Success, you’re up and running! All the work you’ve done so far – getting your website online, getting business cards printed, letting everybody know about your pet care services and all the other forms of advertising you’ve done, has paid off and your first prospective client has got in touch with you.
It’s only natural to feel a little nervous and it can feel a little daunting. After all, this is your first meet and greet and the very beginning of building your client list. What do I say? What can I expect? How do I structure the meet and greet?
Fear not! With a little planning, you will feel a lot more confident and less nervous when you first step into the pet owner’s home.
In this article, I will go through a meet and greet, step by step – before, during and after the meet and greet. You will see that 90% of your meet and greet will have already been done before you even knock on the door.
So, let’s get started!
BEFORE YOUR MEET AND GREET
1. Make sure you’ve done your homework!
Before you go to your meet and greet it’s essential you know that you’re a match for the pet and their owner’s requirements. A few simple screening questions for the pet owner to answer when they request a meet and greet can easily tell you if they are a match for your pet care services.
Your website should have a contact page and on that page there should be a form specifically for your potential clients to arrange a meet and greet with you. (Just over 79% of my clients used my website to make first contact with me, so it is super important you have a website for your pet care business)
Of course, people will also get in touch by phone or email as well. However they get in touch with you, you’ll need to get some basic information from them first to make sure they are a match for your pet care services.
There are lots of questions you could ask your prospective client, including:
- Name of Client (obviously!) – so you know who you’re talking to
- Address – Very important! It’s surprising, but you’ll get people who live nowhere near the service area of your business requesting your services! – Is it in an area you cover?
- Type of pet(s) – are you happy to provide care services to all animals or just certain species or breeds
- Name and approximate age of their pet – so you can say hello to their pet when you first meet them and you can be prepared that, if they are young they may be a little excitable!
- The service they require – they may want a service you don’t offer
- The dates and times they require your services – can you provide services on those dates and times or do you have other commitments on those dates and times already.
- Other information – you can have a separate box for this on your online booking form or you can ask the client on the phone or by email if they have any questions about your service or information about their pet’s needs they would like you to know.
Once you’re happy that you can provide their required pet service, you can arrange a time and date for the meet and greet.
This is your now your chance to shine and show your client how professional and caring you are, and that should be the tone of your meet and greet – professional and caring. Any new client will need to have confidence in you and your services before they book your services.
We all know first impressions count. At your meet and greet, your client will quickly decide whether they can trust you with their beloved pet and with the keys to their home.
2. Get your paperwork organised
Before your meet and greet you’ll need to get your paperwork in order. Although it’s not the most exciting part of your business, having the right forms and paperwork is absolutely vital to protect yourself, the pet owner and the pet. The various forms and completed paperwork will give you and the pet owner details about:
- The pet and the owner
- If any problems arise while a pet is in your care
- What the pet owner can expect from you
- What the pet owner can expect from the service you provide
- What you expect from the pet owner
At your meet and greet with new clients, going through some simple forms will give you a good structure to your meeting and show how professional you are and the caring commitment that you make to the pets in your care.
You can easily create your own forms on your computer, they don’t need to be over complicated or pieces of artwork! just keep it simple.
If you have joined NARPSUK, you will have access to a selection of ready to use forms to download and use at your meet and greet. If you have joined NARPSUK, you are able to add each of your client’s details to your account, so you can have instant access to all their information by simply logging in to your account.
We will take a closer look at what type of forms, paperwork and questions you will need answering later in the article.
3. Creating a welcome pack (The secret weapon of the pet business pro’s!)
It’s a great idea to create a welcome pack for your new clients. You can have a simple folder made that has your pet business branding on. This gives your pet business a very professional appearance. You can include anything you find relevant and can include:
- An introductory letter thanking them for choosing you and some info about you and your business
- Your price list
- Business insurance
- Pet first aid certificate, any other relevant training or qualifications you hold
- Pet sitting and Dog Walking Association Membership Certificate
- Boarding licence (if required)
- A copy of your terms and conditions
- Policies and procedures
- Any other information about your business you want to show!
As you gain clients you can start to include reviews from other clients in your welcome pack. This will give your new clients more confidence in you and your pet care business.
Don’t forget to include a business card. Although your client already knows how to contact you they may pass your card on to a friend, family member or work colleague. It’s a simple and cheap way to get another potential client on to your website so they can see for themselves that you’re the best choice for their pet too.
Vistaprint has a great range of affordable and customisable marketing products such as folders, van signage and business cards.
4. Plan your journey
When you first go to a new client’s home make sure you’re on time! I know it sounds like common sense but make sure you can find the address of your meeting. Being late for your first meeting doesn’t look great! Make sure you know where you’re going and what the parking is like.
Some streets have parking restrictions in place, don’t assume your client will tell you this when arranging the meet and greet, most will but some may assume you already know. The last thing you want to do is turn up at their door out of breath and flustered because you have had to abandon your car and run the rest of the way!
Google earth is great for having a quick look at the street to assess if parking is good or if you would need to park on another street and walk the rest of the way. It’s also very handy for pinpointing the house number.
