My dog walking and pet sitting company, Walk It Like A Dog, has 15 pet sitters performing between 50 and 70 appointments per day. It's a lot to manage and there is a lot that can go wrong during the day to cause delays. Poopie crates, flat tires, and traffic accidents are just a few. While I candidly explain this to customers and require some leeway, I still want to know what's going on. The late notifications built into Scout are often a "lifesaver" for me as a business owner.
Every once in a while I get a bad apple. I bring in a new pet sitter and things seem great. They're good with the pets during our shadowing period and everything is going well until they don't show up for work. The last thing I want is to find out from an angry pet owner is that a pet sitter didn't show up to their appointment. I want to know something is wrong within a reasonable amount of time, so I can fix the situation before the customer even knows anything is wrong. That's why I love Scout's late notice feature.
Every company is different and operates in a different environment. For some background, Walk It Like A Dog happens to be in a big city where clients are within about a 15-minute bike ride. I set our late threshold to 30 minutes. This gives the dog walkers enough leeway to not feel rushed if there are some setbacks, and I have the opportunity to get coverage en route to an appointment without being more than an hour late. When I first started using Scout, I played around with the times to find out what worked best for me. I like that I'm not locked into an arbitrary definition of late.
How it Works
If a pet sitter doesn't check into an appointment within the threshold I've set, I get an email notification. That's my cue to spring into action. It starts with a call to the pet sitter to find out what's going on. In the case of a no-call/no-show pet sitter, they are probably not answering their phone. If that's the case, I send a text to the owner and let them know we are running a little behind and that someone will be over as soon as possible.
Since we're only 30 min late by this point, I have the opportunity to reassign the walk or complete the appointment myself. Within 15 to 30 minutes after finding out there's a problem, someone is at the client's home, and their pet is being taken care of. While it may cause some chaos backstage, all the client knows is we ran a little behind, but everything was taken care of. Since we are mostly on time every day, clients tend to to be quite forgiving in these situations.
In addition to getting an email notification, pet sitters also get a push notification to their phone if they cross the late threshold. As long as they don't get that notification, there is no need to do anything. However, once they cross the 30-minute mark, they know to bring me into the loop. It keeps me from having to drop everything I'm doing to scramble together coverage for an appointment unless it's absolutely necessary. Communication is key, and as long as we're all communicating effectively, I can manage everything. This is also a fail-safe for the walker.
My walkers are responsible and they don't often miss appointments, but sometimes mistakes happen. Just last week, I forgot I was covering for a morning walk at 7 am. While I was in the shower my phone started yelling at me. A 30-minute late notice was blowing up my phone. The push notification provides that "oh shit" moment where a pet sitter realizes they messed up. This is a significantly better situation than ignorance. I rinsed off, got dressed and ran out the door. I was 45 minutes late, and my customer wouldn't have even noticed, except for a quick text letting them know I was running a little behind and not to worry.
Missing an appointment is not a thing I ever want to happen. Most importantly, it can be harmful to a pet, especially where medication may be involved. It's also very bad for business. Pet owners put a lot of trust in us and expect their pets to be properly taken care of. Having a flexible late notice system with alerts for both managers and pet sitters ensures a small mistake doesn't turn into a huge disaster.