BusinessPaws: The Human Side of The Leash

Megan Stanley

Everyone loves dogs, but they don't have the means to pay for your services. Their human counterparts are an important part of the business, grow your connection with the dog's owners and grow your business.

BusinessPaws: The Human Side of The Leash

“I want to work with dogs because I don’t like people.” I have heard this statement many times over the years and always cringe. It’s rare, or potentially impossible, to find a job in the dog training industry where you don’t have to deal with people. The human end of the leash is a critical part of success in the training of dogs. Dog trainers often put tremendous focus on their professional development and the overall well-being of the dogs they work with, but not as much attention on the human client. People can be much more complex and challenging in their interactions and work with their dogs. However, with a strong commitment to client service and meeting the needs of the dog’s people, you will see far greater success in your training. 

For this post, I am going to share ideas on how to deliver exceptional customer service to grow your business, improve the results from your training programs, and create long-lasting relationships with your clients. 

Know Your Customers

Gain knowledge on your client’s problems they need solved, their concerns, interests and more throughout their journey with you. Ask the right questions up front and utilize your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to record this information. Track unique traits or information on their dogs, their lifestyle details, milestones, and anything they many have happening in their lives. This can be as simple as writing down when and where to they are taking an upcoming holiday or notes about a school performance their child may have coming up that they shared details with you about. By following up on these small details, it shows you care about them and can have a meaningful and personalized interaction. People like feeling as though matter and are more than just a number.  

Create a Referral and Retention System

Increase your client base by developing a structured referral system. Offer a service, product, or discount when an existing client refers someone to your business. Be sure to ask how people found you on all intake forms so that you can track this. Remind your clients regularly about any referral rewards as word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful ways to bring new clients through your doors. 

A referral program is a great way to reward your existing clients but also consider using a retention or loyalty program. Acquiring new clients is more expensive than retaining existing ones. Some ideas for this are:

  • Graduation gifts
  • Exclusive discounts for services/products
  • Rewards for writing reviews or sharing posts on social media
  • VIP member programs
  • Early access, introductory pricing, or sneak-peaks to new services/products
  • Exclusive pricing, promotions, events, services and/or products
  • Creating a client community for connections, resources and more
Timely and Personalized Responses

In today’s world, clients want solutions to their problems right away, but this is not always feasible. Hiring someone to respond to customer’s needs via telephone and email is a great investment for growing your business. However, if this is not an option right now, consider automatic replies and ensure you have time blocked within your schedule to respond to clients. You can create automated messages on your social media channels, phone and email. Let them know when they can expect a reply and provide links to commonly asked questions. We include seasonal or current event tips within these messages as well. For example, if we were experiencing cold weather, we may include a link to a cold weather enrichment post to stand out from the crowd and provide immediate value. Many email programs enable you to create rules to send specific replies and more. This is also a good time to review your website and ensure there are clear paths for prospective clients to find solutions to their concerns and enroll in your programs. One of my favourite features of BusyPaws is that you can easily integrate it within your site to simplify this process. Take it a step further by creating “contact us” forms that allow for automated and personalized responses. 

Consider the Human Side of the Leash

Review the overall experience for the client and not just the dogs. Some things to consider for this are:

  • Ask about client goals and expectations as part of the intake process.
  • Actively listen to clients by using phrases like, “It sounds like...” and “Let me make sure I’ve got this right...”
  • Continually provide ways to collect feedback from clients and encourage them to provide honest opinions so that you can improve your service.
  • Practice empathy. Remember that clients are not dog trainers and need our help in order to help their dogs. They are on a learning curve, so be patient.
  • Provide packages and/or bundled programs with expected outcomes to help remove the guess work for clients and provide them with some added reassurance.

Invest in a CRM System

The previous items can be difficult to manage without a CRM system. If you are still tracking clients by pen and paper or Excel, you are creating too much work for yourself and lowering the client experience. A CRM is a must in today’s world and programs like BusyPaws are ideal for helping to provide an exceptional customer experience. They keep everything in one place, simplify processes, enable you to track client details, the dog’s training progress, and more. The investment in this system is one you can’t afford not to make. Review my post on Technology for Dog Training Businesses for more details. 

Gone are the days that dog trainers are judged strictly on their training success with their dogs or through their titles alone. As we witness the dog training industry grow and professionalize, successful dog training businesses recognize that delivering exceptional client service is a must. Take the time to regularly assess your client experience strategy, review client feedback, and to plan ways to deliver more for your customers. I highly recommend reading The Human Half of Dog Training by Rise VanFleet and It’s Not the Dogs, It’s the People by Nicole Wilde for some great resources and to improve your relationship with your clients. Taking care of the human end of the leash will improve loyalty and grow referrals, resulting in growth and positive outcomes for you and your business.

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