Product Update - March 2022

Hello everybody :wave: - I thought it would be good to introduce myself to those who are new to the Forum.

My name is Ben and I am a Product Manager in the Member Experience Team at TrustedHousesitters. I have worked in product for over 10 years and strive to build products that customers love using. I have two miniature dachshunds who are cheeky, lazy and love a good tummy tickle. I’m also, like many of you, an active TrustedHousesitters member and love the platform and community that we are building.

As a team we are dedicated to driving member success and improving member experience. This is a huge area and we are continually making changes to improve the user experience for both our owner and sitter members. The forum is providing us with constructive feedback to help with these improvements - thank you for all the suggestions that have been made so far, we do read and take note of them all.

So that you can get a better understanding of how the wider team works, we thought it would be good to provide a bit of an update on some of the things that we have been working on over the last few months. Updates take place on a weekly basis as we continue to improve the platform.

Welcome Guide

About 3 months ago we looked at some of the ways we could improve our platform. This started with fixing some issues with the Welcome Guide while also increasing its visibility among our Owner members. 40% of sits last year started without a shared Welcome Guide, which meant there was a high chance of miscommunication between owners and sitters.

One of the most significant improvements we made was to make the guide easier to share. It is still early days, but we have already seen a big improvement in the number of Owners sharing their welcome guide. This will be something we continue to work on and improve.

Owner Addresses – Now Mandatory

We’ve also made it mandatory for owners to add their home address, which is shared once a housesit is confirmed. This makes it clear for sitters where the location is and also provides a record for our Membership Services team, for security and emergency situations.

Tracking Member Behaviour

We have built and introduced an internal tool for tracking member negative behaviours. For example cancellations without good reason, either on behalf of sitters or owners as these situations cause untold stress and problems. Now, if we have any new or recurring issues, we have a clear process in place for removing members who do not abide by our Code of Conduct. This is important, as it helps keep our community a safe and respectful place that we can all enjoy.

Mandatory Verifications

We initially made verification mandatory for sitter members in October 2021. We have been driving awareness and implementing procedures to make existing members fully verified.

This was prioritised because firstly, we identified this as a business risk, and secondly, because sitters with verification in place have an increased rate of success – more sitters are chosen who have verification than those who don’t. We also established that new owners were deterred from joining the platform because of the lack of verifications. Since introducing them, we have seen an increased number of sit opportunities.

A core foundation for a marketplace is building trust, making it easy for members to tell the community about themselves and to be third party verified. We will continue to build on this and make sure we offer a foundation where every user you see meets a required level of goodwill and authenticity.

Improvements to the App

We have been working hard on making improvements to the TrustedHousesitters app. We’ve fixed several bugs and added the capability to sign-in with a Google account. We have also simplified the editing of your listing or profile, added the ability to copy messages and made navigating to profiles and listings easier from the Inbox.

Our research shows that sitters who use the app see an increased chance in securing a sit . This is in part because you can easily set up push notifications (making you aware of new sits and new added dates), and you can quickly communicate with owners on-the-go.

We have been making members more aware of the app and this has resulted in a 30% improvement in the usage of the app. If you haven’t tried the app, please do give it a go and let us know what you think.

Well, this really is just a small snapshot of the ongoing work that happens behind the scenes, but we hope it has given you a taster of some of the things we have been working on. There are lots more improvements on the way and we will keep you posted with regular updates.

Many Thanks,

Ben

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Also here are some photos of my two dachshunds Billy and Bear.


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I hope you got some great sitters to look after them @Ben-ProductManager as I spotted your listing a short while ago!

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Thank you for the update. I’m very new to THS but really appreciate the app and the welcome guide!

