text pet sitter

How To Keep The Text Messages Under Control In Your Pet Sitting Business

BUZZZZZZZZZZ!

DING!

BLEEEP!

DROID!

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.

 

text pet sitter

 

 

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!

 

What Text Messaging Means To Your Clients Expectations?

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.

 

SOLUTIONS:

  • 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.

 

More Problems: Passive Aggressive & Miscommunication

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.

 

SOLUTIONS:

  • 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.

 

When Is Text Messaging Appropriate?

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!)

 

Here Is What I Do:

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)

 

Your Turn! 

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!)

10 replies
  1. Nancy Stevens
    Nancy Stevens says:

    Technology is great and does make working more efficient. In my opinion however, I miss the warm, fuzzy feeling of making and or receiving phone calls . I would say emails are our primary mode of communication and I’m good with that. I have trouble spelling correctly when I’m texting so I have to keep going back and correcting myself and that proves to be very time consuming and annoying. So , I encourage emails and phone calls first; texting has it’s place for quick and easy questions; not for longer , more convoluted problem solving though.

    Reply
    • Bella Vasta
      Bella Vasta says:

      Nancy, my business phone is horrible to text on. In fact, I have to use talk to text. I feel your pain! I think we are on the same waive length! 🙂 -Bella

      Reply
  2. Marcia Hall
    Marcia Hall says:

    I have set times that I check emails n texts n fb msgs n such. I don’t stay on-call 24 hours a day (just 21 hours, lol). I have silence mode on my phone and I use it overnight and during times I just need some quiet. I never take my phone on family picnics and I never take my phone in with me during new client meetings or any client meetings. You will see me with my phone in the parking lot, in the store and at lunch, bc I would rather get little things like that done while I’m out, than to stop what I’m doing and run home to check at a computer or voicemail machine. I don’t really want to go back to being *tied* to an office, but I realize too that you can become *tied* to your phone. Keeping a set routine, imho, helps to keep you from just going nuts in circles watching all the messages and notifications and such whiz by. : ) HTH

    Reply
    • Bella Vasta
      Bella Vasta says:

      Marcia, you are smart to only check during certain times. I have tried that, but failed miserably. I love that you don’t have it with you during family events. It is a great way to show that they are #1 and you love them! – Bella

      Reply
  3. Jana Bone
    Jana Bone says:

    This is a great nugget for me. Texting is okay for me now but I can see as I grow this will be an issue. So I want to develop a policy now to implement so I am prepared. Thanks for sharing!! For me I love either texting or email so I have the documentation for my file. When I take phone calls I am usually not in my office so the conversation is harder to document and manage. But I do like the cozier feel of phone calls as sometimes texts can seem more impersonal.

    Reply
    • Bella Vasta
      Bella Vasta says:

      Jana, Yes! I always encourage those I coach to get a handle on things now, so later they don’t have to try to revamp everything. It is so tough to do that! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Katherine McCarter
    Katherine McCarter says:

    In the beginning texting was great, but as we grew and added sitters it has become very problematic in many ways. I understand that many don’t want to use email while at work because their emails are monitored, but it’s just become too much. Clients need to be given to understand that just like any business we have office hours. Between the ability to make requests and send messages through our software (LeashTime), email and the phone, there should be no need to text. Certainly not outside of office hours. Where I have made my mistake was in not respecting my own office hours. In trying to give excellent service, we have led them to believe anything goes. So time for some client re-training!

    Another issue is that text message updates have often not been received, even though shows on my end that it was sent. This especially happens when clients are out of town, Email is a more reliable means of communicating we have found.

    Reply
  5. Mary Ellen
    Mary Ellen says:

    Love this topic, very relevant. Thank you for addressing it Bella. I too felt that texting would be fun and convenient when we weren’t quite so busy but it quickly became a major source of stress as the business grew. If I’m out with friends or family a business text can pull my mind right back to business mode and we all need to have time when our minds are turned to relaxation and personal relationships.

    I pasted my policy for communications below. It is still a daily process to inform clients. I do as Bella suggested; when I recieve a text I answer with an email or phone call, during business hours.

    16. Scheduling and Communication
    a. All new service requests, terminating service or changes to service including adding, canceling or adjusting scheduled service must be directed to our office by phone (562) 716- 6544 or email at petwaggin@yahoo.com or info@petwaggin.com
    b. Texting is NOT 100% reliable and is NOT an acceptable means of business communication. Call or email.
    c. Schedule requests received during business hours will be addressed the same day. Scheduling requests made after business hours will be addressed at the start of business the next day.
    d. We only guarantee service requests or cancellations sent to our office via phone or email. Service requests directed to your walker/sitter are not guaranteed and do not comply with our policies.
    e. Please do NOT send us text messages outside of business hours. We use our personal phones as a means of providing you updates and photos of your pets, but prefer to limit work communications to business hours.
    f. Let us know how you would like us to check in. We can send you a text, leave you a note, email or call you.
    g. For Pet Sitting we will check in on our first visit to let you know service has begun and once a day thru the remainder of your trip.
    h. For Dog Walking Clients we will check in with you after each walk, via your preference of note, text or email.

    Reply

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