What to look for
– Help for Pet Sitting Business Owners
Author, Dorinne Whynott, Owner of Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
Business Owners have to wear many hats – Office Manager, Office Assistant, Receptionist, scheduler, writer, editor, creator, web master and so much more.
If we are lucky enough to be able to hire out some of what we do, it can help us perform better in the other parts of our immense list of to dos. Better yet, if we can hire out the parts that we do NOT enjoy, even that much better.
Talking to people actually is not a job I do not like, however, it is a job that I just can not give my full attention to. I have found that as I age, yup, I can not do some things that I could do when I was younger. Accomplishing a lot in a day, is one of them, as well as being able to do two things at once. Now that I am in my 50s, I am finding that I can only focus on one thing at a time. So, if I am writing an article or updating my website, and get interrupted with the phone ringing, it is taking me longer and longer to get back into the task at hand after I hang up the phone.
So, when I heard of a service that could answer my phones and they would do it like I would do it, I was VERY much interested. Since this was a very new concept for me, I blindly believed what I read and heard without really researching (bad on my part, I know).
So, here are a few things I have learned, and hopefully, you can find what you are looking for or at least go into a service knowing exactly what you are getting.
The following is from my experience, research and opinion, I am sure you will have your own.
For the sake of ease, I will be referring to a company, however, a company can be with various employees or just an individual. My research was specifically for my pet sitting company, so please keep that in mind.
- Read everything you can find on the subject of Virtual Assistant
- Read and print what the company has on their website about this service
- Search for any reviews
- yes, even on the dreaded Yelp, this is your livelihood and income
- if you can find no reviews anywhere, I would wonder why and do more research
- Ask at least 3 online groups if anyone has used a service like this and who would they recommend
- I would suggest at least 3 or more people giving their experience
- Most importantly, ask if there is anyone who has used a service but have left and Why have they left
- Ask If they have had a problem, it should be resolved quickly
- Find out if the company will be just an answering service like a receptionist or will they be answering new and old client questions
- Will they be answering emails, adding new clients, etc. Know exactly what they will and will not be doing and get this in writing
- If they will just be answering like a receptionist, they should be well versed in gathering as much information from the caller so that you can call the caller back with accurate information
- Normal information a receptionist would gather
- Full names (first/last),
- Address, city, phone number
- Why they are calling?
- What Services are they interested in?
- Where did they here about your company
- You should be able to ask for other information to be gathered, such as
- How many pets do they have
- And more
- Normal information a receptionist would gather
- If they will be answering questions, will they be exclusively using your information
- If they will be exclusively using your information, scripts, terminology, they should have a full questionnaire for you to fill out so they can answer according to your requirements
- For example, my company does not do consults, we offer a service to Meet a sitter if the client chooses, so they should be able to use that terminology
- Another example, some of you may do untimed visits or timed visits, we have visits that are “up to 30 minutes” and “up to 60 minutes” which we call Regular and Extended Visits, the answering service should be using your terminology
- If you are selling a service, and the company says they will sell for you, they should be able to give you an average close rate for current clients and be able to back that up
- What is a close rate? Take the total number of new clients who have called your company in a month. Then look at those new clients who have registered with you to use your services. Divide the total number of new clients who have called for that month with the number of new registered clients. That will be your close rate percentage.
- The average close rate for this company should give you an idea of what to expect when they will be answering your calls and selling your service
- Close rates will vary for every company that they sell for but they should have an average close rate to give you
- Of course, there is no guarantee, however, the average close rate should be close to what you receive on a monthly basis
- Knowing this close rate will give you the information you need to make the decision on whether this service will be worth having on your team. It should make you money if selling is part of your monthly fee.
- Look for a company that is versed in using scripts. If they are, ask them to provide a sampling. If you use scripts – make sure you provide those to the company so they can answer according to how you would answer.
- Since we all LOVE Marcus Sheridan, look for a company that has transparency
- Can you find articles answering questions on this service on their website
- Is there a FAQ page for this service
- What makes this company qualified to answer phones
- What kind of training do the employees have
- What kind of experience does the supervisors have
You found a company that looks good, now what should you do
Remember, you will be entrusting this company to be the FIRST CONTACT for your company. This company should be forthcoming and willing to answer any and all questions you may have and provide documentation to back up their claims. You have a right to know this information to make an informed decision.
- Write down questions, any questions, that you may have
- The company should be able to answer any and all questions for you and direct you to a place that they are written down
- Why is this important? Because we all forget in a conversation, but just like our business 98% of all questions, I am asked, the answers can be found on my website
- Ask how much the fee is and what is included in that fee
- I would ask for a print out of this
- Do you get a discount if there is a holiday during the week
- Do you get a discount if the company closes the office for a storm or moving into a new facility and they do not provide service for that day
- Find out if this is a flat monthly fee or a fee that is based on the actual call time
- Find out if there is a cap to the number of calls/emails for the month
- Some companies may charge up to $5 per call/email over a certain number
- You may want to check back in your records and know your numbers, how many calls did you receive in the last 3 months
- How may emails did you receive in the last 3 months
- Now add all incoming calls and all incoming emails for the 3 months, divide that total by 3. Is that number under their total monthly cap?
