Kennelwood Village chooses Karpel Computer Systems

What the software does: Ties all six Kennelwood locations together, keeps detailed customer information, tracks services provided to pets and performs payroll, scheduling and other office functions.

Does your terrier demand three walks a day? Need insulin shots? Mid-afternoon treats? Time to run around and bark with other canines?

If so, Kennelwood Village is happy to provide those services for dogs boarding at its chain of facilities. Kennelwood offers an array of services at its pet hotels, from Yappy Hour treats to personal playtime to suites with televisions tuned to "Animal Planet."

But tracking services for as many as 650 dogs and 70 cats boarding on holiday weekends, 75,000 yearly grooming appointments and dozens of training classes overwhelmed the off-the-shelf computer program Kennelwood used until May.

"We had a lot of special requirements," said Barb Haynes, general manager of three Kennelwood locations. "When you're dealing with people's family members, you don't want anything to fall through the cracks."

So early last year, Kennelwood managers began discussing their needs with Karpel Computer Systems Inc. of Saint Louis.

Kennelwood wanted to document each service provided to each animal, track each pet's vaccinations, its food and veterinarian - as well as assure that there was enough staff to provide the services.

In addition, Kennelwood needed payroll, financial functions and detailed information on each customer, from contact information to pickup and drop-off times for boarding or grooming.

Karpel started with a customer-relationship management program, but that didn't take into account the boarding and grooming aspects of animal care. Jeff Karpel, president and chief executive, likened the project to merging retail, hotel-management and service-business programs.

It took nearly a year of programming and consulting with Kennelwood to come up with the new system, dubbed eKennelwood.

The system ties all six Kennelwood locations together, so a customer who calls one office can enroll in programs at another location without making a second phone call. Early next year, customers will be able to make reservations for boarding or grooming online, specifying their pets' individual needs or a preference for a specific groomer.

Kennelwood customers can buy prepaid cards for multiple days of doggie day camp and other services. The eKennelwood program allows the company to track use of the cards, so it can remind customers when they're down to one or two visits, said Joe Zuccarello, vice president of hotel operations for Kennelwood.

It also tracks vaccination records, so Kennelwood can remind prospective boarders if they need shots before their next visit.

Kennelwood also uses the program to track pickup and delivery of pets to clients' houses with its fleet of nine Bow Wow buses, seven boasting a giant golden retriever on top. Kennelwood plans to offer doggie day care pickup soon to employees at Nestle Purina PetCare, where many employees bring their dogs to work.

The scheduling functions allow Kennelwood to shift its 225 employees among facilities as needed. For example, the holiday period means full houses at the company's three boarding facilities, but traffic at non-boarding locations may be light. Because most pets are bathed and groomed before returning home, the company sometimes brings in extra groomers as early as 5 a.m. on the Monday after a holiday weekend.

Kennelwood has grown dramatically in the 31 years since it was founded, but the old computer system was one constraint on its growth, Haynes said.

With eKennelwood, the company and Karpel set up a new location in O'Fallon, Mo., on the system in about 20 minutes - less time than was needed to install the store's computers.

Zuccarello is looking forward to using the system's analytical capabilities to determine where new facilities are needed, to gauge the popularity of certain services, even the productivity of employees.

Above all, Kennelwood wants to give its customers the security of knowing that their pets are cared for properly when the owners are away.

"They're boarding their pet here because they trust us," Zuccarello said.

Jerri Stroud
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Monday, Nov. 28 2005