This month in Driver Interviews, we bring you Deborah Joffre of P.E.T.S. She runs a family owned and operated transport service out of Kennesaw, Georgia. In over two years with CitizenShipper, she’s racked up literally hundreds of shipments with overwhelmingly positive reviews.
We caught up with Deborah a couple of months back to get her take on pet health certification and dealing with animals that mimic their owner’s behavior.
To start off, tell us what inspired you to make this career choice, and how did you originally hear about CitizenShipper?
I honestly can’t remember how I got into this business. I believe I was just searching online back in May 2017, stumbled onto the site, and signed up. It took me over a month to quit my job and go for it full time.
I have a background in management and exceptional customer service skills, which has benefited me greatly over the years. My son being a vet tech, we have fostered many animals and some have stayed with us. We love animals, and own quite a few pets ourselves.
Yes, you’ve mentioned on your profile that your son is a certified vet technician and helps you in making sure the “fur babies” are well provided for. Can you tell us a little bit about your working relationship?
My son has been a vet tech for about 15 years and actually manages a clinic here in the Atlanta area. So the relationship is basically this: if I encounter any problem, I call him, he speaks to the vet, and they advise me on how best to solve the problem. He also helped me put together a first aid kit for the road. We have stuff in there that we can use if the need arises. Plus, this way we’re able to use a lot of over-the-counter meds that people might not even know can help the pet.
But generally, I am a solo driver and not a dispatcher – it’s only me from point to point.
Animal safety is obviously high on your list of priorities – you ask your customers to take out health certificates for their pets before booking you?
Yes, when I’m picking up a pet, I ask to see a current vet certificate. If I’m traveling with that pet to California or Florida, I always carry the cert. I also make sure all pets are up to date on their shots. I move a lot a puppies, and many of them yet have not been vaccinated for parvo, so I need to isolate them from the older ones.
The puppies stay in their carrier from pickup to drop-off, except when we’re in hotel rooms. I wipe them down with baby wipes, brush them down and shampoo them to make sure they smell sweet before delivery.
For older dogs, we have tiedowns in the van to keep them secured. We use seatbelt leashes, but try to let them move around until they’ve found a spot they’re comfortable with. This also allows them to get to the water whenever they need to. I use a two leash system, so the are never off a leash as I let them in and out of the van.
I also ask for each pet to be freshly bathed, preferrably with a medicated shampoo, to avoid the risk of flea or lice infection. (I’ve had this happen once, but I was able to quickly remedy the situation.) Just in case, I carry Capstar flea treatment tablets. If a pet did end up with fleas, I would give them one and it would clear the infection within 30 minutes. Then I’d leave a second one with the owner to redo the treatment two weeks later.
Your reviews on the site are pretty amazing, people seem to really like the way you do business. They describe you as “friendly”, “confident”, “accommodating”, “professional”… How much of your success do you attribute to your ability to connect with customers on a personal level?
I think all of it helps. If you keep in mind the fact that you’re transporting someone’s family member, you can’t go wrong. If you approach a customer from that standpoint, you’ll quickly put their mind at ease.
Whenever a customer says, “I’m sorry, he can be difficult around strangers or other dogs”, it turns out I have no problem at all with that pet. Then I need to explain to them that certain behaviors transfer from them onto their dog.
The more knowledgeable you are about a specific breed, or about dog behavior in general, the more comfortable the customer is with you. It’s about building confidence with your client. I pride myself in going out of my way to not only reduce any anxiety my charges may feel, but the fur baby’s parents too.
Most of the time, animals mirror their owners’ behavior. I send them daily updates at a minimum, sharing pics of where we are at as often as I can. Nothing calms a pet parent as the image of their dog showing his normal behavior or sleeping during the trip.
So yeah, I’m a people person. I have a steady flow of repeat clients, and I refer new people to the site both as drivers and as shippers.
Lastly, any plans for developing your business further? Drivers who’ve reached your level of success often think about expanding, hiring more people, buying additional vehicles…
I would love to run a bigger operation – for every transport I take, there are at least a dozen I end up ignoring. I can’t even keep up with deleting old emails! Expansion has been recommended to me many times, but alas, that takes money and I’m not quite there yet.
I’m working on buying a home with some land, and starting a breeding program myself to help supplement what I’m already making. Hopefully, that will help me reach the next level. I have plenty of people at home to help me run the breeding program, so I could still drive. But I need the finance for all that to happen. So if there are any start-up investors out there, give me a call!
Good luck with that! Thanks again for taking the time, and thanks for sticking with us for so long. Keep on drivin’!
Thanks so much!