I recently saw an ad on TV for a national (if not international) 'pet sitting company' that offers an online platform where pet parents and want-to-be sitters connect. It's like a Match.com for pet care and it's probably just as much of a gamble.
As a professional pet sitter for 10 years, I know the distinct difference between online and app-based pet sitter search portals and a company like The Wag Pack. Among the vast differences are the following:
1) The Wag Pack hires only the best, most professional animal lovers and we train them to become professional pet sitters. Our new hire training is days-long and our training efforts don't end there. Staff receive ongoing training, improvement plans, performance reviews, and personalized coaching to ensure that each one of our team members is more than prepared to both exceed our clients' expectations and successfully handle any unforeseen pet care, home care, and behavioral challenges. Our training far exceeds the pet care "exam" that individuals listing themselves on portals and "Uber-style" apps are required to complete.
2) The Wag Pack hires employees. We do not work with independent contractors. As such, our employees depend on us for education, support, and the setting of specific service standards. Our goal is to consistently provide the same quality service to each client, no matter who may be caring for their pet or where that pet is located. Companies that hire contractors, including online pet sitting portals and apps, cannot train their workers because training of any kind goes against the IRS regulations for independent contractors. Having independent contractors saves companies money in payroll taxes and workers compensation insurance but it doesn't necessarily guarantee anything to the customer.
3) The Wag Pack has a local office where clients can meet our managers, collect and deliver pertinent items, and where our staff meets for ongoing training. Although we have a website and use technology in all we do, we do not hide behind an online search portal or app. We welcome clients and staff to visit our office because it is an integral part of what makes The Wag Pack a truly dedicated pack.
4) Our owners operate our business. Myself and our Operations Manager, Beth, both have ownership interest in our company. We also answer emails, manage appointment requests, and work with clients and staff daily.
5) We very rarely have customer complaints and work very hard to keep it that way. That said, if ever a customer has a complaint or concern, they will speak directly to me about where we went wrong and how we can improve in the future. There is no call center, no being put on hold, no nonsense when it comes to asking our team to make things right.
6) We always have a back-up. It's important to consider what might happen if a hobby pet sitter that one finds via an online portal has an emergency or changes their mind after confirming services. Who will cover for them? At The Wag Pack, we have a back-up available 24/7, usually a dedicated employee or manager, to ensure that our services are never interrupted by emergencies, accidents, etc.
7) We are insured and bonded, which protects our company, our employees, and our customers. If your dog bites someone while in our care, our company's insurance covers the incident, with a few exceptions. If our employee knocks over a valuable vase or makes a pet care mistake that lands your pet at the emergency vet, our company's insurance covers both incidents. Online and app-based pet sitting companies cover themselves and make users sign extensive liability waivers upon engaging their services, leaving users high and dry in unexpected or devastating incidents.
I could really go on and on about the differences between a venture firm's attempt to capitalize on the business of pet care and a company such as ours but I'll leave you with this: it's not often you give access to your home and pet when you're at work or in another city, state, or country. Of all businesses and services to gamble on, in-home pet care should not be one. Instead, develop a relationship with a local, reputable professional pet sitting company and enjoy the many benefits of in-home pet care without the unnecessary risk.
If you are located outside of Northern Virginia and are looking for a professional pet sitter in your area, check out NAPPS or PSI.