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Candace D'Agnolo

Customer Service vs. Customer-Friendly: Knowing the Difference Could Be the Key to Your Success

There’s a big difference, and knowing it may be your key to success.

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IF I ASKED YOU what sets you apart from your competition, would you say “great customer service”? I bet you would. But if I asked you if your policies, hours and experience were in turn “customer-friendly,” could you respond with the same enthusiasm?

I know you’re thankful for every customer who walks through your door. You offer them amazing customer service, no doubt. But does your customer think your return policy, for example, shows you’re grateful to have them as a customer? Do they feel forced into too many rules? Do signs in your store say, “If they pee on it, you pay for it”?
How would your business change if you looked at it through the lens of being thankful for your customers? Here are strategies to show customers you’re thankful during each phase of contact.

Show Thankfulness at First Point of Contact

Are you open when your customers need you to be? If your pet parents are working 9-to-5 jobs, are you open at least a couple later evenings and/or weekends? And when they arrive at your store, first impressions are everything! You want an inviting entry, free from cluttered signs that could detract from their experience or convey a negative tone from the start. Ensure that when customers walk in the door, their experience is rewarding. Are employees greeting every customer in a unique and genuine way?

Show Gratitude During the Experience

The second phase for your customers is the shopping experience. If you were shopping for clothes or food for a party, you would want to try things on and sample the goods to ensure you will be pleased with your purchases. When it comes to your store, do you allow pets to try things on? Why not? If not, do you have a sizing chart for types of dogs and weights to help your customers choose the correct size? Do your employees know how to make the proper recommendations? Do you offer treat samples? You can easily open a bag to allow a customer’s pet to try a treat, then if they don’t purchase it you can use it for future samples.

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Show Them How Much You Trust Them

The third phase happens at the register. Are your return policies customer-friendly? Are they clear and simple like … “Your Satisfaction is Our No. 1 Priority,” or is your receipt filled with rules? Customers are busy. As much as they may wish to get back to your store in the 14 days your policy allows for, life happens, and a return very well could be put on the back burner. The same goes with the returning of used, opened or defective merchandise. Think not only about what is a reasonable expectation for these scenarios, but what will make your customers happy at the end of each transaction?
Having a customer-centered shopping experience is the key to increasing return customers. Become comfortable with releasing the worry of customers taking advantage of policies. Don’t be afraid to let go of the rules! When you do, it releases the friction and tension for employees and customers alike when bringing up the dreaded returns or damaged goods.

It’s the time of year that we’re all hyper-focused on being thankful for what we have, but according to scientists, feeling thankful year-round will boost your well-being, improving your chances for success, and in turn, I believe your sales will increase as a result. An easy place to start is to be thankful for your customers, showing them through their experience with you.

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at hello@petbossnation.com.

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Candace D'Agnolo

10 Ways to Prevent New Hires from ‘Ghosting’ You

Here are some strategies to help you find the love of a true teammate.

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ONE OF THE MAJOR challenges facing pet businesses is finding people to a) apply, b) show up for interviews and c) to get through training. “Ghosting” isn’t just a term used in dating when someone stops communicating with you. Job applicants and new hires just disappearing has become a big headache. Here are some strategies to help you find the love of a true teammate.

1. Keep your ears open for people you encounter and enjoy engaging with when you’re out and about. Say something like, “You’re so great at your job! I wish I had a team member like you.” You’ll find out if they are either perfectly happy where they are or are ready for a change. Maybe they feel underappreciated, or they are looking for extra work.

2. In your job posting, share what you can do for them. Of course, list job requirements, but to attract highly interested applicants, share more about why they would want to work for you. Share that the team can bring their pets to work, they can get discounts, or perhaps you have additional perks.

3. Don’t be so picky when sifting through initial applications. If you spot two or three things that stand out about the person, reach out. You can always train skills.

