January 29, 2015 – Some days we’d love to tell a pet sitting client, “You’re Fired!” But have you ever done it? What’s stopped you?

Some people naturally see the world from a loftier (implied) position and despite our best efforts, we’ll never do things to their satisfaction. As business people, we accept criticism by our customers to a certain degree, but when it isn’t warranted, we need to stand up for ourselves.

If you’re one of the many pet sitters who don’t like confrontation, perhaps one of the reasons below is why:

Why We Don’t Fight Back

  • We’re worried we’ll lose the client’s business and any referrals.
  • We’re worried there’s no more business out there to be had.
  • We’re worried about a confrontation.
  • We’re worried for the pets. We can put up with a lot…but the poor pets need us!
  • We’re just too nice.

This is a Business Relationship

Keep in mind, as much as you might share stories and enjoy a few laughs…and as much as you love the client’s animals…you are still in a business relationship. We’ve found – and encouraged – this business-type of relationship even when looking after our friends’ animals. They have a chance to see our professional side – that we are in control – but they also feel more at ease to ask for certain things as any client would. But we generally remain at an equal level. Buyer-seller. 99.99% of our clients are like this. They are lovely people who are delighted to have people who truly adore animals looking after their pets.

Then there are the ones who make up that 0.01% who can put a squeeze on your chest just by thinking of them. Your day is shot afterwards.

What is it about Irritating Clients You Would Lose if You Fired Them?

The world would be peachy if we all treated each other nicely, but unfortunately, some people think “business relationship” means “purchased servitude.” Let’s have a look at what we’d miss if we fired them:

  • They call us at all hours of the day and evening, including weekends. No respect for our time.
  • They expect exact times for us to arrive rather than the window of time we give them, and they’re snarky about it if we don’t show up on the dot even then.
  • They require a text when we arrive and leave. (Offering to text because we want to is something different entirely!)
  • They text in the morning to book a same-day call (repeatedly). Or they switch times while we’re already on our way.
  • They have more last-minute emergencies (to make we feel compelled to say, “yes,”) than anyone else we know.
  • They’re home when we arrive and “forgot” to let us know…even when you risked your life in a snowstorm or didn’t accept a lunch invitation from a friend. (Not to be confused with genuine mix-ups. We all have our days!) “We’ll pay you anyway, dear,” they tell you.  You don’t charge them because you’ll feel like dirt if you do.
  • They whine about the price of a visit and want a lower rate. In other words…they don’t see the value in our service. Explaining the length of time it takes to get there as well as fuel costs, overhead, and the fact they are hiring a professional is not of interest.
  • After all that, they are horrendously slow payers.
  • Although they are quick to text you for a request…you can’t get a confirmation from them when you can’t accommodate the visit. So you worry.
  • They speak to you like, “the help” from some archaic class system! (They continue doing what they’re doing while they speak with you, they don’t meet your eye, and they use little “yes, yeses” to placate you when you’re trying to explain a real concern.)
  • And…their cute-as-pie dog turns out to be the hound from hell.

So…How Do You Fire a Client and Set Yourself Free?

Pet sitting is such a personal business that it is difficult to let a client go without feelings being hurt. If you think the situation is salvageable, you can try speaking with the client about the points you really need corrected and let the others go. You might find your relationship strengthens because they see you at last as a stronger business person or their eyes are finally opened to what they hadn’t seen before. But if you know you’ve had enough, these little ideas might give you some ideas:

  • Tell them you or your contractor has had to scale-back visits for personal reasons, unfortunately. This works best with clients who are not daily lunch visits.
  • Say you have filled your lunch schedule (not overfilled), which means you are less often able to shift times around as you could before and can no longer take extra calls.
  • Tell them you have a new bookkeeper and policy and will be asking for money up front as many businesses do. (I’m not a fan of this because I feel I’m giving the impression of distrust. But if I’d employed it with one of our clients in the past, I wouldn’t be out of pocket $300 which I couldn’t collect but still had to pay my contractor.) This doesn’t fire the client, but if they are only slow payers, it might fix the problem.
  • As a last resort, be less accommodating and less available and they’ll look for another sitter. This is the worst solution for your reputation even if you handle it nicely.

Once you’ve made the break, you’ll feel a huge weight lift from your shoulders, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll start to enjoy your days again. The psychological stress of those visits have a greater impact than you realize.

Now sit down and decide if you need to clean house and make a plan. Then find a solution…with, or without that client in your future.

For day 29 in the year, we had a four-visit dog call, only three regular lunch visits, and two boarders…in a mildly snowy day. Not bad for the end of January!

Until next time…have fun out there!