This pet care blog article looks at the benefits and risks of using free kennel management and doggie daycare software and other free or low-priced doggie daycare dashboard - type software.
If you are using pen & paper, white-boards and google docs (let's call these '20th century fixes') to run your pet care business, switching to any online pet care software is likely a good thing for your business. And, if it's free, why not? After all, the pen & paper system is free, right?
The Opportunity Cost of 20th Century Fixes
First, let's look at whether pen & paper systems are really free. The fact is, there are opportunity costs of using older, outdated technology. Any 20th century fix requires significant staff time, is prone to errors (whether overbooking or under-booking) and other issues that cost you operating money, and limit your cash-flow. We know, that's why we created Gingr - one of our co-founders ran a busy doggie daycare using 20th Century fixes!
Typically, these 'systems' are, at their best, run by one-person who knows how the system 'works'. As soon as you enter multiple players and increased business activity, things start to fall apart. Simply, as your pet-care business gross, the 20th Century 'fix' is not scaleable. Your costs increase as fast as your business does.
The Benefits of Pet Care Boarding and Daycare Software
The benefits of pet-care software are many:
- Improve accuracy (pet info', client info', reservation data, financial reporting)
- Save staff time on the phone and email (with integrated online booking and customer portal) - this can translate to $100s even $1,000s in savings per month.
- Improve customer service (most customers want to be able to engage online, and software will speed up transactions, saving your customers' time).
- Increase cash-flow (avoid lost revenue by automating fee calculations, track amounts due, automate payments increase tip-collection)
- Make marketing easy
- Automate online reputation management
- and many more.....
When the Software Is Free or Low Priced
Free or low-value software can often be a great choice for small pet care businesses seeing less than 20-25 pets per day, especially if you are coming from '20th Century fixes'. Your income is lower, so you want to spend as little as possible on operations. That's good intuition, but often comes at a cost (remember opportunity cost - you might be missing out on important money-saving features). You haven't risked much in going to free software, so no big deal if it doesn't work for you, right? Also, you can always switch to a higher-value service as your business grows.
That said, you want to know what you are missing if you stick with the free or low-value product. I almost always go budget on car rentals, but I know what I'm missing with the luxury rentals - space, comfort and style - and I know when I need to rent a higher value car.
Software is similar. A higher value software service will give you more money-saving functions, streamlines operations further, increase cash-flow and impress upon your customers that you don't skimp on the essentials. This becomes more important as your business grows (if you want it to grow). An extra dollar a day towards higher value software can go a long way in terms of ease-of-use, time-saving features, support, and the knowledge you are using the best product available.
The Dangers of Free Software
Free, unfortunately, normally means you are missing out on something, or giving something up.
In pet-care software, 'free' can mean any or all of the following:
- Limited use of the software, either in # of records or # of users.
- Poor performance in availability. Cloud-based software requires a lot of back-end technology in storage and redundancy. This costs money. Much of a software subscription goes towards maintaining security and backup systems to help ensure a high level of software availability . Gingr, for example, delivers a target of 99.96% uptime (and outperforms this every year). How does the free service compare? When your software is down, it's not free - it's costing you money.
- Lack of features and/or lack of granularity and customization of features - the software may 'have the feature', but it's limited in scope and customization.
- Limited support services - the company lacks the funds to provide quality support.
- Limited development - the company lacks the funds or knowledge to support continued development.
- Limited customer-base - the company lacks industry knowledge generated from its customers and fails to develop as the industry evolves.
- Higher costs as your customer grows in # of records or users, or higher hidden costs for SMS services, credit card processing rates or critical 'modules'. READ THE FINE PRINT!
Risks and dangers aside, free pet care software may be a good fit for you to get started with, especially if you are a very small business. The important thing is to know what you are missing, so you can make an educated decision, and be aware of when you might want to switch from 'free' to higher value software service.
A few questions you can ask:
- What is your availability and uptime?
- What is your security?
- What are your hidden costs?
- What are your on-boarding and support services?
- When I want to leave, can I export and/or backup my data, and what format will that be in?
Free software can be a starter, and you can always upgrade to a more robust, higher-value product as your business grows.
Here's to your success!