Wag! Platform

Wag! call center employees in Ahwatukee recently went through training and orientation as they prepared for their roles as customer service agents.

A dog-walking and sitting service that bills itself as “the inventor of on-demand dog walking” has opened its first call center outside its California base in Ahwatukee.

Wag! launched mobile on-demand services in 2015, and like many startups, there have been glitches resulting in some negative reviews.

But the company is committed to continually bettering its mobile app, service and communication with “pet parents who use the Wag! Platform,” said Jeff Davis, a Scottsdale resident and the company’s spokesman.

Davis was recently involved in the training of 25 customer service agents at the new call center at 4811 E. Thistle Landing.

Their initial press release said they hope to provide 100 local jobs by the end of 2018, all in their 24/7 customer care calling center – the only one in Arizona where agents will handle calls, emails and texts from 43 states where Wag! is available.

This is the company’s first expansion into another state.

“Until this month, most of our employees were based in California,” he said, adding that WAG! services were launched in Phoenix in February 2017.

The customer care roles in place and those yet to be hired include agents and managers who “will support pet parents and the walkers and sitters who work on the Wag! Platform,” Davis said.  

Locally, Daniel Ontiveros of Mesa and Gilbert’s Susan Bryner were hired as managers.

Wag! CEO Hilary Schneider, also a “pet parent,” said the Phoenix customer care expansion “allows us to address growing customer demand and continue to provide excellent service to Wag! users.”

In the past few years, several similar companies have emerged, each referring to their services or to themselves as the “Uber-like, on demand dog walker application.” Besides Wag!, these include Dogise (through Dectar) and Rover.

According to Bloomberg Technology, Americans spend more than $70 billion annually on pets, and the pet-tech industry is aggressively courting their business.

Like Uber, available Wag! walkers – who are pre-vetted, according to the company, through background screenings and dog handling tests – are shown on-screen whenever a customer wishes their dog walked.

Walks are available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, according to their website. Dog walkers’ profiles can be obtained by the client by clicking accompanying photos on the home-screen map.

Each Wag! walker or sitter is an independent contractor.

The company also provides free lock boxes to store house keys so they’re available to walkers, or customers can facilitate the access/exchange by leaving special instructions for the walker in the app.

If the lockbox is used, the company provides changeable codes sent to the walker accepting the job.

Wag! says each home is protected for up to $1 million when a dog walking or sitting service is booked.

The platform provides owners a map to watch the route being taken by their dogwalker; and the payment, varying by market but typically $20 for 30-minute walks, is made online.

Understandably, local dog walkers and dog sitters are dubious about the app that purportedly allows “spur of the moment convenience.”

One of Ahwatukee’s premiere in-home pet care businesses is owned by Kate McPike, doing business as K8’s Pet Care LLC. She founded her business in Ahwatukee three years ago, although she’s been pet sitting professionally here and in Texas for nearly six years.  

“I make my own policies,” she said. “I have my own insurance and bonding and am pet CPR/first-aid trained. My clients know I’m the one going into their home, not some random person they’ve never met.  They know I’m honest and if I say I’ve been to their home to care of their pet, I’ve been there.

“If I have to go back because I think I left my phone or didn’t do something, they know in advance that I’m going back, and for what reason,” McPike added.

She said she’s not one to knock the competition but after researching the business, and learning of issues from fellow members of Pet Sitter’s Forum, she agrees she does have concerns. Nevertheless, she said that at present, it doesn’t affect her business.

“My main concern is my business, not what Wag! does,” McPike said.

“I have so much business that I don’t have time to be a part of Wag! In fact, I finally had to quit daily dog walks because I was spending so much time doing the actual pet sitting and couldn’t commit to five days a week of dog walking at a certain time.  

“I do, however, walk dogs as part of my pet-sitting services when I’m taking care of a client’s dog or dogs while they’re away.”

Fraternal twins Cayden and Nathyn Weinmann of Ahwatukee say they’re not worried about Wag! cutting into their work as the “Dog Walkin’ Duo,” having established a trusting relationship with their local clients.

“I think what we’re doing here in our own neighborhood isn’t going to be bothered by Wag!” said Cayden, 12.

Added Nathyn: “Yeah, we know our clients and they know and trust us.”

The Altadena Middle School students started their own dog-walking service in 2017 and stay busy within their neighborhood.

Their parents, Christina and Dan Weinmann – Ahwatukee residents of 22 years – say they’re proud of their entrepreneurial sons and their commitment to their business and care for the dogs they walk.

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