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Thanks @Ben-ProductManager for this update on what’s been happening behind the scenes in relation to the product department.
In relation to owner addresses being mandatory, is that just for new owner members or are existing owner members being contacted for this or only being asked when they post a listing? I think it’s a great idea and very necessary.
I’m also pleased to read of the tracking negative behaviour of members that you have introduced internally. This type of behaviour has certainly been brought to our attention through the Forum so it’s good to see action being taken.
Mandatory verifications has certainly been widely discussed on the Forum! You say “We initially made verification mandatory for sitter members in October 2021.” But which verification are you referring to? Phone verification? Email verification? ID verification or all of them? There are definitely members listed who have NO verifications so how is this possible? How are they able to apply for and get sits if they don’t meet the verification requirements?
I’m sure members will look forward to your next product update, Ben.

Ok @Ben-ProductManager
we need a button to search for cute puppies named Billy and Bear.
just saying.

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We have just finished looking after Smartie, the tiny “hairy” dachshund. It was a fun pleasure. I always maintained once we settled down it would be a Jack Russel I’d have as my old aged companion but Smartie has definitely changed my mind.
How hard was it to house train them? Smartie was a little ***** during the night.

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You missed your opportunity @Amparo as Ben advertised for sitters not that long ago!!

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Well shucks! :laughing:

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Hi @temba

Regarding the new address, this is currently set up for new owners and we will be prompting existing owners to do the same.

Mandatory verification was implemented for new members in October. This is for phone, email, ID and CBC (U.S members). Existing members this went live on the 16th March. Members cannot now apply or confirm an invite without having done all verification.

Hope that is clear. Thanks, Ben

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If I am honest with you Billy is not great at night. If we don’t get up straight away then we do have a little accident. (However, he is nearly 14.)

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Hi @Ben-ProductManager , thanks for the update. I became a member yesterday and found the listing process pretty straightforward. As a new member , I didn’t realise the verification process was new but it’s something I would certainly look for . As well as reviews , I must admit . Another thing I noted that I contacted some sitters individually as they looked available from the calendar. But two have replied they aren’t available for my dates so I wondered what the process is for ensuring calendars are kept up to date? Another two sitters look like the calendars are available every day , so I wonder how active the members are and whether there is a way of telling who is still interested in sitting? Just to avoid wasting mine and the sitters time by sending invites :blush:.
Looking forward to getting to know the site and members better,
Amanda

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good morning @Ben-ProductManager and thank you for giving us a peek into what the team are working on. Communication between the team and the forum members is welcome and I am always happy to see more of it. Love your little dachshunds :slight_smile:

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Welcome to THS! The calendar feature has been discussed in many other posts. You can search using the magnifying glass on the top right of the screen. In summary - many people find the calendar too difficult to use so you cannot rely on it, unfortunately.

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Thanks for your hard work @Ben-ProductManager. Making the home address required is a good idea. Last year we had a pet sit, where the HO didn’t share their address before taking off for a vacation. It was not included in the welcome guide, since I guess they either had privacy concerns or simply forgot. It was a bit of nerve wracking to drive to a pet sit without knowing the exact address.

@Amanda_France as new members since Oct 21, I felt it was very important to keep my calendar up to date. Although initially, it was a bit cumbersome to negotiate the updates, once I managed to figure it out, I’ve been diligent in making revisions. For whatever reason, some members don’t bother to utilize their calendars at all. I found it works best for me, when using it through the website, rather than the app.

Thanks for the update, Ben. Really like that you’ve made owner addresses mandatory. Looking forward to seeing what else is on the way!

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I wonder percent of sits come from applicants to a listing versus invitations from an owner? I have to admit that I am terrible about keeping my calendar current.

Thanks @Joanne and @Lassie . At least now I know, I won’t rely on the calendars . I’ll have to take some time to read through lots of previous posts too .

Sitter member of many years here. I too find it challenging to remember where availability/calendar info is on the app (profile->scroll way down->View availability->Edit), and I use the app more than the website, so I admit I’m not good about keeping my availability accurate. If Availability is deemed important it should be “un-buried” somehow.

@Ben-ProductManager Thanks for the great update. It’s always good to know how the platform/service is evolving, since many changes, unless called to our attention, might not be noticed (even if important).

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