From time to time I hear pet sitting business owners complain about text messages coming in at all times of the day. From their sitters, from their clients, from potential clients. It can be overwhelming.
It happens when they are driving, sleeping, on the phone, eating dinner with the family, going to the bathroom, trying to take a nap or a break from work, while walking dogs, basically, all the time.
According to a Psychology Today article, “Researchers have found that texting behaviour is linked to measures of physiological arousal such as increased heart-rate, respiration, and muscle tension. Frequent cell phone use has also been linked to sleep problems and symptoms of depression over time.” In fact the study found that “higher levels of interpersonal stress were expected to be linked to higher levels of burnout, sleep problems, and lower levels of emotional well-being.”
Do you hear [read] that?!? Texting increases your stress levels and leads to burn out! Oie! No wonder why so many pet sitters are starting to loose their mind by all the constant texting!
Having your pet sitting clients know that you are available via text message assumes that you are always on 24/7. Everyone knows that our phones are usually close by us and text messages pop up on our screens. We have an innate sense of responsibility to text the sender back as soon as possible and the sender has the expectation that they will receive a quicker response. If a text goes for hours unanswered, the sender can often feel rejected or ignored. This isn’t something any thriving business owner ever wants their customers to feel.
- Try setting up your clients expectations according to your rules. For example, one pet sitting company offers one text by 9pm from the pet sitter to let the client know that everything is ok. Another pet sitting company tells the clients from the start that they do not accept text messages and that they need to call the office if they have a question. Explaining how to contact your company is a pivotal part of managing your text messaging stress days!
- Also, if you set up expectations that you do not accept text messages, do not text the client back. Call them back (or email). Think of it as if you are training a pet. Do not enforce the bad behavior.
- This also holds true for staff. Notify your staff on when to text you, email you, call you. What situations warrant a text message? Are they allowed to do it all hours? To text other staff members? It is really important that your staff knows when they need to be “on” and “off” It will help preserve their energy for your company and help reduce burn out.
There are also instances where issues are better discussed and not discussed over a text message conversation. Tones, meanings, and complete thoughts are often interrupted due to the nature of the shortened amounts of characters we have when sending a text message. How many times has a client texted a nasty message or your own tone was misunderstood? Or perhaps the clients texts you while they are away in Vegas at 2am while drunk? Or maybe they aren’t even out of town and they are just texting you requesting services to start in a couple of hours? There are so many ways that text messaging is abused within the pet sitting industry and it is constantly putting the business owner in an awkward position of having to say no, be woken up in the middle of the night, not completely understand the meaning of the message, or spend lots of time scrolling through a text message log.
- Picking up the phone and calling a client, potential client, or staff member will almost always result in a more effective form of two way simultaneous communication. Again, do not enforce the bad behavior.
- If you receive a text message that seems of a nasty nature, the best way to solve the conflict is dead on. Call them up and ask them what is their problem and what type of outcome would make them happy? Explain that you wanted to personally call because you felt that things were being misunderstood. Does this take guts? Yes. Will you find a solution faster? Quite possibly.
- People can sometimes hide behind their words in a text message, avoid answering questions, or even blame it on the technology of “not getting it.”
- Your staff, despite how accommodating they may be, does not want to be hearing their phone ding,buzz, and vibrate at all hours of the day either. Not from you, not from the clients. Help avoid extra work and burn out by cutting down or eliminating the texting.
This answer is a personal answer and will vary from business to business. Only you can know what is appropriate. But I ask you to consider… have you ever felt stressed out by it? Have you ever felt like you have to constantly be checking your phone to see if someone texted you and if you have to reply? Do you feel bad if you don’t reply for an hour or two? Does it add additional press to your life or business? Personally, I would say it should be a last resort method of communication.
Some might say it is never appropriate. They operate their business via the phone, only during office hours. Others might say that they need texting for clients and staff, along with FB messaging, Tweeting, Instagram, and whatever else all as viable communication methods. Only you, the business owner who is feeling stressed or peaceful can know the true answer.
It is on the same idea of this hilarious “He’s Just Not That Into You” clip:
Everything comes down to managing people’s expectations. Tell them what they can expect from your company and then stick to it. Remember, this is YOUR business. YOU can do what you want. Shape it to make your life better, not worse. Do not create systems and processes that work against your goals.
This entire “problem” starts and ends with you!
(This includes having your staff text you at the beginning and ending of every single pet sit!)
We do not accept text message and do not encourage text messages. Only under one exception. Here are examples to explain:
Client texts and asks if they can schedule a visit: I will call them during business hours and explain that they need to go online and schedule their booking. If it is after the 24 hour cut off and they can’t schedule online (we have a block on that) I will explain that they need to submit it in writing via email and then I wait. The waiting is the important part.
Potential client texts and asks about our services: I call them back and speak to them on the phone.
Staff texts me: I tell them to email me if it can wait. I need everything documented with the proper subject line. They are allowed to text if they have a quick factual question. We do not have conversations over text message and they know that.
Client wants update on pets: No problem. We tell them client that they have their choice of a short text message or a paragraph long email each night by 9pm from their pet sitter. The pet sitter uses their business email account and their google chat phone number to text the client.
As a result, we have almost no texting throughout the day. All clients have learned that our preferred method of communication is email. (Not phone or text)
So what does your business do? Do you allow a lot of texting or none? Why? How do you feel about it? Please comment below. Others will read and learn and grow by your experience. I want to hear what you do as well and if it works for you!
….Now I gotta go, I have a text I need to respond to! (Just kidding!)