Put your pet into a good boarding kennel and check in on them via a private CCTV link on your phone whenever you like. Sounds marvellous, right?
“We’ve got a CCTV service,” Carlos Huertas, owner of G-Pet Hotel, Shah Alam, Selangor, confirms. “Our clients can monitor their dog 24 hours a day when they’re overseas. We give them a password that’s uniquely theirs. If they like, they can share it with their relatives so that everyone can check in. When they come home, we scrub the password and set it up fresh for the next person.”
It sounds delightful and I’m all signed up. However, there are 108 kennels at G-Pet but there are only 4 CCTV cameras available for clients.
“It causes a lot of extra work in terms of customer communication,” Carlos says. “We charge RM10 extra a day but we can’t take on more.”
Curious, I phoned around half a dozen boarding kennels, groomers and pet-sitters, to ask what their experience of CCTV was. And the responses were astonishing.
“I used to send a daily SMS to say all was well,” one dog-walker revealed. “With CCTV, I’m getting constant messages, demanding I go over quickly because the dog upset his water bowl or because he’s dropped his toy behind the sofa. Some people send me half a dozen summonses a day. It’s completely insane.”
“I got scolded because I didn’t answer WhatsApp messages within the hour,” a kennel owner shared. “They were sending them at 3am.”
“I had a client who shared their pet feed with their relatives,” a boarding house owner said. “Instead of having just one person sending WhatsApp and FB messages, I had four of them at me!”
“I have owners who want a daily photo and status report,” another kennel owner said. “When you consider that each pet needs twice daily walks, to be petted, played with, fed, watered and the kennel is cleaned daily, I just don’t have time to get my camera, pose the pet, upload it and add a thoughtful message. I want to remind them I have 50 dogs at peak periods, not just theirs but of course you can’t talk to clients like that.”
The problem seems to lie with instant global communication in that it has created impossible customer service expectations.
A study in 2014 analysing changing expectations polled 2,100 people and found that 66% expected a response to their query on the same day, and over 40% expected a reply within the hour.
Furthermore, because of the plethora of Internet-based businesses, we now routinely have these expectations:
> We expect all businesses to be open 24/7.
> Because big companies have huge infrastructure and staff who can offer 24/7, we won’t pay for the same service from small companies.
> We don’t just expect an email or SMS, we also want Instagram, Twitter and Facebook connectivity.
> We are very liable to share any negative comments over all our own social media channels.
When you put it together, the combination of CCTV gives us complete visual access, and the pressures created by instant global communication mean that operators are very wary of buying into the process.
Kennels, groomers and pet-sitters tend to be small businesses because the best kind of care comes from very personal service.
However, the attention has to be geared towards the pet that is under their care, not the customer.
As things stand, companies that do a good job by the animal risk being scolded by customers who feel they aren’t getting enough attention. It’s unfair and it can potentially hurt business, so we’re not likely to see any rapid increase of CCTV services any time soon.
Having said all that, a record of events can come in handy.
“We use glass walls and have an open concept so that people can see us at work,” says Gan Wee Yet, co-founder of House of Groomers. “We use CCTV to monitor our own areas but we don’t allow customers to look in. However, if there’s a complaint, we do look at the recording.
“Like three years ago, a customer said her pet was limping after the grooming. We examined the CCTV footage together that showed the dog was walking fine while on our premises. I like CCTV because it helps us resolve potential issues impartially.”
Although CCTV invites micro-managing and adds more stress to pet-sitting, it is useful to boost trust. If you have a pet-sitter come to your home, it’s probably good for both sides, especially if a pet becomes ill, or if there’s a robbery, flooding or some other disaster.
However, you might have to come to an agreement beforehand how often you communicate. In the end, you might just look at your own expectations and adjust them to focus on what really matters: a happy, healthy pet.
What you need to know about CCTV
CCTV packages can now be installed in your home at ballpark prices of RM2,000 and upwards for a four-camera set-up. However, installing the cables and support is separate. This depends on where you live, how much work has to be done, and whether you need loads of support or just a little.
A standard system will let you check in on your feed at any time via your handphone or secure online website. It will also be linked to a DVD or micro SD card that will automatically record “events”, meaning that if your pet isn’t in the living room, there will be nothing recorded but as soon as your pet jumps up on the sofa, you’ll have it on tape.
“Recording is normally time-based and event-based,” explains Verghese Thirumala, MD of Maxitulin, a company that specialises in security system integration. “It is also ‘recording continuously’ or ‘recording by motion’ or ‘recording by schedule’. Most commonly used is ‘recording by motion’. You can then search by approximate time and then fast-forward or backward.”
“Some vendors still supply normal PC HDD (hard disk drive) but it’s not really suitable,” Verghese warns. “You should use video surveillance HDD as DVR (digital video recorder) works continuously, 24/7. Your HDD capacity will determine how many days of recording will be available. One TeraByte HDD with four cameras in a home can have two to three weeks of recording.”
A CCTV system should last you five to 10 years.
“Clean the camera lens occasionally,” Verghese recommends. “Maintenance is low as there are no moving parts apart from the HDD. What can possibly become faulty is the power adaptor for cameras due to power surges and other issues.”
To be sure you’re working with a good vendor, make sure you include technical support along with CCTV installation. Also, a good company will come to your home and look at the light conditions and the areas that need to be covered before recommending a package. They’ll also be selling more than one system.
Finally, with plain security, you look at doors and perimeters but to make sure you can see your pets when you’re away, you need to put a camera near the feeding station and a favourite nap spot. So before you install anything, see where your pet likes to hang out, and make sure your camera covers it.