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The Importance of Rebooking Appointments

Rebooking clients is one of the easiest ways for groomers and pet stylists to boost their income. Encouraging clients to rebook on the day of their service will help keep a steady stream of pets coming into your salon.

cozy petClients that rebook before they leave return on a much more frequent basis than those who do not. Let’s face it – life gets busy. Personally, if I did not rebook my own hair appointment before I left the beauty salon, I’d be there a lot less frequently than every five or six weeks! Our pet owning clients are no different.

Many groomers don’t encourage their customers to rebook their pet’s next grooming. They think the client will come back when they are ready. While that may be true, it’s more likely the client will not return as often as they should.

As a professional, it is up to us to educate our clients how often they should return based on:

  • hygienic needs of the pet
  • coat condition
  • trim style
  • activity level
  • level of home maintenance between appointments

Most pets that are considered a part of the family require regular grooming. These owners share their lives, their homes, and sometimes even their beds with their four-legged family member. These pets benefit from weekly or bi-weekly bathing. Ideally, pets that require haircuts should be trimmed every 4 to 6 weeks. How often you handle hand stripped pets will vary based on the coat type and the technique used to strip out the dead coat. These dogs will need to be groomed weekly to a couple of times a year.

Pet professionals who understand the impact of rebooking realize that is not just a courtesy, it’s an important business building strategy. Educate your clients about the rebooking process. Encourage them to set aside time to keep their pet’s coat in peak condition.

Circle Steps

Here are 4 Tips to Ensure Your Clients are Rebooking with Every Visit

  1. Stress Maintaining a Schedule – As a professional pet stylist, it’s your job to educate your client. You know what it takes to keep their pet’s coat in peak condition. Find out how the client would ideally like their dog to look and learn their budget. Talk to them about how much at-home care they are willing to do between grooming appointments. Discuss the lifestyle of the pet. Once you know the answers to those questions, you can suggest the ideal number of weeks the pet should go between professional grooming appointments.
  2. Suggest Dates – Don’t just ask the client if they would like to rebook their next appointment. Suggest an ideal appointment date when you should see them again and have your calendar ready to set that appointment. If the client is hesitant, politely informing him that the best spots are already being filled can often help him make the decision to arrange for the appointment before he loses out to someone else.
  3. Offer an Incentive to Rebook – Small incentives can be a great way to keep clients coming back. Offer a small discount if they book their next visit within six weeks or less. Or offer them a free service with their pre-booked appointment. If they rebook weekly, bi-weekly, or every third week – offer them a special discounted rate to maintain the frequency of their visits. Do the math – you’ll probably be shocked at how steeply you can discount a weekly or bi-weekly client on their regular grooming price and still make more money on an annual basis.
  4. Train Your Staff – Rebooking is a courtesy to the client – and a benefit to you. Make sure your entire team understands the importance. The key to success is to ask EVERY client to rebook their next appointment before they leave.

Having an appointment book that is 50% to 70% pre-booked is like money in the bank. It’s a security system that allows you to breathe easily. It ensures you will not lose clients or revenue from light client bookings. It is one of the easiest ways to guarantee your income and keep your pet clients looking and feeling their best.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Grooming Efficiently vs Grooming Fast – What’s the Difference?

We all have different reasons why we love our careers. For most of us, our careers started because we were obsessed with dogs and cats. What a fabulous way to make money – doing something you enjoy. My guess is that many of you not only love animals, they’re also a hobby and a huge part of your lives. I know very few career opportunities that allow pet lovers to work in a field they truly adore.

I love helping people who are passionate about their career choices. I always encourage people to seek out personal growth. To look at ways to do things better, more efficiently, and with greater focus. Raise the bar. Set personal goals. Set limits. Develop strategies. Ultimately, the pet, the individual, and the business wins.

If you are a solo stylist, you get to make up your own rules. Work at your own pace. There is very little pressure to move beyond your comfort zone.

