Acquiring new clients is a priority of every business. To do this, businesses will offer special deals, BOGO items, free item with minimum purchase, etc. These things definitely catch my attention, that is, when we are talking about ketchup or oil changes. When it comes to more important things, I find myself running from these advertised "deals". You see, when I really care about the quality of something, no amount of discount is going to persuade me to use a service or product. I begin to see these offers as a business "begging" me to become their client, because the quality of their work isn't enough to bring me in.
In our industry, a frequent way to gain new clients is by offering a free evaluation or test (whatever you may call it). Initially it sounds like a great idea, I mean who wouldn't want a free service for their dog? You think, once they see how amazing your place is after that first time, surely they'll come back, right? Well....maybe. Below I'll list why I feel it is important to charge for that first visit.
And the most important reason to charge.....YOUR TIME and KNOWLEDGE!
A lot goes into truly evaluating a dog's potential success in daycare. Here's just some of what goes into our evaluations.
How much to charge?
Deciding how much to charge will depend on what your evaluation consists of. Are your evaluations really just meet-and-greets with a staff member and one dog or is your evaluation several hours? Does it include any goodies for the client to take home or not? Is it more labor intensive than a regular day of daycare (it should be), then it should cost more than your basic daycare price.
The only negative I find with charging for evaluations is losing the client that is simply looking for the easiest cheapest option. To me, that's not a negative at all. That person doesn't fit my description of the ideal client and it shouldn't for you either.
(Additional Note: We do sometimes offer the occasional free evaluation if it is suitable for the situation. It's rare, but when excellent customer service calls for it, we'll do it. For example, if we have a young dog whose owners had to board him unexpectedly at last minute and, as we get to know the dog in our private room, we see that he has the perfect temperament to enjoy social play, at pick-up we may offer a free evaluation as a thank you for boarding with us and "hey, come see how much fun your dog can have." It's done in a case that we have a strong feeling if the owner saw the benefits of daycare for that particular dog, we feel confident they would continue to use our services. Again, this is very rare, but I didn't want you to think offering a free evaluation for a certain reason isn't a good idea. I'm always up for those little above-and-beyond random acts of great customer service when appropriate.)