4. Pick up the phone. Call an applicant out of the blue. See how they handle the conversation. Keep the conversation light. Say that you received their application and would like to know why they applied. If you like what you hear, keep the conversation going. If you have to leave a message, tell them to call you back. If they don’t, toss the application.

5. While on the phone, explain that the first step of your interview process is for them to record a 3-minute video on their phone and send it to you. In this video, they need to state their name, share the best quality they would bring to your business and then tell how they can make an impact with that skill if they were hired. Give them 24 hours to text or email it to you. This puts the ball in their court and requires them to meet a deadline.

6. Toss them some easy projects. If it’s a sales associate position, have them work a sample table in your store for an hour. Give them some basic guidelines and then see how they interact with customers and whether they can get across the important things you wanted them to. Observing them in action tells you more than a sit-down interview.

7. Pressed to hire multiple people at once? Host an “Open Interview Day.” This is a great way to quickly go through applications while meeting people face-to-face, have a quick conversation and then move them onto a project like picking something from the store, doing some quick research on the product and then selling it to you. There’s lots of ways to run group interviews, and it all depends on the position you’re trying to fill.

8. Offer promising candidates the opportunity to work for a trial period. At our doggy daycare, we’ll bring in two to four potential dog handlers at different times throughout the week. This allows all team members to work with them and assess which person will be the best fit. Give the applicant a few core things they need to do, provide them with the opportunity to ask questions, and experience their work ethic and abilities before committing to a formal offer.

9. When you’re ready to make an offer, or just shortly after, make sure to communicate your vision one-on-one with them. Share the back story of your company and the direction you want to take the business. This will help connect the applicant to your business and may strengthen their commitment to you.

10. Always keep applications flowing in. Even when you’ve done an interview, and the person is in their training phase, still keep talking to potential hires on the phone and having them send in their video messages. This will give you some backup options in case your current trainee doesn’t work out as planned.

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Candace D'Agnolo

How Pet Businesses Can Profit From Facebook Live

In 60 minutes or less, you could make as much as you do during an entire business day.

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PET RETAILERS AND MANUFACTURERS all over the country are making big bucks by going live and hosting what I like to call a virtual “Paw Party.”

A “Paw Party” is when you jump on a Facebook Live, have fun with your audience and sell stuff! In 60 minutes or less, you could make as much as you do during an entire business day. Seriously. My clients are seeing crazy results, and I want you to get a piece of the action.

How to Do It

Pick a date and time for your Paw Party. Tell your audience in advance, and do it at a time that you think the most people will show up (maybe at 7 or 8 on a weeknight). You’ll want assistance from two people. One can be helping with the camera and review comments on the video as they are coming in. And the other can help prepare product and be your assistant show host.

The merchandise you feature should have a number written on a card assigned to it. When you show the product to the audience, describe it, share the hashtag and tell the price. To increase the desire for the item, you can offer a limited-time discount or have a limited quantity to sell. If a viewer is interested, they type sold and the hashtag in the comments. There are a variety of ways you can accept payment, so come up with the way that will work the easiest for potential buyers and is something you can easily handle — phone call, website, PayPal, in-store, etc.

How to Make It Interesting

Treat it like a party you’d be hosting or would want to go to. Pick a theme based on the season or an upcoming holiday. Wear festive clothing or have an interesting backdrop to create a great visual. Make it BYOB … Bring Your Own Beverage. You could be toasting the viewers and chatting with them about what they chose to bring to the viewing party.

All great parties have games! Utilize a prize wheel (see Pet Pro Gear on page 23), numbered boxes, a dry-erase board, Post-It notes on a wall — really anything you can think of to help create a game of chance that can hold either a number or the name of a prize. Encourage your viewers when it’s time to play the game to participate with you in the comments of your post. Believe it or not, viewers love this! Have fun with your viewers, engage with them and keep your energy up.

