|Julep, from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, on an outing.|
Here's the story:
A 55'ish woman (I'll call her Beth), professional but semi-retired, divorced , no kids and self-sufficient; was thinking that it would be nice to have a dog for companionship. She had the time and resources to spend and was a little lonely. She thought she would like to adopt an older dog that needed a home and who would enjoy walks and outings. So she headed off down to her local shelter with a hopeful heart. Her family had a black lab when she was growing up so that's what she decided to look for.
Wouldn't you know it? The shelter had just put a litter of black lab puppies onto the adoption floor. Beth visited on a Thursday afternoon and fell in love with a puppy (who doesn't?). She filled out her application form and went home to anxiously await a decision. The shelter said that she should hear by Friday if she had been approved. Friday morning came and the shelter called to say Beth had passed all the requirements with flying colors.
Beth headed to the local pet supply store to buy the latest and greatest pet supplies in eager anticipation of her new arrival. Friday afternoon she went to the shelter to pick up her puppy, sign the adoption papers, pay the adoption fee and head home with her new little bundle of joy. Somewhere in the next few hours she realized she had made a horrible mistake. She realized she had gotten a puppy on impulse and that this little guy would make a perfect dog for a family with an active lifestyle. She needed an older, steady companion. Saturday morning she packs up the puppy with his puppy supplies and returns to the shelter before they opened so that he would be back on the adoption floor for the busy Saturday hours.
She was hoping to explain her situation and be able to choose an older dog that would suit her needs. She really didn't think there would be a problem.
Guess what? She was not able to choose an older dog OR receive a refund for the puppy. She was treated with disdain and disgust. The staff made her feel like she was the most horrible person in the world for returning the puppy.
Stop for one minute and think how you would feel if you were treated this way in a retail establishment? You bought something and returned it in good faith and then were made to feel like the scum of the earth. Would you tell a friend? Or two? Or ten - about the bad treatment you received? I think so. Maybe you would put it on Facebook and tell a hundred or a thousand people.
Why do shelters consider returns as failures? Best Friends Animal Society has a sleepover program. You visit their sanctuary, volunteer for the day, and then can check out one of their sanctuary dogs for an overnight stay at your hotel. In the morning you bring the dog back and fill out a short report on the dog's behavior and experience. It's a win-win situation. The dog gets socialized, it gets out of the sanctuary for a few hours, and it gets more on it's "resume" that can be shared with potential adopters. You have a great time with a great dog. It's not a return - it's a sleep-over. The program is SO successful it is now being offered with cats.
Some of my best memories of being at Best Friends are the hours I've spent with a dog that I've taken out.
Back to Beth's story. Beth chalked it up as a learning experience. She headed to the next closest shelter where she chose her new best friend . She has become a loyal supporter and donor. And she has told more than a few people about her bad experience at the first shelter.
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It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.
Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon.com