ABC Pet Resort & Spa
Where Service Spells “Success”!
By Kathy Hosler
At the ABC Pet Resort & Spa, we are service driven… The things that put ‘Mom and Pop’ in business years ago still need to be remembered,” says Suzanne Locker, the owner and general manager of the resort since 1991. “We believe in the core values of loving what we do with the animals and their owners,” she continues. “It’s very important to me to keep that connection with the people who let us take care of their animals.”
The ABC Pet Resort & Spa is located in Houston, Texas. They have 106 enclosures that range in size from their Junior Dorm Room up to their spacious luxury suites complete with private patios. Many of the resort’s clients are families with multiple pets, who request that their dogs stay together in the larger accommodations. During peak times, they can house about 175 dogs. They have 24 units in their cattery. Owners can choose a cozy condo or a luxurious townhouse for their feline family members.
They have a staff of about 25 full-time and five part-time employees. Suzanne is very proud of her staff and how dedicated they are. Many of them have been with her for more than ten years.
The boarding kennel business is extremely competitive in the Houston area. “There are four major 100-run kennels within five miles of us,” says Suzanne. “We have a great professional relationship with all the kennels. If there is a problem or a disaster, such as a hurricane, we all work together.”
However, when there is a lot of competition, you’ve got to do things and offer services that make your facility stand out from the rest. The ABC Pet Resort & Spa offers some truly unique services. “We do a free concierge service for the first-time boarder,” says Suzanne. “It gives a confidence factor to the owners. We assign one of our techs to personally care for that pet. We have found this to be a very good program.
“When one person cares for a pet, they form a bond and the pet does better. That person becomes the pet’s ‘buddy.’ The tech writes out a little report for the owners on how the pet did, and they take pictures together with the pet,” Suzanne adds. “Then it often translates into the pet owners wanting that service every time their pet boards with us.
“We added daycare about six years ago,” shares Suzanne. “It has been a real revenue booster. It’s not seasonal like boarding can be; it’s everyday, steady revenue.” ABC’s daycare is almost exclusively outdoors, which both the pets and owners really like. They have about 10,000 square feet of K9Grass and lots of trees for shade.
“We have an entire department that only does playtime,” says Suzanne. “We believe that the dogs need to be stimulated. It does no good for the dogs to just stand around in the areas. The staff does activities like the ‘follow me’ game, blowing bubbles, using agility equipment, recall, group sits, and more. They believe that busy paws are happy paws.
“In our daycare, we usually have three or four separate groups based on the dogs’ sizes and temperament. We have moveable fences so that we can configure the size and shape to fit whatever groups we have.”
Another thing that sets the resort apart from others is their Aqua-Air built-in wet/dry vacuum cleaning system. It is connected directly into their plumbing system.
“These wet/dry vac systems have changed the whole protocol for pet facilities,” says Suzanne. “It puts water or product down on the run floor and immediately vacuums it back up. The run is totally dry, and the dog can be put back in immediately. The waste water empties directly into your plumbing and there is no smell. It’s phenomenal!”
The resort also does something they call the “quiet rotation.” The playtime staff comes in at 6:30 in the morning. They assist in taking every dog outside to relieve themselves. The noise is kept to a minimum when each dog is accompanied by a “buddy.” While each dog is outside, the kennel techs use the cleaning system to have a completely clean and dry run ready when the dogs return. The “quiet rotation” is efficient, fast, and less stressful for the dogs.
“My whole strategy is to run a stress-free facility,” says Ms. Locker. “After all of the dogs have had their trip outside to eliminate, the playtime staff begins their individual playtime activities.”
The resort offers more than 20 optional activities to their canine and feline guests. That’s why they need a full-time playtime staff; some days they have 14 hours of playtime activities scheduled. For the couch potato, they suggest low-level activities like their “senior stroll,” “kuddles and kisses,” or “storybook tails.” For the more active guests, they have high-level activities of “power walking,” “agility fun,” and “woof ‘n’ wade.” Cats can play “laser tag” and “Kat & Mouse,” and all of the pets can enjoy special treats, a tuck-in bedtime service, and can even have holiday or birthday parties. Of course, the resort has a gift shop where pet foods, treats, toys, gifts, and accessories can be purchased.
The resort offers grooming and spa pampering services. By far, the most ordered spa service they have is their super popular de-shedding treatment. They also get a lot of requests for paw treatments. The resort also offers training. Clients can register their dogs for group obedience classes or opt for private lessons. Day training and board and train programs are also available.
Education is a key component of the ABC Pet Resort & Spa. “We really focus on educating our staff,” says Suzanne. “For example, we want not just a cleaning staff; we want people who can identify when a dog is having a problem being away from his family and to make the adjustment easier for the pet.”
The team members regularly attend seminars on dog behavior, and every staff member is required to pass the PCSA (Pet Care Services Association) Pet Care Technician course. “Our staff shares their knowledge with the clients,” adds Suzanne enthusiastically. “We have a library of DVDs, books, and articles in print that are available to them. On our website, www.abcpetresort.com, people can access lots of educational information and also read our latest newsletters.”
By anyone’s standards, the ABC Pet Resort & Spa is a real success story built on the continued support of many happy and loyal clients and by the exceptional customer service provided by the resort’s staff. “Our clients (two- and four-legged) are of the utmost importance, and we go a long way to serve them. You form a bond with them, and you really do become part of their family,” says Suzanne emphatically. “We try to lift people up. I want their lives to be better because of their association with the ABC Pet Resort & Spa!”