Most people expect to be able to shop for groceries, airline tickets, hair appointments and booked events online so it should be no surprise that users of dog fields expect to be able to make and manage their bookings online too.
A recent survey we conducted suggested that those without a secure online booking system are much less favoured by dog field users and most users said that they tolerated alternative booking and payment methods only because this was the most convenient field for them.
We can conclude from this that where two fields are equally convenient, the one with secure online booking is going to be more popular with dog field users.
In this article we’ll go through the reasons that users and dog field owners find secure online booking systems better than alternative methods and why, as a dog field owner you should be considering an online system to manage your field and customers.
I hear this regularly:
“I’m fully booked anyway and my customers are happy with the way we runs things”
Recently, I heard this directly from a dog field owner. The reality of this statement is that it’s not true, but this owner just isn’t aware. I spoke to 5 regular users of this particular field and all 5 stated that not only they would prefer to use an online booking system but that it was ‘annoying’ to have to book via text or email.
Reasons to Switch To an Online Booking System:
- Customer Expectation
- Transaction Safety
- Terms of Business
- Chain of Communication
- Managing Your Time and Bookings Effectively
Regular dog field users expect a secure online booking system. They know it means they have a paper trail where they’ll have confirmation of payment, reminders of their booking and in most cases, the ability to amend their booking without too much faff. Heck, most booking systems give the user the ability to automatically put their booking directly into their calendar – As someone who uses fields daily, this is a real godsend for me.
In a world where we all have so much going on – being able to quickly check which dog field you’ve booked and when is very important.
It also means that as a dog field owner you’ll get fewer people turning up at the wrong time, a lot less opportunity for miscommunication, and it’s just easier for everyone.
There are a whole bunch of reasons why requesting a BACS transfer from a customer booking a dog field is just horrible.
If it’s a one-off visit for them, they have to go through the rigmarole of setting you up as a payee and depending on your bank, this can actually be a huge hassle. It also leaves a lot of room for typing the wrong numbers and the time both parties need to take in terms of confirmations is just eating into you profit margin on that field booking.
As consumers we expect online security – I have come across a few dog field websites lately that have not got SSL certificates (that is a safety feature which is essential and displays the little padlock when you checkout) and this is something that you as a dog field owner should have on your site as standard. They are free (despite what some developers will tell you) and very easy to install.
PayPal / Google Pay / Apple Pay – slightly less hassle but no less chasing around for confirmations and information relating to your booking.
The very worst way you can expect a customer to pay is by cash and most professionally run dog fields will not accept cash payments. There are good reasons for this:
- The transaction process of an online booking system leads you through any terms and conditions set by the field owner. This is critical as part of your insurance policy and I have never seen a dog field that requires cash payments to ask you to sign a set of terms and conditions prior to use. Simply saying on the gate that you ‘use the field at your own risk’ is insufficient and not a get out of jail free card in the event of any incident at the field.
- It leaves both parties open to dispute if cash is left in an ‘honesty box’. Gosh – it would be nice if the world wasn’t like this but it is.
- It requires people to arrive with the correct cash which I personally rarely carry, and that puts the effort onto me the customer to make the owners life easier, which isn’t great customer service
Terms of Business
We’ve just touched on this. Terms of business, terms and conditions, conditions of use, liability waiver…. Call these what you will – it is an agreement whereby the user agrees to abide by the rules set out by the provider.
This is really important for dog field owners. Here’s an example:
Dogs must be kept on the lead from your vehicle until they are safely within the field and the gate is firmly closed and secured.
Should someone decide this rule doesn’t apply to them and their dog runs off into a farm yard or sheep field and causes a ruckus at best or something terrible happens at worst, the liability for that incident is absolutely clear as the conditions of use were clearly stipulated and most likely sent to the user multiple times during their online interactions through the booking system. With an online booking system acceptance of these terms are usually required to proceed to payment, linked on the payment receipt and probably on the reminder email too.
This is one of the reasons that all good dog fields will stipulate that you as a dog field user must check the field is suitable before letting your dog off the lead. It’s to protect themselves, manage expectations of security and make sure you the user know that no field is Fort Knoxx. Protecting yourself as a dog field owner is very important and sadly there are more owners experiencing significant liability issues when things go a bit wrong. Make sure you are protected.
This is really simple. Whether you like it or not, people associate a slick online presence as an indication of the professionalism of your entire business set up. It doesn’t really matter how nice your field is – if your digital presence does not pass muster, you’re going to lose out on business.
