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Candace D'Agnolo

Take This Step-by-Step Approach to Improve the Customer Experience in Your Pet Business

By outlining each stage of your customer’s journey, you can create and enhance processes for both them and you.

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IN MY MARCH-APRIL COLUMN, I wrote about innovation in the customer journey, i.e., customer experience: how to look for moments where you can improve processes, surprise and delight your customer, and encourage more touch points. All of this to build a raving, loyal fan who will support your business for many years to come.

Keela Huotari of Yellowstone Kennels in Sidney, MT, provided this feedback in the PETS+ Brain Squad: “I loved the ‘Focus On Innovation’ column by Candace D’Agnolo! She gave some great ideas, but I wish I had a little bit more to go on to actually map out my customer’s journey. It left me wanting more!” Well, Keela, and all of my other regular PETS+ readers, let’s delve deeper into this topic and use one of her challenges as an example.

STAGES WITHIN THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY

Seven stages an individual customer could go through as part of their full customer journey exist: 1) The discovery stage — searching for and learning about your business. 2) The decision-making stage — when they say yes to book an appointment or make a purchase. 3) The purchasing process — lots of opportunities to surprise and delight. 4) Onboarding period — what they need to know to be set up for success. 5) Long-term nurture phase — when you stay connected with them and provide additional resources. 6) Conflict stage — how you handle those who are unsatisfied and want refunds. 7) Termination stage — when the relationship comes to an end. Did they move? Pet passed away? Went to the competition?

By outlining these stages, I hope you see all the opportunities that exist to improve your customer’s experience!

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DIVING IN

It may seem overwhelming to begin the process of outlining all of the steps in a customer’s journey since there are so many touch points. My advice: Pick one of the stages above to work through. Write down all of the things that the customer experiences from the start of that stage through the end. Consider any challenges a customer faces.

Think of solutions to help them and you. Are the solutions aligned with your business values and goals? Do you have the ability to execute them? Can you build a process around the solution so it’s easy to maintain and repeat for all of your customers? The outline you create can guide implementation of new ideas into your pet business. Bringing the ideas to life will be thrilling and likely increase your retention rates and overall revenue!

EXAMPLE: ONBOARDING

Keela shared that she’s had a hard time getting her customers to move from a paper process to her new online booking software. Here’s how you can think about a customer’s journey — whether for retail loyalty apps or for boarding, pet sitting, grooming or any other service you offer — using this example: It falls into the onboarding stage.

Step 1: Review what a customer experiences and why there’s a lack of success. Anything involving a new process for customers, especially when it involves technology, can be confusing. Perhaps your client base needs some hand-holding for an important advancement in your business. List all the reasons someone may have a hard time. Here’s some I came up with: No access to a computer or Wi-Fi, doesn’t understand how to find and access apps on mobile devices, can’t find the link or maybe they just keep forgetting to do it.

Step 2: Brainstorm different touch points and tools you can implement to provide solutions to each of the different customer experiences. Don’t rule any idea out. Below are the solutions I brainstormed. First, you must be well versed in using the software yourself and answering common questions. Keep track of any issues that come up so you can get clarity from the software company.

Solutions:

  • Have a printed cheat sheet to hand out that gives tips along with the website URL or QR code where they can complete the registration process on their own. Include instructions on the handout and/or send them to a page on your website with even more detailed instructions.
  • Dedicate an iPad or two at check-in where customers can register with your help.
  • Send multiple emails asking them to register on the new platform; segment the list so you can keep reminding those who haven’t without spamming those who have.
  • Incentify people to register and to use the tool. Give everyone who does by a certain date a $5 to $10 discount. Then enter all customers who are on board by a specific date into a raffle for a better prize.
  • When customers reach out to book via text or Facebook message, always direct them to the registration or booking link.
  • Keep the link easy to find on your website, in email newsletters, email confirmations, text messages, etc.
  • Not everyone will want to make reservations online, so you may still need to assist, which is totally fine. It’s up to you to determine the level of white glove service you’d like to offer.
  • Inspect what you expect! Check in with your customer base to see if any have questions or issues. Host Zoom meetings or in-person appointment times.
  • Review if you’ve gained or lost business because of the change to new software. Reach out to any customers who you haven’t seen in three months or more.

Whew! There’s a lot you could do here. Can you see now why I suggested picking just one part of your business to break down in the customer journey? Outlining solutions to improve their experience will get the results you want and improve revenue over time, too.

Breaking down your customers’ experiences as I’ve explained will be eye opening. You can teach old dogs new tricks … even if that’s you!

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