Should I put a training intake form on my website?
There is some information that you’ll want to know before getting face-to-face with a client and their dog. Not all trainers are equipped to deal with every behavior or situation. Perhaps you haven’t had experience with really large dogs and really high energy pups. Maybe little ankle-biters aren’t your thing, and you haven’t had much luck figuring out their motivation for training better behavior. Maybe you steer clear of aggression. There are a myriad of reasons that every client is not for every trainer.
So, having an intake form that gives you a brief idea of what you’d be dealing with is a good idea. It gives you an opportunity to screen potential clients for situations that are absolutely obviously not something within your wheelhouse. A client will appreciate you not wasting their time if their case isn’t for you.
Let’s face it, some folks will stop just short of filling out a form and put their phone back in their pocket and forget all about talking to a trainer for another 6 months. That one extra strep could have been the extra step they just weren’t willing to do that day or didn’t have time for in that moment.
GIVE CUSTOMERS WHAT THEY WANT So, how do we give our potential customers what they want, convenience and flexibility, while getting the information we need?
The way I see it, follow the lead of most medical practitioners’ offices. Our doctor gives us several options, depending on what’s most convenient for us. We can book online with our contact information and just enter a phrase or two that describes what we’re coming in to be seen for. We can book over the phone with the same basic info.
Then, for the detailed information they need to gather regarding insurance and background information on our health and the current problem, they additional forms that we can either fill out online at home or we can get to the office early and fill them out in the waiting room.
WHAT’S THE BASIC INFO WE NEED TO BOOK THE FIRST SESSION?
All you really need is the client’s name, a way of contacting them, and a brief description of ‘the problem’ – just like your doctor. This can be gathered in a simple “Contact” email form on your website, a chatbot text widget, or a phone call.
Once you’ve reviewed that basic info and decided the client passes your initial screening, it’s just a matter of sending them the detailed forms to fill in online or fill in 5 minutes before their first class. You can automate this process with an email that goes out with your class schedule or your private consultation availability schedule. You could have a “FORMS” section on your website. Or you can attach them in your chat widget… the possibilities are endless these days. It all depends on how many options you want to make available to your potential clients vs having a single, forced-streamline process that everyone must follow the same way for YOUR simplicity’s sake.
WHAT DETAILED INFO SHOULD WE GATHER FROM EVERY CLIENT BEFORE STARTING WORK?
Following is a list of information that I recommend every trainer gathers from every client before starting any real work. It’s easy to skip a step and jump right in to the fun stuff, but you NEVER know when an emergency will pop up, and you need to be prepared.
What if there’s an earthquake, fire, tornado, or medical emergency that leaves your client suddenly immobile and unconscious? Who would you call (after 911) to alert their family? What if a client’s new puppy dies from parvovirus exposure, and you don’t have any documentation to prove that no other students could have passed the virus to his puppy? (The puppy shouldn’t have been in your class in the first place without the parvovirus vaccination…and that conversation would have come up had you been meticulous with documentation.) What if a large adult dog attacks and maims another dog in a class, and you find out later that the family had only just gotten the dog the night before and the dog had no time to acclimate to a new environment, and was stressed beyond normal limits? These are all the what ifs and “actually-happeneds” that lead to gathering this type of information:
1. Client full name and contact information (address, phone, email)
2. Emergency contact for client
3. Pet’s name, general physical description, microchip #, sex
4. Pet vaccination history, general health information, alteration,
5. How long the family has had the pet
6. Brief behavioral description
7. General daily routine
8. Unique circumstances leading to training request
9. Training goals
10. How the client found you
11. The name of one friend that has a dog that could use more training in his/her life
WHAT EVERY CLIENT SHOULD KNOW (and SIGN a document) ABOUT YOU/YOUR COMPANY
By the end of your first phone call or face-to-face consultation, a client that’s ready to move forward with lessons with you should know:
1. Whether you’re comfortable and excited to work together.
2. How much each session will cost and how you accept payment.
3. What types of lessons you recommend for their goals, how often to meet, and where.
4. Any equipment you expect them to have ready at the first lesson.
5. That you can’t guarantee any degree of change in their behavior, but what you hope to accomplish together after a certain period of time.
6. Your refund policy (or where they can find it) on missed classes, make-up classes, or rescheduling for classes missed by A) the client and B) you.
7. A liability waiver that releases you from responsibility for any damage to the client’s property or injury to them or their pet as a result of your classes.
8. A liability acceptance taking responsibility for the actions of their dog during lessons
If you want some help setting up an intake form on your website or automating the process for your clients, our website development team can help! We’ve helped many a trainer get their sites streamlined to make it convenient for potential clients and simple for technologically-frustrated trainers to get their hands off their website and into their treat pouches ASAP. (And as with all our services, we keep our rates as affordable as possible!) Email Liz with your website address and the platform/company you used to set your site up, and we'll get back to you ASAP with some ideas and price points!