By Gary Wilkes
It might be an unrealistic expectation, but what do you do when your clients expect your work to be fast, cheap, and good?
My brother has a sign in his office. It reads: “You can have it fast, cheap or good—select any two.” Despite the obvious wisdom of this cliché, some pet owners demand all three: good, cheap and NOW! It’s something you see in your business every day. When you are asked advice about behavioral solutions by your clients, here are some examples of how the fast-cheap-good mentality applies to training and behavior services.
Consider the dog owner who is moving into a new, custom built house. His five year old dog has been urinating indoors for over four years. He wants the problem fixed, right now, for $50, and wants a guarantee. He is unwilling to pay the normal price, because his new mortgage payments are murder (cheap). He has to have the problem fixed, instantly, because he doesn’t want the dog to ruin his new, valuable house (now). He wants a guarantee, because he wants someone else to take responsibility, no matter what (good). The average 5 year old has a better understanding of reality. If this is your client and you recommend someone who can’t either deliver all three or explain reality, the client’s displeasure will rub off on you.
A similar expectation is often placed on teachers of group obedience classes. Though it is obvious that the advantages of a class are low cost (cheap), there are regular sessions (fast) and a few students attempt to monopolize the instructor’s time (good). This type of owner usually owns a Rottweiler that has bitten several people who needs an immediate solution.
A good instructor will make sure that all of the students get the same amount of service, while aiming the “special needs” student toward private behavior counseling. Private counseling offers expert help, (good and fast)—at a higher fee (not cheap). For some dog owners this is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. How dare the trainer deny them their rights to instant, bargain priced, quality gratification? If you are referring to a group trainer and know that your client has special requirements a phone call in advance may make a huge difference in outcome. If nothing else, it will be a path to a better relationship to your “go-to” trainer.
To develop a way to guide your client through the process of getting training and behavior help, here is a layout of the three options available to them as pet owners. If you use this framework you may be able to help them make a rational decision and help keep the dog in the home—which keeps the dog coming to your salon.
If they want an instant solution to their problem, they need to be prepared to pay for it or get less than perfect results. My wife’s family calls this “instant pudding.” Meaning the person wants it now, regardless of quality. There are some problems that do not have an instant solution. If an animal has spent years developing an unacceptable behavior, it is unreasonable to ask for a quick fix, simply because you are “fed up with it.” It may be a reasonable request if the trainer is very good at what they do but there are often down-sides to work that is designed primarily to be immediate. Another problem with “fast” solutions is that you may not be able to get the most qualified person, or the most qualified person may not be able to use the best methodology, in a hurry.
If a dog owner wants a discount rate, there is always going to be a difference in quality, less help than they really need or a long delay until they can receive help. Usually, people who are just starting a business, charge less in order to contract business. If a trainer charges half the “going rate”, there is probably a reason for it—altruism is not usually the reason. This is the area where your client is most likely to “get what they pay for.” Those people who offer better services for less, are quickly swamped with business. Their only options are to charge more, or ask you to wait for their services.
If someone demands the highest quality work, they need to be willing to pay for it, or wait for it. The most qualified people are usually the ones who are most in demand. While a particular specialist may be the only available person who can solve a problem, it is a good bet that there are quite a few people in line for the service. Most good trainers and behaviorists have waiting lists, increased rates for “rush jobs” and assistants to compensate for only being able to do one thing at a time. If you prepare your client for this reality you will be less likely to be held accountable when the reality hits them in the face. They need to be prepared to be told that the specialist can’t do the job, right now. As a wise counselor you can help them solve this problem by providing or recommending things like boarding services that can put the dog “on ice” until training is available.