If you want to operate a robust business with long term stability, you need to have an online booking system.
Chain of Communication
As mentioned briefly above, a chain of communication is really important for your customers but it’s equally important for you the dog field owner!
I would estimate that 9 times out of 10, any mistakes that occur (for example, apparent double bookings, wrong sessions booked etc), are user error. i.e. the customer has made a mistake somewhere during the booking process. It’s not common but when it does happen, having a traceable ‘customer journey’ is really useful – both to sort out any misunderstandings but also to see if there is a genuine problem (there’s not usually!). FAR fewer misunderstanding happen when there is a digital trail and this will streamline your life – trust me!
Manage Your Time and Bookings Effectively
There’s no doubt, once you are set up and used to using an online booking system it will cut down your admin time enormously but here are some other benefits:
You can take some time out – most ‘diary’ keepers that I’ve met would NEVER hand over their booking diary to someone else to manage whilst they’re away on holiday – what that means is no holidays or walking around with a note book and on the phone all the time!
With a booking system, you don’t have to be on hand every minute of every day to take calls and emails and texts with people wanting to book that day.
Those who have a booking system designed by us here have the benefit of being able to book in a Holiday-Handover! You can hand over the entire booking system for the duration of your holiday, rerouting all emails to us – letting us manage the entire thing whilst you’re enjoying a much needed break from poo-patrol! As we have been involved in building the system, it’s a very straight forward switch and you know we’ll look after your users as if they were our own. All you have to do is get someone to do your daily fence checks and clean the field.
It’s Not Scary
Nearly all people who haven’t got an online booking system avoid it for the following reasons – can you relate to any of this?
- You don’t think they have the skills to operate it – “I’m not techy at all”
- You might think it’s enormously expensive to set up – Our system set up, including a month tech support is £375 for one field with a £24/month system fee to licence the software that runs your system – that’s just a few day’s takings
- You have bookings for months ahead so how would you manage the transition – easy, we do it all for you
- “my customers are happy with the way I do it” – no they aren’t. They might say they are and there may be a handful of people who would prefer to pay you cash but they are rare
- You’re trying to keep a low profile for fear of getting discovered by the planning authorities. It won’t be an online booking system that gets you in trouble on this one – it will most likely be a disgruntled neighbour, a regular highways inspector or when a local resident makes a planning application for something unrelated (find out more about planning requirements for dog fields here)
- You are taking cash in hand and not declaring your income
What You Need to Know About a Dog Field Online Booking System:
- It’s not as scary as you think
- You will increase your bookings if you aren’t on 100% occupancy
- You will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner
- Your customers will thank you
What To Do If You Want To Switch To An Online Booking System
Please drop me and email.
If you are confident that you just want to get this thing up and running, book to have your online system created here – all you have to do select a time from the available slots – we’ll have a call at that time so you can answer a bunch of questions (how long are your sessions etc) and you’ll have your system set up within the week.
We then schedule a follow up call / zoom so we can co through the entire system, show you how to operate it and hand it over. Of course, we’re on hand throughout the first month to help you bend your head around it and if you want a 1-2-1 sit down session in real life, we can arrange that too*.
If you’re still not sure, here’s what one of our customers felt after going through the process:
If You’re Dissatisfied With Your Current System
We’ve used and tested a lot of systems. None of them are perfect but some are far better than others. The ones that are easiest to set up are often significantly less flexible because they try to keep it simple for you.
People thinking of operating more than one field or who would like to offer add-ons; gift cards; memberships; packages; and regular user discounts, will need a more complex system.
If you want to discuss changing from the system you currently use, please get in touch and we can chat through your ideas and options to see if switching will help your business run better.
If you’re tech savvy and / or confident to set things up yourself, and interested in a completely free trial for the system we currently recommend, click here.
*there is a fee for time and travel so if that’s something you think you’d like, let us know – we often bundle in a field inspection for accreditation and/or a marketing reboot to make the most of the day
For those of you looking to set up a dog field for the first time, you can find lots more information on setting up a dog field in our blogs, and if you want to run through a budget, talk about some of the hidden costs of running a dog field or simply discuss the suitability of a field you have an eye on, we offer a consultation – fancy word for a really good chat about all things dog fields. It takes an hour or so depending on where you’re at in your dog field set up journey and you can book online here.