friends despite the best efforts put forth to properly introduce them. When the wrong dog is placed next to the wrong dog in a kennel box run, even the divider board may not be sufficient to prevent intimidation of one dog by another.
While a solid partition should help mitigate the level of barking, kennels with exterior runs and freedom of entry to the outside space (hopefully one that is covered to offer protection from the heat of the sun and rain/snow), will likely still offer an opportunity for dogs to get nose to nose.
Keen observation of a dog’s anti-social behavior best executed with the use of a video camera as often it is not always displayed in full view in person, can evidence issues between dogs. The solution is obviously to move the canines a distance apart, hopefully where they cannot see each other and where one dog does not have to pass by another to go in and out of the kennel.
Rescue dogs can be a particular problem to deal with, as they arrive with unknown ‘baggage’ and are usually sensitive to kenneling and change of environment. Insecurities that the animal displays can be addressed with solid dividers and solid front wall gates, and frequent human attention given to such dogs by a dog training professional can do much to help these animals settle.
Feeding times can be a period of particularly high levels of stress for animals, and care should be taken to ensure all dogs have their individual, quiet space to enjoy their owner-provided food which should be given on a strict routine in both amount and timeline. This approach is a crucial part of successful client retention strategies in kennel management.
Train Your Staff
No-one expects that the owner or manager of a kennel can be at a commercial kennel or on site 24/7/365. This means that inevitably staff will be working in the space and tending to the canines’ needs.
Training incoming staff in how to approach, handle, relate, quieten, manage, and generally interact or even not interact with canine residents is an essential componentofr a successful client retention strategy. As a business owner your focus will automatically be to educate your staff on the daily care routines such as feeding and cleaning, and perhaps how to address the human contingent in the equation when answering calls or meeting pet owners. That is all important training too, but don’t forget to spend some time teaching your staff the dog handling essentials and safe practices, you hopefully know yourself.
Cool. Calm. Collected.
It is a good idea to keep the kennel space feeling as cool, calm, and collected as possible. Peaceful harmony is not created by loud noises of dragging steel buckets around people talking loudly over the noise of a hose spraying water, or by humans rushing around from A to B just trying to get the ‘job done’ rather than enjoying their time in the space.
Music, humming, quiet singing, and all sorts of sound effects can help a dog settle. And while going as far as installing dog TV (yes, there is such a thing) isn’t necessary, it may be worthwhile to look at the scientific benefits and methods of creating a peaceful ambience in the kennel.
Excessive heat can also cause tempers to fray, as we are all aware. Keeping the kennel cool in hot summer months with the use of an AC unit is a great idea for both the resident canines and the human caregivers.
Comfort for dogs also comes in the form of raised dog beds that help keep a dog cool, soft beds/blankets and of course, any object infused with smells from home. Keeping the kennel clean and hygienic is necessary at all times, so adding these materials for those owners who want to provide them should always be an option.
Be prudent about which toys you allow to be left in the kennel box with the dog. Dogs that are anxious may chew through their ’normal’ toys or their new or unusually limited supply.
Get Them Out of the Crate
Playtime and the freedom of movement are the best antidote for any animal that is stressed. If you allow social interaction opportunities for dogs that are proven to be socially adept (and with owner’s permission) then this creates excitement and helps exhaust the dogs both physically and emotionally with playtime dates. At all times it is important these outings are supervised.
Of course, if the dogs are from the same household keeping them ‘stabled’ together or next to each other and allowing them to run in a safely enclosed space simultaneously will definitely help raise the happiness level.
It is fine to have a routine for exercise of the animals, because this also helps dogs settle. But also consider extending the quota of exercise options for certain dogs if they need more freedom time.
Create A Bond
Time spent by a human caregiver playing outside with the dog can also help create a bond with the animal. Building a bond with any animal takes some time and technique but trust once given by a dog is usually there for life and can be drawn on in times of stress by the dog, especially on arrival, and is an integral part of successful kennel management.
Bonds are best built between dogs and humans by training the dog, grooming the animal if it likes to be groomed, and exercising and playing together. Always give the animal plenty of space to retreat from interaction as it prefers and spend time petting them when they seek it and are happy to receive attention, to establish a strong bond.
Again, it is important that the human caregiver remains calm at all times and is consistent in how they interact with the dog, what they allow it to do, and when Admonishments should only be ‘dished out’ by dog training professionals.
Teaching a dog, a new trick can be a rewarding and bonding experience for both parties.
While feeding any animal is also a bonding opportunity, it is better not to over treat someone else’s dog with food as a reward. Instead, it is better to offer a pet or cuddle.
Communication with Owners
It is not uncommon for issues to arise with the care of a particular dog while staying in a kennel. It is not just about what the problem is that occurs, it is also about how it is dealt with and how promptly it is addressed.
Communication from the dog’s owner may be the first notice you receive. Perhaps they have seen something upsetting through the video camera access you allowed and call or text you in a panic. Or it can come from an incident with staff or a dog/dog issue.
However the incident transpired or whatever happens, a good client retention tip is to always good to discuss the matter in person with the customer. This should be done by the kennel boarding service owner or manager, when the owner comes to collect the canine, as well as immediately with a phone call explaining what has happened, why it happened, and how it has been successfully and permanently resolved. Do not leave staff to handle the matter on their own unless absolutely necessary. The owner will appreciate you taking charge of your business, staff, and the situation in person.
Your Best Customer Is a Repeat Customer
Not all customers are going to return, that is just a fact of life. And just because they don’t doesn’t mean you or your staff have done something wrong. Focus energy on the clientele that does return. . Try to use and remember the animal’s name and preferences, spend some time chatting affably with the customer and highlight the trust the dog has hopefully established in you through your previous efforts.
It is ‘all in a dog’s day’ to have to be left at the kennel without its security blanket of human owners from time to time. When you take actions to help assure that every dog’s day is as happy and satisfying as possible, it will help ensure a happy owner and hopefully a repeat customer.