Thursday, November 25, 2010

On the Importance of Making a First Impression

I love going to Avery's here in Greenwood.   Setting aside the fact that when Stephen brands something as local, its actually grown in Nova Scotia, there is also a certain satisfaction in supporting a good local business.  Even better, the prices are always much more competitive than the bigger chain stores.  Best of all of course is the consistently friendly and helpful customer service.
Successful businesses understand the importance of making customers feel welcome and wanted.  In a world where companies still keep falling by the wayside, good customer service is undoubtedly the lions share of the reason that the original Avery's in Kingston has over time expanded to nice welcoming little markets around the province.
When I put in the adoption application for preapproval from ARC .. the one that started the journey that brought Miss Ruby / aka The Queen of Sheba into my home and my heart ... I had a cheerful and positive response within a few hours.  Not days or weeks .. but HOURS.   It established the tone of our relationship and eventually led to my adopting Andy.
Smart businesses also use newsletters to keep their customer base engaged.   Even though I had already bought my wood stove for the house, the chatty and informative letters and customer holiday cards kept coming.   When there was room in the budget for a wood stove for my workshop .. and later on for one for a wedding present for my daughter ... where do you think they were purchased?  You bet .. along with a plethora of neat yard ornaments that they also sell. 
In fact, when I bought the pond kit that eventually became the ornamental pond .. they were savvy enough to toss in a gift certificate for pond plants:)
When I was doing the research to build the homeless pet site, I had started reading the very well written SHAID newsletter.  And that is how ...when I already had four cats .. when there was no shortage of homeless cats in the valley ... that I hopped in my car and went over to SHAID to adopt my mighty mini Morgan.
A common complaint about pet adoption is the adoption application process.   Personally, after everything that they have seen, I 'get' why its so difficult for anyone doing frontline animal rescue to be able to trust that potential adopters will keep their pets safe.
But I also might add that from my birds eye view is that there is no such thing as a fail safe screening process.  Even the most cautious of groups occasionally has pets returned.
Why?  Because its not unheard of for people to tailor the answers to what they believe is expected.  Honestly .. if a quiz asks what one would do if the pet chews/ soils/ barks/ etc... nobody with a brain is going to say they'll be tying it out back or putting it in the basement
So if there is no such thing as a perfect screening process, why scare away so many good homes with an intimidating application form?   Will there not be an interview? Required references that can be checked?   A home visit?   A good friend of mine who works with an SPCA in Nfld prefers to ask the questions in person because she says that its much easier to get a feel for things when you can see the reaction in people's faces.
In the business world they know that there is only one chance to make a first impression.  Why is that important for pet adoption?  Because the good homes, the ones who keep their pets for life are only ever going to be looking for a new pet every ten or fifteen years.  They aren't going to be back next year when things are better.  Even worse, if they have been put off pet adoption one time, odds are they won't ever be back.
But that's not even the worse thing.  The saddest bit of all is of course that nobody lives in a bubble.  Every person who is intimidated by the application process has family, friends, neighbours and coworkers who likely won't apply either.
What time is it?  Its time to remember that a friendly first response does not obligate a rescue to approve an application ... it is simply good customer relations that will encourage more good homes to apply.

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