Going to the Dogs!

By Ron Rosenberg

It seems that coordinating an out-of-town overnight stay should be pretty straightforward to coordinate, but things don't always go as planned.

Some good friends of ours were having a local reception for their son who recently had a destination wedding in Jamaica.

Since everyone couldn't make it there for the formal ceremony, they organized a reception locally so we could all help celebrate their son's wedding.

The party was about an hour away, and we decided to stay at a nearby B&B so we wouldn't have to drive back to our house late at night. One of the couples attending the event, and also a good friend of ours who lives on the coast, were going to stay there as well, and they had made reservations at a kennel for their dog. This was a new boarding facility for them, and, since it was close to their home, they were hoping this would become their regular boarding location.

We're Here!

They arrived at the kennel at around 11:15 am...only to be told by the front-desk person that check-in had ended at 11:00 am. Mind you, they had checked the company's website and saw that the kennel was open that day until 1:00 pm.  There was no notice of a specific check-in period, and no one had mentioned this when they made the reservation earlier in the week.

A young woman came out front and said that she knew how to process the check-ins and would take care of it for them. She went back inside to get some paperwork. Our friends could hear some loud discussion coming from that direction, and then another woman returned.

She identified herself as the owner, said the other person should not have agreed to take care of them and said that she had to go by the rules about the 11:00 am check-in time.  She was sorry for any inconvenience, but there was nothing she could do about it.

What Do You Do with a "Homeless" Dog?

With no other alternatives and an important event to get to, they decided to call their veterinarian's office and see if they could board the dog overnight.

It turns out that they could do that. But when they arrived, our friends were told that the dog needed to have some tests and shots done before they could leave the dog.

What should have been a $50 charge at the first kennel turned in to several hundred dollars at the vet - more than the cost of the B&B and the wedding gift combined! Needless to say, this put a damper on their spirits that evening.

Rules Are Rules, But...

As we've said in the past, it's important to have processes, policies, and procedures. They let you present a consistent face to your customers, clients, and members. But when they keep you from delivering great - or even acceptable - service, then you need to find a way to change the process, eliminate the process, or, at the very least, go "out of process" in individual cases where it's appropriate.

There are lots of lessons to be learned here - lessons that can help you avoid the mistakes that took place on that particular Saturday.

  1. Exceptions Are Okay - Most situations in business (and in life) are complicated and seldom lend themselves to a "black-and-white" interpretation. Clearly, this was a perfect example: they were at the kennel just 15 minutes after the check-in time had passed; there was no mention that they had to be there by 11:00 am, and the young woman in back had offered to handle them anyway. Yes, it can set a dangerous precedent to break the rules all the time, but it can be just as damaging to blindly adhere to the rules when the circumstances indicate that an exception might be more appropriate.
  2. Honor What Your Employees Say - I can't tell you how many times I've been on the phone with a customer-service rep who tells me one thing...and then gets overruled by a supervisor when actually trying to deliver what was promised. In this case, the second person had agreed to check in the dog, only to have the owner say that it wasn't going to happen.
    Several years ago, we had an employee offer to refund nearly $1,000 to one of our members, which was way beyond what was appropriate in that particular case. But she was the face of our company to that member, so we sucked it up and honored the commitment. Your front-line employees are the lifeline that can make or break customer satisfaction. If they make a commitment that they shouldn't have, you still should honor it...and then make sure to provide adequate training and establish clear guidelines about what can and cannot be done.
  3. Don't Shoot Yourself in the Foot - The owner of that kennel, while she may have felt justified in sticking to the "rule of law," proceeded to completely alienate our friends who, in case you forgot, were trying that place out for the very first time. You may have the right-of-way when crossing a busy street, but it means nothing if the car that hits you doesn't agree. Or, as my mother used to say, "You can be right...and you can be dead right."

Can you identify situations in your own business that could lead to these kinds of potential conflicts? The time to consider this is before they actually happen.