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Don’t Be Afraid, Raise Those Service Prices Every Year

Condition your clients to expect rates to change regularly.

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ONE OF THE BEST PIECES of advice I received as a new pet business owner was from a veteran during a trade association meeting. He told me to raise my rates every year. The increase does not need to be big, but consistent increases condition clients to expect rates to change regularly. The best part of this advice was it removed all the angst I previously felt in raising rates.

It’s a smart business practice. Every year, we give staff raises and other costs go up. Yet too many pet business owners are reluctant to increase rates. In fact, many owners agonize over the idea. There’s fear that clients will get upset or stop coming. And then once the decision is made to raise rates, it’s followed by more worrying over how to communicate the increase.

Following a policy of raising at least some rates every year eliminates this emotional strain for you and conditions your clients at the same time. Wear your business owner hat and create a system for reviewing rates and communicating changes every year.

Keep in mind that your clients want you to stay in business and care for their pets. They trust you, appreciate the service value and will accept rate changes every year.

You do not have to increase all rates each year if you offer multiple services. One way to soften the impact is to announce adjustments two to four weeks in advance or set a time period for clients to lock in existing rates by pre-purchasing a package.

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If you have certain months when cash flow is low, this might be when you announce future rate adjustments and boost package sales. Select a time each year to evaluate rates using this easy step-by-step system.

  • Step 1: Create a rate roster spreadsheet with all the services you offer and your current rate for each.
  • Step 2: Highlight your key services – the ones that generate over 50 percent of your revenue (e.g., dog daycare, lodging, dog training).
  • Step 3: Perform a pricing analysis to see how much each service contributes to business profits.
  • Step 4: Prioritize the key service rate to increase in current year. Update your rate roster with new rate and date.
  • Step 5: Review secondary service categories in the rate roster and select one or more categories to increase in current year (e.g., lodging activities, bath rates, etc.). Update your rate roster with new rates and date.
  • Step 6: Establish an implementation and client communication plan that offers advance notice or package sales.
  • Step 7: Next year, repeat the process and increase a different key service and other service category. Your rate roster provides a history of your rates and increases so it’s easy to see which areas are due for an adjustment.

You can increase revenue without raising rates by reducing available discounts. Once you implement your rate change, monitor feedback. Remember, it’s OK to receive a few complaints. If no one complains, you probably did not adjust your rates high enough. Focus on providing high quality pet care and customer service and your clients will happily pay a little more to keep their pet healthy, safe and happy.

Susan Briggs is the founder of Crystal Canine, a resource for the pet care industry offering dog daycare expertise, financial management tools, speaking and consulting services. Visit the website at crystalcanine.com

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