Handling Customer Concerns about Pets

Just like any concern you might get from a customer, with pet concerns, the most important thing you can do is listen carefully and try to respond fairly.

Where you can address a situation to allay pet concerns, do that. Where you can’t change the situation, or don’t want to, be honest and explain why. We’ve provided general examples of possible responses to customers who raise concerns about pets, but be sure to make it your own in keeping with your businesses policies, practices and culture.

And, keep in mind that sometimes when faced with a new situation like pets in businesses, customers just want to know that their perspective has been heard.

Here are tips to help you handle questions you might get from customers who have concerns about pets in businesses.

How do I respond to a customer who has allergies and is concerned about coming into my pet-friendly business?

WHAT TO DO:

  • Minimize allergens by cleaning often, particularly soft surfaces like carpets and upholstery, to which allergens are most likely to cling.
  • If your business has the space, set aside a “pet-free” zone for those who prefer to remain away from visiting pets.
  • Consider having an amenities basket on hand with hand sanitizer, tissues and a lint roller, for customers who want to try to minimize allergens sticking with them.
  • Encourage customers to self-report, for example with a notation in your signage that says, “If you have allergies, please let a staff member know.”

WHAT TO SAY:

  • Example: “Thanks for bringing this up. We value your patronage and want you to be comfortable. Since we’ve become pet-friendly, we’ve kept pet concerns top of mind. We’ve increased our regular cleaning to be sure we’re minimizing pet allergens and keeping the space comfortable for everyone.”

WHAT TO KNOW:

  • Even without pets in businesses, pet allergens spread throughout public places because they are very lightweight and easily stick to things like clothing and shoes. WebMD estimates that 100% of homes have pet dander; the same is likely true of most public spaces.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Minimize dirt by cleaning often, particularly in entrance areas where pets might track in dirt and where they may spend more time.
  • Add a welcome mat to catch dirt on pets’ (and people’s!) paws.
  • Consider having a “Clean Your Paws” amenities basket near the door with paper towel, pet-friendly wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
  • Be sure you have a thorough cleaning protocol that takes pets into account.

WHAT TO SAY:

  • Example: “Thanks for bringing this up. We value your patronage and want you to be comfortable. Since we’ve become pet-friendly, we’ve increased our regular cleaning to be sure our business stays clean for everyone who visits.”

How do I respond to a customer who is afraid of pets?

WHAT TO SAY:

  • Example: “I’m glad you told me. We value your patronage and want you to be comfortable. Would you like me to assist you while you shop/help you navigate the patio to help make sure the pets here keep their distance?”
  • Example: “I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable. We want you to have a great experience here. What can I do to help make you feel safe?”

WHAT NOT TO DO:

  • Don’t try to change someone’s mind. There’s a time for that — we all want to help more people love pets! — but a moment of fear while a customer is visiting your business is not the time to do that. Even if you happen to know that a particular pet is friendly and easy-going, don’t force an introduction. Focus on helping the customer get what they need and depart feeling safe.

How do I ask someone nicely to remove their pet from my business?

WHAT TO SAY:

  • Example: “It seems like your dog isn’t super comfortable right now. We want you to have the best experience possible while you’re here. Do you want to take him / her outside and see if a break makes him / her more comfortable?”
  • Example: “Your pet seems a little anxious and I’m afraid it’s making some of our customers nervous. I wonder if you could take him / her outside for a break, to see if that helps him / her settle down a bit?”
  • Example: “Your pet seems like he / she has lots of extra energy. We have a great nearby walking trail / dog park / green space where he / she could get some exercise to help him / her relax. [Provide directions to location.]”

WHAT NOT TO DO:

  • Don’t offer to take the pet out yourself and be sure staff members know not to do so. Pet parents must remain responsible for their pets.

How do I deal with pet accidents?

WHAT TO DO:

  • Have pet-safe cleaning kits available in easily accessible areas.
  • Don’t ask the customer to clean up. You will want to ensure the cleaning job meets your standards.
  • Do ask the customer to take the pet outside in case he or she needs another break.

WHAT TO SAY:

  • Example: “It’s ok! Accidents happen and we love pets. Do you want to take your pet outside in case they need another break? [Provide directions to nearest relief area or appropriate space.]”

How do I respond to customers who ask why my business can’t have pets inside?

WHAT TO SAY IF YOUR BUSINESS IS NOT A SAFE PLACE FOR PETS:

  • Example: “We love pets! Above all, we want them to be safe, and our products / equipment / environment is not the best place for furry friends. But here’s how we support pets in our community… [list ways].”

WHAT TO SAY IF ORDINANCES FORBID PETS IN YOUR TYPE OF BUSINESS:

  • Example: “We wish we could have pets here too! Unfortunately, current local ordinances don’t allow it and we need to comply with the law. But here’s how we support pets in our community… [list ways].”
  • Example: “Current federal law and health codes don’t allow us to have pets in areas where food is prepared, and we need to comply. We welcome pets on our outdoor patio, however, so you are welcome to bring your pet there anytime our patio is open.”

Want more tips? Check out the Pets Welcome Toolkit for info about how to launch a pet-friendly business initiative that can benefit businesses, pet parents and pets.

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