However, if you work with a team, you will usually have quotas to meet and rules that you need to follow. The business sets up these boundaries in the best interest of the client, staff, and the long-term health of the company. If someone does not meet quotas, it creates a frustrating situation for the rest of the team in terms of time, quality, and financial stability.

Years ago when I ran a mobile operation, our minimum quota of grooms per day was six – or the equivalent of six. Thus, two slots were given for larger jobs such as Standard Poodles and heavy-coated Cockers. If someone had something very small on their roster, they were always given an option to groom another small dog. As long as the vans were routed well, this quota worked out well across the board for years.

There was one exception: Sue (not her real name).

Whenever I hired a new mobile stylist, I always started them with just four dogs and combined that with a very wide arrival schedule. All of our stylists knew this right from the get-go. The quota they needed to meet was six grooms per day. The funny thing about Sue was that she didn’t care about the number of pets she groomed or the amount of money she made. Although she was passionate about animals and people, she did not groom because she needed the cash.

For a long time I was extremely frustrated with Sue’s performance. She would arrive at base at eight o’clock in the morning to pick up her van. Many times she did not come back to base until well after eight o’clock at night. The most dogs I could ever get her to do was five.

It took me a while to realize the frustration was all mine. As a business owner, it’s critical that I pay attention to the financial numbers – but there’s a bigger picture: customer service.

When I looked at Sue’s scheduled re-bookings, she could rarely take on a new client. Her clients absolutely loved her. She wasn’t the fastest groomer. She wasn’t a competition level stylist – never would be. Her grooms were basic, neat, and thorough. However, she was the most compassionate person I have ever hired. Not only did she enjoy the pets, she was passionate about her clients.

To Sue, her career was more than a means to a financial end, it was her social and entertainment outlet. I swear she had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with her clients. She ran errands for them. She shoveled their walks. She loved the senior citizens and the geriatric pets. She would talk with them for hours!

Hmmm. These were the clients my highly efficient stylists wanted to avoid like the plague. Once I came to terms with this concept, I ended up making it work in our favor.

I let Sue slide on the quota. She was dealing with all those clients the rest of my team would rather not do. By letting Sue focus on our more time-consuming clients (and enjoying it!), it allowed the rest of my team to focus on making quotas and/or exceeding them. It worked.

So even though I let Sue slide – only doing five grooms a day when the actual quota with six – it allowed the rest of my team to focus on grooming more pets. Not necessarily faster – just more efficiently.

Untitled Infographic(1)rrThere’s a big difference between grooming efficiently and grooming fast. Grooming efficiently involves doing a good job. Grooming too fast, in my eyes, translates to sloppy work. When I look at developing a grooming team or training new staff members, I always look for people who have the ability to focus and work efficiently.

To me, being efficient means doing a great job in the least amount of time.

I recently heard one of our industry leaders say, “I don’t know many wealthy groomers.” I don’t, either. I do know a lot of groomers and stylists that make a comfortable living and love their careers. Being able to work efficiently translates into creating larger client lists, larger paychecks, and the ability to breathe easily at the end of the day.

Unlike Sue, the majority of us have other responsibilities, outside interests, families to care for, and households to run. We may even have businesses to manage. Not to mention maintaining the health and well-being of both ourselves and the four-legged clients on the table. As much as we love our jobs, we can’t afford to be tethered to a grooming table any longer than necessary.

Being efficient as you groom is not about being fast or sloppy. It’s about being the best that you can be. It’s about creating systems throughout the entire grooming process so we do not miss any steps. As those systems are developed, they become automatic. Once they become part of a routine, you can focus on other areas that bring value to the pets we groom, the clients, and to our own lives.

Think about how you can create systems – or routines – at every step of the grooming process. Break it into bite-sized chunks.

Time everything. Knowing how long each step takes is the starting point of creating any routine. Each step could be broken down further into smaller nuggets, too. Once you start tracking, you can start improving your routine without sacrificing quality.

I love this quote. I try to live my life by it – in all areas. I hope you do too.