- Find out how many rings before your calls are answered
- Generally, all calls should be answered by a live person within 1-2 rings
- Find out how many people will be answering the phone on any given day and for how many businesses will each person be answering the phones for
- Why is this important
- If there is only one person answering the phone for 10 businesses, then it is more likely your calls will be going into voice mail especially during busy holiday times
- Why is this important
- Find out what the average number of calls will be that are not answered and go into voice mail
- If more than a two per month, in my opinion, then you may need to decide if this is for you. Again this is the service you are paying for, to answer phones with a live person not go to voice mail
- Ask if you get reimbursed for any calls that go into voice mail
- Will they be doing any follow up calls to new clients that have not been signed up or will you be doing this
- If they have a start up fee, have them send you in writing, what the start up fee is for and what does it include
- Make sure you have a start date that they will answer the phones in writing so that you can have the phone transfer all set up and ready to go
- Make sure you know the date they will start charging you for the service
- Make sure the service will actually start on that date
- I would stay away from automatic payments
- Sometimes if automatic payments are set up, you may be charged and service has not actually started
- Automatic payments can be a pain to stop or get your money reimbursed
- This would also be a good time to find out the company reimbursement policy in case you are overcharged
- Make sure they know a map of your service are (not just zip codes because zip codes can change)
- For example, one of our biggest cities added a zip code, unbeknownst to me and a new client in that new zip code was told we do not service that area
Remember you are PAYING for a service , What you should NOT have to do –
- Keep telling the company how to do their job
- This is their service, they should Know how to do it and do it well
- Keep asking for information that they should be gathering on each call
- This is their service, a basic receptionist should know how to control conversations and gather the information
- If part of the service you are paying for is selling your services, then you should see a rise is new clients NOT a decline
- Why? Because this is their expertise, this is what they have as part of their service, so, they should be good at SELLING
- Keep asking for things that are part of the service, like follow ups, etc
- Find out that a new client in your main service area was told that we do not service that area
- You should not have to keep saying, if you do not know, tell the client I will find out and get back to you
- When you ask why a name was not written down, the answer from a good receptionist should not be – I asked twice but could not get it
- When looking at the call sheet and a person called for boarding and seeing the outcome was they were just told we do not board
- Never have anyone raise their voice at you on the phone
- Never have to ask more than once for a reimbursement if you are overcharged for a service that never happened
- Never have emails answered in days or weeks (should be 24 hours or less)
- Remember this is part of the service
- Have clients tell you the phone rang more then what your were told before it was answered
- Have clients tell you that they called 4 times in an hour and kept going into voicemail
- When you are doing follow up calls and Have quite a few new clients tell you that they were not told much about your services and company when they called
- Have your business close rate drop dramatically with new clients registrations
- If you have a question for a supervisor, it should be answered quickly
- If you have any problem, it should be resolved quickly and efficiently
Again, these are my experiences, opinions and research. I hope that you will find a company that can do all the things that you want. This information is here so you can make an informed decision which is what we all want. Most of what I learned above came after I found a company. The worst thing for me was hiring a service and realizing about 3 weeks into it, that what I was told was not what I was getting. I really wanted this to work and if it did, I would have been a lifetime client!! Just to get the phones off my mile long to do list was a dream and I tried to do everything to make it work. I tried a company for 3 months, thinking that it would improve after they really learned my policies and how I did things. But that really did not happen. My new client registrations went down, income went down. Then after numerous calls, sending emails, writing notes and questions on the call log, I was spending more time on the phone than I was before, and getting very stressed, I reluctantly had to stop the service. I felt that things were not going to be any different than they had been and that I was not being heard.
The good thing is that this was a learning experience for me. I now know what I am looking for and can ask better questions and look for the answers that will benefit me and my company. If I decide to go with another company, I hope the experience for me and them will be a better one.
About the Owner/Author
Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional. She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990. Click to Read her complete History.
Professional Pet Sitting Etc. is a leading business in the pet care field and continues to grow since 1990. It boasts 30+ amazing pet sitters on staff, over 3000 clients in 38 cities from Nashua to Concord, NH. Hundreds of satisfied client testimonials can be found on their website and more 5 star reviews on their Facebook page, Google+ page and more. They have sustained an A+ rating with the BBB and are unmatched in the Pet Sitting Industry in New Hampshire.
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Contact us by phone at 603-888-8088
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