If it’s dark when you go to the meeting you could end up slowly driving along straining to see the house numbers and generally looking a bit shifty! Using google maps is a great way to see what the traffic is like around the area at a particular time and helps with planning your route and timings accordingly.
With that being said, sometimes it’s unavoidable to run late, if there’s been an accident or a road closure for instance. It’s not the end of the world if something like this happens, just keep calm, safely pull over and let your client know you’re going to be late and the reason why.
Most people understand these things happen; they will be pleased you’ve let them know and not left them hanging around wondering if you’re going to turn up or not! Simply apologise when you arrive and let them know it was out of your control. It will put their mind at ease that you’re not unreliable.
As your business grows, you may be going to a meet and greet straight from another service. If you are dog walking beforehand, make sure you’ve got time to change into something clean. A potential client won’t be impressed if you’re covered in mud and get it all over their sofa!
Many clients appreciate it if you take your shoes off when you enter their home or you could wear shoe covers, it’s little touches like that that show you respect the owner’s home and putting them first.
I highly recommend purchasing t-shirts/jumpers/fleeces with you pet business branding printed on them. It gives you a very professional appearance from the moment a potential client opens the door and you don’t have to think what to wear to a meet and greet!
DURING YOUR MEET AND GREET
5. Introducing yourself
Always introduce yourself to the human first! Tell them your name, your business name and that you’re there for the meet and greet. Side Note – this is not meant to sound patronising. I thought it would be worth mentioning as sometimes nerves can get the better of us all and we can forget the most basic of things!
Once you’ve introduced yourself to the owner it’s time to introduce yourself to their pet(s). You may want to rush over and make a big fuss of them or they may do the same to you. Keep a respectful and measured attitude towards them. You don’t know them yet and as with the owners, it’s important to make a great first impression with the pet as well.
Explain to the owner that you always take your time with new pets and let them come to you as you don’t yet know their personality and how important it is to you that any pet in your care feels happy and relaxed around you.
You can take treats with you which will certainly impress the pet but always ask the owner first if it’s ok to give their pet a treat and ask if they have any allergies before doing so.
Some pets will immediately take to anyone and love all the attention they can get but you don’t want to excite them too much as it can look like you will have no control over them and this could be dangerous to them or you.
Calmly greet them with a friendly, confident manner if you are calm the pet should not get too boisterous. This shows the owner you have a good understanding of animal behaviour and shows how professional you are, immediately giving the owner confidence in you.
Equally, you don’t want to frighten a shy pet if you do this when you first meet, that pet may never feel comfortable around you which will make them unhappy, stressed or even aggressive.
When first meeting, if the pet seems unsure or nervous you could kneel down to their level making sure you’ve not cornered them and they can see a clear path away from you.
Position yourself sideways and don’t stare at them as this can make them feel threatened. Gently encourage them to come to you with a soft but confident voice. This will help the pet to see you’re not a threat and they will be more confident and relaxed around you.
If they are not confident enough to come over at the beginning simply back up and try later, don’t push. Tell the owner that you never rush a pet. Every pet is unique and you want them to feel at ease around you.
The owner will be impressed that you show so much care, respect and understanding for their pet and that you have a good knowledge of animal etiquette and behaviour.
6. Let them know how it works
Now you’ve met everyone, it’s time to tell them about the service that they are interested in. You may have already discussed this with your client over the phone or by email when they booked their meet and greet and they should know from your website what the service includes.
For some pet owners, this could be the first time they have ever used a pet care professional. Your website should explain how each of your services work, but it is always a good idea to go over and explain how and when you will carry out the service. For example:
A dog walking service:
- If they want their dog walking, you can go through the options you have such as group, solo, 30 minute or an hour walk, along with the times you have available.
- Whether or not you start the walk on foot from their home or if you will drive their dog to a suitable area for their walk.
- What you do in bad weather for instance you walk in most weathers and will towel dry their dog on wet days.
- Explain that severe snow or ice (for example) may prevent you from carrying out the service for safety reasons.
A cat sitting service:
- What times you do your visits
- What other things you do on your visits i.e. open/close curtains/blinds, put the bin out or water plants.
For any service you provide:
- The best way to contact you (mail phone or text) if they need to cancel or rearrange a booking
- Let them know what you would do if their pet becomes ill or injured whilst in your care
7. Going through the paperwork – What information you need to collect
Going through the paperwork will form the bulk of your meet and greet. Go through the questions with the client at a steady pace. You don’t need to ask the questions in a regimental fashion! It’s always nice to ask the questions in a conversational fashion.
From my experience, when it comes to asking about their pet, this is where you will really get to know the owner better. They will almost always have a few stories to tell about their four legged friend. This is where you can be more personable, share a related story about your own pet. This is a great opportunity to make a connection with the pet owner.
The information you will need know
- Owner information – Their usual contact details and their emergency contact details. Making sure that you have the relevant information means that in case of an emergency you can act quickly to inform the owner of the situation with their pet or home. Or you can inform their emergency contact if you can’t get in contact with the owner themselves. Usually this will be a friend or relative.