The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.
~Anonymous

There are plenty of groomers and stylists who are highly efficient. They can do a small, simple trim in under an hour – and knock it out of the park in terms of quality and customer service. Others struggle to complete the same trim in two hours. Others choose to do that simple trim at their own pace. As long as the work is top quality, the pets are treated with care and compassion, and the environment is safe for everyone – it’s OK.

We all have different reasons why we groom. For some, it’s more than just a job – it’s a lifestyle. Remember, there is a big difference between being an efficient bather, groomer, or stylist and being a fast one. Never stop learning. How you apply new knowledge is totally up to you.

Make the most of your time every day.  Click here to download our FREE handout to help you structure your day.  You can even watch Melissa’s video to see how it’s done, here.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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What Keeps Clients Coming Back?

When a student graduates from The Paragon School of Pet Grooming, I love to hear about their success stories down the road. They might work for someone else or work for themselves. They love what they’re doing and their careers are thriving. But what makes those graduates successful?

For many of them, it might not be what you think.

We all have good friends. When you think about those friends, what traits draw you to them?

Quote In A CircleMy good friends are honest, dependable, self-confident, empathetic, and are good listeners. They have integrity. I enjoy being around them.

Bottom line, I trust them.

Not every groomer needs to be an all-star stylist to succeed. However, having repeat clientele is the lifeblood of any business. It does not matter if you are a solo groomer or work with a team of pet stylists with a support staff. Getting customers to come back on a regular basis pays the bills.

We are not in the business of washing and styling pets. We are in the trust business. For many of the clients that we deal with on a regular basis, their pets are an extension of their family.

I’m not a parent but if I were, I would never leave my child anywhere I felt apprehensive about the facility, the people, or about any part of the service. Most of our clients feel the same way about their fur babies. If you are going to be successful, your clients need to trust you.

To be a successful pet groomer or stylist, you need to have repeat clientele. Repeat clients are attracted to the same types of characteristics as your good friends. When you get others to trust you, it’s easier to grow your clientele and/or your business. It allows you to give all your clients and the pets exceptional service.

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Unfortunately, trust is fragile. If you lose it, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to restore it.

You can’t fake a genuine relationship built on trust. The same characteristics that build a good friendship will build strong relationships with your clients and their pets.

Trust can take a long time to build. Yet it can take only a moment to weaken or disappear because of one senseless act. Without trust, you don’t have a business – or a job.

Trust keeps clients coming back. Repeat clients keep your business healthy. Take the time to build trust and strengthen relationships with your customers – you’ll be amazed at the result!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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How Many Pets a Day Should You Groom?

I often say there are shades of gray in pet grooming.

Marc and WestieHow many dogs a day you should groom is one of the BIG gray areas! The number will be different for everybody. Some people feel overwhelmed grooming even three dogs in a full day. Other people can do 16 while barely breaking a sweat.

Here are just a handful of the scenarios affecting the number of dogs that might be groomed in a day.

  • Level of grooming experience
  • Work space setup
  • Equipment
  • Salon location
  • Salon type
  • Size of salon/mobile setup
  • Working solo or with assistance
  • Pet size
  • Type of grooms – low maintenance, bath and brush, show trim styles
  • Personal motivation
  • Your personality
  • Financial need

I’m sure you could add a few more to this list!

Typically, when someone first graduates from grooming school or is new to the industry, productivity is not high on their skill list. Rather, their focus is on thoroughness, quality, and safety.

New groomers will improve their speed as they develop skills and confidence. They need experience. They need coaching. They need guidance to create an effective grooming system. The system allows thoroughness while enhancing the quality of their work and the pace in which they do it.

If you’re a seasoned pet stylist, you’ve learned many of the tricks that allow you to be efficient. You’ve learned how to quickly assess a pet and easily determine its grooming needs. You are thorough. You work safely. You have a strong base of repeat customers.

Over the years I’ve seen beginners struggle to get through three dogs. I’ve seen highly efficient, seasoned stylists get through 16 or more dogs in the single day and still have the time and energy to have a little “me time” that evening. Where do you fall on the scale? Where would you like to be?