How to Make It Profitable

Sell merchandise that you no longer want to carry. Maybe it’s older than six months. (Yes, you should mark it down and move it out if you’ve had it longer than six months!) While selling something at a discount doesn’t seem profitable, goods that are just sitting on your shelves like they are in a museum will serve you better to take what you can get and replace them with something that your customers want to buy. You’ll be surprised that what they won’t buy in store, they will buy on a live video sale. Why do you think the Home Shopping Network is so successful?

Are the wheels already turning? Here are two examples for inspiration: petsplusmag.com/5193, petsplusmag.com/5194.

Grab your smartphone, head to Facebook or Instagram, and hit that “go live” button! Don’t overthink this! Just hit the button, look at the camera and be your wonderful self. This isn’t about perfection, it’s about taking action! We’re all rooting for you and can’t wait to come to your party!

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Candace D'Agnolo

Free Business Tools for Marketing, Growth & Team!

3 apps this writer’s business can’t live without.

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AS A BUSINESS OWNER, it can be so overwhelming to find the proper software, websites or apps to use in your business for some of the most basic tasks. There’s a lot of trial and error involved. They’re time-consuming to set up, and then you find out you dislike the program, or it isn’t working for you. Why even bother, right?!

Elsewhere in this issue (“An App for That,” page 31), readers have suggested their favorite business apps, and here, I share three of my favorites, two of which are shared by readers. These are proven apps that have been highly beneficial in my business for digital marketing, organization and scheduling. I hope you will find them as useful as I do!

Linktr.ee for Instagram

If you use Instagram, you know that you can’t hyperlink to anything in your posts, and you only have one space to put a clickable URL in your profile. This is why you often see, or perhaps write yourself, “Link in Bio,” and then you have to constantly change the link. As time passes on, so does your post, but the link never gets updated because you forget.

Linktr.ee gives you one URL to put in your bio, but you can connect an unlimited amount of destinations to your Linktr.ee URL. There are free and paid versions, allowing for branding, email capture and more. Send your followers anywhere: articles, web store, events, socials and more. Only your custom Linktree URL stays within your Instagram bio.

Maybe you want to direct customers to your website homepage, then your grooming appointment scheduler, your Facebook Event list for your anniversary party, your training class schedule, your wholesale website. By not utilizing this super-easy tool, you are missing out! And your customers are, too!

Trello for Organization

I’ve been using Trello since 2011 when it was released. I’ve tried a dozen other project management/team tracking/organization tools since, and I just keep coming back to Trello. It allows you to keep all your systems, process, checklists, research, customer conversations and order flow organized, all in one location.

Trello allows you to create all kinds of lists via boards, lists and cards almost like virtual Post-It Notes, all organized into journals. But they are Post-It Notes on steroids! You can make checklists, attach photos, assign team members, link to other cards and communicate with your team about intricate and specific details, from customer issues to shipment details. Additionally, add due dates, duplicate lists easily and store ideas.

You can also set notifications, so when anyone updates a task you see what changes were made, or what was marked completed. Everything is in real time, so when an update happens, everyone sees it immediately. I use Trello for just about everything in my business and personal life to keep on top of my tasks — even to shop for groceries.

When I Work for Scheduling

When I Work allows managers, like at our doggie daycare, to easily schedule their employees, keep track of clocking in and out, and availability, and it is convenient for employees to view and manage their schedules as well. The best part is, you can use this on your mobile device or desktop computer. This also allows you to view multiple locations if you have more than one.

This intuitive program allows companies to easily schedule their staff. You can create shift templates that allow you to quickly copy and paste a previous week, then edit as needed. Managers and employees can communicate and leave notes for each other. Everyone can get notifications as well. Employees can view their schedule, update their availability, request time off, swap shifts and more all from their mobile devices. There is also a function where employees acknowledge they have viewed their schedule. There are free and paid versions of the software.

With these tools, you can successfully funnel new customers, stay more organized than ever with projects and easily schedule employees — all for free!

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