Ensuring clients follow, and stay, on plan is a significant challenge for any business. This can be especially challenging in a pet care or dog training environment. Megan Stanley provides her insight to help you ensure your client's success.
One of the main concerns from dog trainers has to do with client compliance. Clients who don’t follow training plans, don’t commit enough to their dogs, or struggle getting homework completed. The complaints are endless and common to hear but it’s not uncommon for service providers to struggle with compliance. Whether it be a car mechanic who wants clients to regularly service their vehicles or a doctor who requires a patient to improve their eating habits. It can be frustrating for us when a client does not follow through and it is hard not to take it personally; we may feel that we have failed them, be angry at the client for not doing the work or sad for the dog who we may believe is being treated unfairly by the lack of commitment. In this post, we are going to look at ways to gain a better understanding of challenges with client compliance and I’ll share some simple solutions to improve it.
The first part of understanding client compliance is understanding and remembering that they are not dog trainers. Our skills as trainers become second nature, so it’s important that we practice patience and understand that clients are on a learning curve. Is it that they are not being compliant or are we expecting too much from them? Ease up on your expectations, particularly technical skills and treat them with the same empathy that you would a dog that was just learning. We can help clients be more successful by understanding that they are not skilled trainers, and we need to recognize when they may be struggling with the skills vs not being compliant.
One of the first things you should do with a client is ask them what their goals and/or expectations are from the training. Often clients only think about the end goal or perhaps have set unrealistic expectations for their dogs. By helping to set smaller, more attainable goals (think shaping!), you also help improve compliance. This is because they begin to see more immediate results, which in turn motivates them to keep up the training. If they feel like things are too much work or too difficult, most will begin to feel overwhelmed and discouraged with the training. On the other side of this, sometimes clients do not expect enough from their dogs or feel like they will be unable to attain a reachable goal. By helping them obtain and surpass these goals, you build their confidence, which also helps to motivate them to do the training.
How we structure, package, and sell our programs can attribute to low compliance/retention in your programs. Too often, we blame the clients and assume it’s lack of commitment, when our processes or programs may need some fine-tuning to garner more success. Remember, that you are the expert. Be honest about the commitment needed and offer a solution that will be realistic in helping your clients reach their training goals.
This is a tough one. You never know what your clients may be going through or what experiences they have had in the past. These past experiences may impact their commitment to training their dog. It is not realistic to expect 100% success with every client, so do not dwell on the ones that are not compliant or allow them to make you feel like a failure. They may have different expectations for their dogs at home and sometimes another trainer is just a better fit for them. Assess retention in your programs to identify any gaps. Don’t focus on what is going wrong and think of them as failures, but instead use this as feedback to grow, learn, and improve your processes.
The human side of dog training is complex. Have realistic expectations of your clients and help them set realistic goals for their dogs. Focus on building a strong relationship through clear communication, support, and always asking for feedback. Do not forget the power of that positive reinforcement. Reward your clients and offer on-going positive feedback. Focus on what they are doing well and build on that!
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