One of the things my pet sitting business prides itself on is
availability. Being accessible to clients and potential clients.
I’ve learned early on that the pet sitting industry is highly
competitive, especially in New York.
I say especially in New York because unlike a rural or suburban area
where the client homes are spread out in driving distance from each
other, New York is so dense that you are competing with at least a
dozen other companies and sitters who can all be at the client’s home
for the initial meet and greet within 10 minutes.
I know the importance of making sure each client gets a live person on
the phone when they call in because they are literally going down a
list of the first ten Google results of pet sitters in New York.
If they call and have to leave a message, they are moving on and very
well may have a conversation with pet sitter #2 and decide to go with
them and their search is over. If I call them even five minutes
later, chances are they will not be open to hearing what I have to
Side note: There are plenty of responses you can give to a potential
client you call back that says, “Oh, I’ve already spoken with another
sitter. I’m all set now. Thanks anyway for getting back to me…” but
that’s for an entirely different blog post.
I was manning the phones recently and received a call from a potential
client who was calling around for more info. I was in a meeting and
had some errands to finish up so I was forced to send this call
straight to voicemail.
By the time I got back to my desk ready to return the call, no more
than 3 hours or so had past. I call the woman back and one of the
first things she says to me is, “I’m surprised it took you this long
to get back to me. I called you earlier this morning.”
On one hand, I was flattered. Flattered by the idea that from just
visiting our pet sitting website, this woman had already given us the
benefit of the doubt that we are a professional business, running it
in a professional and efficient way.
On the other hand my thought was, “My goodness, this woman is a tough
cookie.” She wants what she wants when she wants it. Apparently, 3
hours was a bit long for her to be waiting for a return call. And her
travel dates were NOT just around the corner.
Here’s the thing… she’s the potential client. She has every right to
make the rules.
Now, I do not mean that she has every right to make the rules on how
we run our business (quite the contrary) but she does have every right
to set the rules through her expectations.
She decided that she wants and expects the pet sitting company she
hires to call back immediately and/or be available immediately.
We as the business owners have to play by her rules (expectations) if
we want her as a client. This is not to say that we have to expose
ourselves and be a whipping post for every potential client that comes
There are plenty of times a client is expecting too much or becomes
too difficult to deal with that we feel it best to pass and send her
on her way. But the woman who expected a call back before 3 hours
passed is not in that category. We can deal with that.
So where were we? Oh yea, the phone conversation… she just expressed
her surprise that ‘it took that long’ to get back to her.
What do you say in response to her?
“Sorry, I was in a meeting all morning?” “I was running errands?” “I
You could, but it won’t get you very far. Why? Because she’s not
looking for an excuse.
She’s looking for a response. She’s testing you to see how you handle
such a question. If she’s going to establish a long term relationship
with you and trust you with the care of her beloved pet, she needs to
get inside your head a bit.
A drab, even honest, short response won’t do the trick. You need to
be clever and creative and turn the tables back her way – while still
Here is the gist of what I say:
“As you know, I put the words ‘Call Anytime’ on our website because we
are available to potential new clients and current clients anytime day
“However, being consistently reliable and accessible 24/7 can backfire
on us at times. My clients are spoiled with total undivided attention
whenever they need it, that the minute some time goes by and they
haven’t heard from us, they start to worry.
“I understand having the reputation of always answering the phone and
providing unparalleled service to our team can sometimes get me in
trouble on those rare occasions someone catches me in a meeting.
“My motto is this: I like to give each of my clients my undivided
attention and, when you first called, I was in the middle of a first
meeting with a new client and I didn’t want to be rude to pick up the
phone at her place. We were going through the instructions, step by
step, of how to best care for her dog while she’s gone.
“You, too, can be sure that when you become a new client of ours,
you’ll be receiving the same undivided attention so we can do the best
job possible while caring for your pet during your absence. And I’d
never interrupt a call or meeting of ours by taking another call.”
Obviously that reply is long-winded but I hope you see the point.
I didn’t give her an excuse or simply state the reason why I couldn’t
answer the phone, I turned it around and showed her how it would work
in her favor.
There are ways to turn a potential client’s negative comment into your
favor. Remember, the goal of any phone call is to establish trust,
display expertise and build rapport.
So, how would you respond to a potential client saying 3 hours is a
little long to be hearing from you?