In 2020, all kinds of businesses have faced unexpected obstacles due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From full-on closures during stay-at-home orders to reduced capacities that comply with social distancing recommendations, small business owners have made—and will continue to make—adjustments.
As we continue to adapt to the future of work, essential businesses must make critical decisions to preserve both the safety of their customers and staff and the longevity of their establishments. Pet care businesses are no exception.
The pandemic has already had a huge impact on the pet care industry, and that impact is not going to be lessened anytime soon. Pet care businesses provide essential services to clients who depend on a safe, engaging space for their furry friends, and you want to continue to provide those services in whatever way you can.
At Gingr, we provide software solutions that address the needs of pet care facilities across the country. Through helping pet care businesses navigate the complexities of COVID-19, we’ve seen how pivoting your pet care business plan can help your team survive and thrive.
Ahead, we’ll explore a few essential considerations for adapting your business plan to the current circumstances:
- Stay up-to-date on crisis-related developments and regulations.
- Revisit or invest in strong insurance coverage.
- Make necessary adjustments to cut costs.
- Focus on providing a positive customer experience.
Making thoughtful adjustments to your business plan will help you act strategically in the face of the crisis, rather than just rushing to respond when things change. By implementing these tips, you’ll be better equipped to keep your pet care business safe and profitable. Let’s get started!
1. Stay up-to-date on crisis-related developments and regulations.
In a crisis like COVID-19, sometimes it feels like the only certainty is that things will change. To ensure your business is staying safe (and following the rules!), continue to monitor the evolving situation.
First, continue to follow local news updates regarding the spread and impact of COVID-19 in your area. You’ll want to know if there’s been a spike in cases so you can respond with the appropriate precautionary measures.
Similarly, pay close attention to any new ordinances that your local or state government has put in place. While national news can also help you stay informed, your local newspaper and TV station will likely play the biggest role in communicating developments that impact your business. Each state has a different list of essential businesses for regulatory purposes, and the classification of pet care in your area could potentially impact your operations.
Keep an eye on any recommended changes in safety or sanitation measures. As researchers continue to learn more and more about the novel coronavirus, these recommendations may evolve. Be sure your business is following the most recent safety guidelines from public health professionals.
According to the CDC, there is no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 as of writing this article, but it’s still recommended to be vigilant with animal interactions if someone is sick. And of course, you will need to follow guidelines that limit the potential spread between customers and employees.
To keep both employees and customers safe, modify your operations to:
- Implement a mask policy
- Set up hand wash stations and hand sanitizer
- Increased sanitation efforts
- Maintain a social distance of six feet
- Establish no-contact operations including payment and dropoff
By staying up-to-date on new developments, you’ll be prepared to create and communicate new plans as quickly as possible.
2. Revisit or invest in strong insurance coverage.
You already know that insurance is a key component of any small business strategy. With the right insurance policies in place, you’ll be protected in the event of a worst-case scenario.
Unfortunately, 2020 has brought more worst-case scenarios than anyone could have expected. While insurance is always crucial, it’s now even more important to secure coverage that mitigates the higher risks associated with COVID-19.
Review your insurance policies to ensure that your business, your clients, and your staff are covered. Some insurance policies even cover loss of business, which is especially helpful in our current volatile economy. If you find gaps or areas of weakness in your policies, you may want to invest in additional coverage.
You’ll want to invest in policies that cover your specific needs as a pet care business:
- Commercial liability insurance. This relates to the overall operations in your business in general but doesn’t protect against issues related to working with animals. Commercial liability insurance covers your business against lawsuits or damages, which could happen if a client contracts COVID-19 from one of your employees.
- Professional liability insurance. This kind of insurance covers the risk of your actual services. Problems relating to interacting with the animals in your care fall under this category. Because of the industry-specific nature of professional liability insurance, be sure to choose a provider that has experience with pet care businesses.
- Worker’s compensation insurance. You likely already have a policy that protects both your employees and your business if one of your staff members has an accident in your facility. Depending on your policy, this may or may not cover COVID-related concerns, so be sure to check your coverage.
- Floater/bailee insurance. This is a specific policy for if an animal passes away while at your facility. While pets are unlikely to contract COVID-19, there’s still a risk you should be prepared for.
With so many options available, it can be difficult to determine exactly what coverage your pet business needs, but investing in insurance cannot be skipped. For a more comprehensive overview of pet business insurance, check out this Gingr guide.
3. Explore new methods for customer acquisition.
Regardless of how well your business is managing the situation at hand, some circumstances are out of your control.
Right now, your customers may be dealing with financial hardship that makes it difficult to afford your pet care services. Or perhaps their budgets are the same, but their needs have changed. For example, customers who can work from home may not need dog daycare services or people who have canceled vacations no longer need to board their cats.
Pet care services are still critical for many pet owners, but it’s likely that your business is experiencing a loss of customers from at least one of these causes. To combat this problem, you’ll need to bring in a new stream of customers.
Before embarking on a brand new initiative, be sure you have a solid marketing plan and lead capture strategy. After doubling down on the methods you already have in place, look for creative new solutions to attract new customers.
For instance, consider implementing a referral program. Existing customers can receive a discount or coupon in exchange for recruiting someone new. This is a great way to reward loyal customers while bringing in the new clients your pet business needs.
- Focus on providing a positive customer experience.
Once you’ve handled all the necessary safety and business considerations, it’s time to double down on the quality of your services.
Your customer experience may not be a line on your budget or at the forefront of your mind in the middle of a crisis, but it’s still a critical component of your pet care business plan. Strong customer experience increases profits, builds client loyalty, and creates a positive reputation for your business.
Here are a few questions to ask when considering the needs of your customer:
- Is it easy to keep track of appointments? Customers should easily be able to view, cancel, and confirm all upcoming bookings.
- Is key information easily accessible? Customers should be able to locate operations information like pricing and hours as well as individualized information including pet activity reports.
- Can customers easily complete required paperwork? Your online system should have a way to submit vaccination records, approve terms and conditions, and sign digital waivers (like these).
- Do you have client communication preferences and emergency contact information? Having this information on hand will make it easy to disseminate updates if you have to make a sudden change like reducing your hours.
- Can you offer contactless interactions? Touchless payment options (like digital payments or package programs) and contactless drop-off and pick-up will help keep clients and customers safe. Oftentimes, these options are also quicker and more convenient for everyone.
You’ll be well equipped to address each of these concerns if you have a modern software solution in place. Pet care business software will help you provide the best customer experience possible and stay afloat during the crisis.
Your pet care business plan should be a living, breathing document that you continue to revise over the years. The concerns caused by COVID-19 may be unique, but the need to create a flexible strategy that conforms to your current situation will always be present.
With these strategies, you’ll be well on your way to preparing your pet care business for today’s crisis and beyond. Good luck!