- Home security information – Always take home security information (i.e. padlock number for a gate or home alarm code) I once had a client who told me their alarm is never used. One day, I walked in as normal, and the alarm sprung into life! After contacting the owner immediately, she told me her sister had popped in earlier that day and must have set the alarm when she left! Make sure if there is an alarm in use, you are given the code or that it’s definitely not in use (even by other family members!)
- Key release forms are signed – to cover access to the pet owner’s home. Pet information – Breed, age, behaviour, likes and dislikes, any health conditions and their vet’s details. If the unthinkable happens you will know which vet they are registered with and who to call if you are unable to contact the owner. You hope you’ll never need it but always get an emergency contact number.
After filling out the pet information form, you should know what their pet’s needs and requirements are. If you feel that you and your pet care business can provide a suitable service, tell the owner that you would love to look after/ walk their pet.
On the other hand, if you are not suited to their pet and its requirements tell the client that you don’t think you can meet their needs and explain why. It may be for safety reasons, for example, if you do not have the strength to control a large, boisterous, powerful dog, tell the owner, they will always appreciate your honesty. You don’t want to hurt yourself or risk any harm to the dog, if it breaks free from you.
After a chat about their needs tell them about the rest of the paperwork that needs to be done before booking. Ask them if they would like to be left with it while they decide if and when they would like to make a booking or, if they would like to complete it all now and confirm a booking with you.
If they want some time to think about using your pet services, go to step nine.
If they would like to continue and make a booking (by this stage, the vast majority of pet owners will proceed to book a service) Go through the rest of the paperwork.
The most common forms you would use now are:
- Medication form (if needed) – it must include the name of the pet, name of the medication, dose of the medication and administration details. This form must be signed by the owner.
- Off lead walking – It’s your legal duty to ensure the safety and whereabouts of the dogs under your care. Some dogs (like people) have selective hearing especially when there’s an adventure to have or scent that just has to be followed! Pet owners know this, but without having their express permission to let their dog off lead, you could be seen as at fault in your duty of care if something should happen.
- Vet release form –A form that gives you permission to act in a pet’s best interest if the owner or emergency contact is unreachable and their pet has an accident or suffers illness.
- Booking forms – a confirmation of time, dates, service to be provided, cost of the service and when payment is due. Include your payment methods on this form as well.
- Terms and conditions/ Policies and procedures – You should make your clients aware of your conditions of booking, cancellation policy etc. You can leave a copy with them or they can view these documents on your pet business website.
8. Ask for a tour!
The last thing you want on your first day is to be rummaging around the house looking for a collar or trying to find where the cat’s food is kept!
Ask the owner to show you which rooms and areas the pet has access to, where their food is kept, the location of litter trays, what toys/chews the pet is allowed, where cleaning products are kept and anything else that is relevant to the service you are providing.
9. Wrap it up!
After you have got all the owner’s and pet information, always remember to ask the owner if they have any questions or if there is anything else they would like to know.
It will give them confidence to know that you listen to their needs and treat every pet as the individual they are and with the respect they deserve.
By the end of your meet and greet, you will have gone through all your paperwork and your potential client (and pet!) should be happy with you and your services.
If your client is booking a dog walking service, it’s a good idea to ask if you can take the dog on a short walk around the block, just so you can get an initial feel for the dog on the lead (this 5-10 minute walk, really does drive home your professionalism)
Say goodbye to the owner and of course their pet, and tell them that you look forward to hearing from them if they’ve not made a booking or if they have booked you, that you are looking forward to caring for their pet. Remember to tell them to get in touch with you if they think of any questions, if they’re unsure of something or if they think of anything you should know.
AFTER YOUR MEET AND GREET
10. If a booking was made
After your meet and greet, always send a short email to the pet owner within 24 hours saying how it was nice to meet them and their pet.
include their booking confirmation as well. If they booked a service that is a few weeks/months away, send them an email approximately one week before the start of the service to check everything is still the same as it was on the meet and greet. This also shows the pet owner you haven’t forgotten about their up and coming service!
11. Creating a client file
Creating a file (paper or online) for each pet you care for is a great idea and will keep you organised and it will be useful in many different ways.
Below are two of the main reasons why creating a file is a good idea.
- If there is any disagreement over payment, how you provide your service or how you deal with unexpected events you can refer your client to your Policies and procedures, terms and conditions and the information they gave you on the paperwork when they booked.
- It could be useful for an occasional pet sitting client. You may just provide your care service once a year, but having their needs, routines and information on file means a client can simply rebook and you will already know the pet’s and the owner’s requirements. Which saves both of you time by not having to go over their requirements each time they book you.
12. If they didn’t book your services
Still send a short email to the pet owner within 24 hours of the meet and greet saying how it was nice to meet them and their pet.
Reaffirm that you are there if they have any questions or would like to know more about anything that was covered in the meet and greet.
This one little email, will again show them that you are a professional pet carer and take their custom and your pet business seriously.
Hopefully, you see now, that your first meet and greet doesn’t need to be scary and full of ‘unknowns.’ With planning and organisation your meet and greet will be structured, professional and an enjoyable experience.
Over time, going to meet and greets will become second nature. If you keep to the same process you will feel in control and confident.