Being able to work quickly and skillfully can also be impacted by the layout of your work space. Are you set up for maximum efficiency? A bad layout will add unnecessary footsteps to your day and waste your time and energy.

Quote In A CircleYour equipment, tools, and products will also help or hurt you. Many products will enhance your speed and the quality of your final product. Do you have access to high-quality, time-saving, products and tools? When used correctly, they are well worth the investment and can help you groom more pets efficiently.

If you are a solo stylist either in your own salon or mobile setting, 6 to 8 dogs will likely be your maximum. In addition to grooming pets, independent business owners have a wide range of duties and responsibilities. They are the receptionist, the bookkeeper, the marketer, the janitor, and the record keeper – along with every other task it takes to run a successful business. If you are a mobile stylist, you also have driving and van maintenance added to your list of responsibilities.

Efficiency comes into play when pet grooming establishments start building a team. You cannot build a successful business or team with inefficient team members. Inefficient teams will not be able to groom as many pets as their efficient counterparts.

Financial need affects dog numbers. To get a decent paycheck, everyone needs to pull their weight. If you are hired onto a team or work with an assistant, you will have quotas to meet. Some quotas are determined by dog numbers. Other businesses use financial sales volume. Both help determine how many dogs are groomed each day.

Typically, once you start working with others, dog volume increases. In most salons, a team of people working together will be expected to do a minimum of eight dogs a day or more. When you’re working within a team, everybody has a specialty. Each person can focus on what they do best, whether it’s customer service, bathing and drying, or pet trimming and styling. If you have an assistant doing the bathing and drying for you, the number of pets might jump from 6-8 to 12-14. Let’s face it – bathing and drying dogs takes time! If a shop has a good bather/prepper, you can easily groom more pets in a day.

The type of trim combined with the sizes of dogs being done will make a huge difference in how many pets can be done each day. A #7F All on a six-week regular Shih Tzu is much different from a longer guard comb trim with stylized scissored legs. What happens if you increase the size of the dog? Larger dogs simply take much more time. To me, a Doodle is the equivalent of two or three smaller dogs, depending on the type of haircut it is getting.

For many pet professionals, WHY you groom pets will also influence how many dogs you groom in a day. One of the amazing things about our industry is we all love dogs. There are those who really enjoy taking their time with the grooming process and will groom fewer pets. There are those who will try to help as many pets as they can in a single day. Others enjoy the creativity. Some enjoy the flexibility the career offers while others are motivated by the career opportunities. There are also groomers that simply enjoy earning a living by doing something they love.

How many dogs should you groom each day? There are lots of gray areas so there is no right answer. Whatever your motivation, no matter how many dogs you groom each day, the most important thing should always be the health and safety of the pets entrusted to you.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Growing Your Business? Make Room for New Customers!

Growing your business starts with two simple equations:

Marketing AmyIf you want your business to thrive in any economy, you need insurance – and repeat business is your insurance plan.

During my recent lecture about client management at a large trade show, an audience member said something so amazing I knew I had to share it with you. I wish I had caught her name so I could give her full credit for her brilliant idea.

Professional groomers are always busy when the weather is warm. Most of us are booking out two to three weeks (or more) in advance. When the weather is toasty, people always want their pets groomed. The dogs are hot, dirty, and stinky. Even the once or twice per year clients start calling.

BLOGWhere are those clients during the slower times when your appointment book needs filling? Those are the times when you wish you had more regular clients that book consistently every few weeks.

Those regular clients are your bread-and-butter. They keep your bills paid and food on your table. They are the ones you can count on. Any successful grooming salon wants a roster full of regular customers and the time to look for them is not when you’re slow. You need to get them while you’re at your busiest.

It’s not as crazy or as impossible as it sounds.

Remember that brilliant audience member? She said she always leaves at least one opening per day to accommodate walk-ins and new clients.

Some of you are shaking your heads. Why would you leave an appointment slot empty when you can fill it with a regular client? You’re probably thinking that you’re losing easy money.

