Bad customer service, or lack of any customer service at all, is one of my pet peeves. Truth be told, between robocalls, texting while driving, and flashing online ads, I’m starting to develop quite a menagerie; but let’s focus on this one. Look, I’m not lamenting the kind of customer service people expected back in the good old days when a butcher knew his customers by name and people knew they could count on quality work from service people because it was guaranteed. I’m talking about the basics of being efficient, having good manners, and making sure customers are satisfied. Although dog training is of course about training dogs, it is still, above all, a customer service business.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve answered the phone to hear someone say they’d called another trainer or two first and no one had returned their calls. Now, it’s understandable that a trainer might be out seeing clients or be otherwise occupied when a call comes in, but these calls had gone unreturned for a full day or, in some cases, for multiple days. Having an answering service, forwarding calls to your cell, or offering on your website that prospective clients can text you can help. Personally, I still use an answering machine, but I check messages often and make every effort to respond within three hours or even sooner if possible. Not only does getting back to callers promptly increase the chances that I will book the client first, but it’s basic decency. There’s no excuse for not checking messages between appointments and at least checking in to say, “Hi, I wanted to let you know that I got your message and I’m looking forward to talking with you about your dog. I’m seeing clients right now but will phone you in a few hours if that’s okay.”
In addition to returning calls within a reasonable time frame, I also give clients the courtesy of a reminder call the day before their session. This is not only courteous, but helps to cut down on no-shows. We’re all busy nowadays and it’s gotten easier than ever to forget appointments. If you don’t want to call, text, or email reminders, there are now services available that will do it for you. Oh, and when it comes time for the appointment, show up on time! I do not understand trainers (or people in general, really) who chronically show up late. If you get caught in traffic or have some other unpreventable reason you’re going to be more than five minutes late, call to let the client know.
Is the old adage “The customer is always right” really true? Not in all cases, but the point is that the service provider—we trainers—should make every effort to work with clients to ensure their satisfaction. In addition to the things that have already been mentioned, accommodating scheduling conflicts within reason, listening to an owner’s needs, being unfailingly polite...these are all part of what good customer service is all about, and are vital to garnering good reviews and word of mouth. Along with great training skills and likability, great customer service is what keeps clients coming back. And, sadly, nowadays it’s also something that can set your business apart. _________________________________________________________________________________________
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