Cancellation Policy for Pet Sitting or Dog Walking

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Professional pet care businesses should have a clear cancellation policy

Plans change when things come up. Sometimes, the people who hire you to walk their dogs or care for their pets will have to cancel, and sometimes they won't give you much notice. Having a fair cancellation policy can keep cancellations from getting out of hand and protect you, your employees, and your best clients. It can also save you time and prevent misunderstandings that could happen if policies weren't clear.

Why All Pet Sitters Need a Cancellation Policy

As a pet sitter, your time is valuable, and because of this, there is a cap on the number of visits you can schedule on a given day or within a given time block. Sometimes, you may have to turn away customers because you're at capacity. If someone cancels at the last minute, you might not be able to rebook the time slot, and if you had to turn away other customers to make room for the first one, you would lose money if you didn't get paid. The best way to take care of your most valuable clients is to make sure they don't have to cancel by putting in place a policy that makes sure your time slots are only used by people who are sure they want to use your services.

You decide everything about the cancellation policy. To avoid being taken advantage of, it's best to have some sort of cancellation policy in place, even if it's a very flexible one. Your best customers may not cancel too often or for silly reasons, but it's unlikely that all of your customers will be like that. Set up a fair cancellation policy based on what you think is too many, too often, or too short of notice to protect your business. Once you've decided on your cancellation policy, put it in your pet sitting contract so your clients can easily see it and agree to it before you start pet sitting.

Setting Up a Fair Cancellation Policy

A cancellation policy should be reasonable for both you and your clients. Every pet sitting business has different needs, goals, and clients, so what works for one business in terms of cancellations might not work for you. When deciding on a cancellation policy, here are some things to think about:

How far ahead do most of your clients book? If your clients usually book weeks or months in advance, you probably won't be able to fill a spot on your schedule when a client cancels with only a few days' notice.

When do you usually reach capacity? If you're often full and have to turn people away, you can't hold spots on your schedule for people who might cancel at the last minute, after it's too late to replace that spot with another client.

How much do you believe you and your employees should be noticed? Even if you're not so busy that you have to turn away clients, it's fair to expect to be paid for the time you set aside to serve clients, even if they cancel at the last minute.

Is there a certain type of customer you seek out or avoid? Having a cancellation policy and making sure it is followed is one of the easiest ways to stop clients from canceling appointments at the last minute without giving notice and not respecting their time. Any client worth your time will not have any problems paying you even if you don't have a cancellation policy, and they will likely pay more if you do.

How many cancellations are deemed excessive? When a client cancels at the last minute, it's easiest to have a policy that you stick to. Still, some pet sitters would rather not charge for cancellations unless a client does it too often. Make sure your cancellation policy clearly states how many free cancellations you accept if you do this.

How much will it cost to cancel an appointment? You could charge customers the full cost of the service they didn't use or just a part of it. Again, when choosing your cancellation fee, think about what is fair for both you and your clients.

Should you have the same cancellation policy for all services and all seasons? There are times when it makes sense to have different rules for different situations. If you usually get more requests for your services around holidays, you could ask for more notice or charge more for cancellations during those times. Or, since each sitter can only do one overnight visit per day, you might want to have a stricter cancellation policy for overnights. Cancellation rules for daily dog walking and vacation visits may vary among businesses, with some being more accommodating to frequent clients than others. This may be due to the fact that some businesses offer daily clients a cheaper charge in exchange for a reliable walking schedule.

Informing Customers of Your Cancellation Policy

Once you've settled on a cancellation policy, make sure your clients are aware of it.

Your client contract is the best place to put your cancellation policy, so that you have proof that your clients have agreed to it. Scout allows you to customize service agreements for your business that are unique to it. This is a good spot to put it. However, your policy should also be included because customers may not have read it thoroughly or may have forgotten about it if the contract was signed a while ago.

Meet-and-Greets: are an excellent opportunity to educate clients on your policies, such as your cancellation policy.

Email Confirmation: Include a note regarding your cancellation policy when you initially confirm appointments with clients and when you give them reminders about forthcoming services. You can send emails to your customers through Scout's messaging feature on your dashboard.

On your Custom Website: you might want to have a "Policies" page or add your cancellation policy to the "Services" page.

Implementing Your Cancellation Policy

The easiest way to make sure people follow your cancellation policy is to ask for payment in advance. So, if a client cancels, you can just take the cancellation fee out of what they've already paid and give them a credit or a refund for the rest. This is easier than asking them to pay a cancellation fee.

People often worry that putting your cancellation policy into place will irritate customers and make them go elsewhere. However, like any policy, you cannot let your fear of losing customers keep you from doing what's best for you and your business. Remind yourself that you designed your policies to be fair to both you and your clients, and that if a client objects to a reasonable cancellation policy, they are likely not the type of client you want.

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