Here’s where that insurance plan idea kicks in. The problem isn’t being booked out when the weather is nice. The problem is that you need to be booked no matter what kind of weather you’re having. You do that by adding clients – and when are new clients calling? The same time as everyone else.

A new client will not wait 2 or 3 weeks to book an appointment with you. They will just move on to the next groomer who set that time aside, just waiting for that client to call.

If you’ve nurtured a relationship with your regulars, they will wait for you. They love you. Their pets love you. Making sure to pre-book their next appointment ensures they get premier treatment and the best appointment times. The long-term investment you’ve made in keeping these customers happy will now start to pay off.

Setting aside those five slots a week is how that lady in the audience maintains a constant stream of new clients. These walk-ins become customers that she can educate and count on during the slower times of the year. As she builds up her regular clientele, she can eliminate the once or twice a year dogs. After all, wouldn’t you rather work on a super regular client instead of a twice a year outdoor farm dog?

Quote In A Circle$100 for a once a year farm dog seems like a lot of money – but is it?

Let’s say you have a 6-week regular client who pays $50 per visit. That’s half of the once a year farm dog. You are going to see that client eight to nine times a year. On an annual basis, you’re going to earn between $400 and $450 for that single client.

The farm dog? You will earn $100. $100 you can’t count on next month or next year.

Which would you rather do?

If you do not make time in your schedule to take on new customers, you might miss out on adding a valuable client that will keep your bills paid when it’s slow. This client could make the difference between working or being sent home because you don’t have any dogs to groom.

Which salon would you rather work at?

As a bonus, making room in an already packed schedule allows you some wiggle room. Maybe you don’t have a walk-in on that day. Or maybe you don’t have a new customer calling to book an appointment. That open slot allows you a little breathing room. Probably at a time when you most need it.

Do you have to take every first-time appointment or walk-in coming through your doors? Absolutely not.

I would ask for some critical information before you get too far into the conversation. Of course, the customer will want to know the price. That gives you the opportunity to learn the breed, the age, the size, the coat condition, and how long it’s been since his last professional grooming. These questions will help you determine whether you should book the appointment. Trust your gut with what the client says. It’s your appointment book.

When you do make room for a new client, make sure you also take the time to educate them. Most clients don’t know how frequently they should have their dogs (or cats) groomed. Talk to them about their lifestyle and how much maintenance they’re willing to do between appointments. Talk about what you can do for them as well their limitations based on the condition of the pet. Custom create a regular schedule that will suit their needs and keep their pet looking and feeling its best.

Will you get it right every time? No. But if you don’t make room for prospective new customers during your busiest times, you won’t have regular clients to carry you through when it’s slow.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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How Do You Remove Track Lines from a Coat?

I still remember how frustrated I got when I first started grooming.

eraserI was the assistant, doing mostly bathing and drying for the groomer. One day, she was overbooked and was falling deeply behind schedule. She had a basic “all trim” on a larger dog that she hadn’t even started yet. Out of desperation she asked if I would remove some of the coat before the bath.

I thought to myself, “Sure, why not? How hard could it really be?” I picked up the A2 clipper as the groomer handed me the appropriate head. I twisted it on and set to work.

What a mess. The dog wasn’t hurt but my work was awful. The dog was full of uneven coat and lots of tracking.

The groomer had always made it look so easy. Coat seemed to melt off like a hot knife through butter. Her clipper work was always smooth and even. No track marks. No sticky-outies.

This was not nearly as easy as I thought!

However, I stuck with it.

Quote In A CircleThe groomer coached me as I struggled with the second side. It turned out somewhat better but was far from perfect. Today, I would not consider my work that day as acceptable – not even as pre-work before the bath. It was that bad! Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about all the tracking. It was just the rough cut before the bath. Once the dog was clean and blown dry, the groomer finished it in no time.

Fast forward 10 years. I had mastered the clippers and figured out how to eliminate tracking in the coat. On rare occasions, I still had problems. By that time, I was in my own mobile grooming van and running my own business. One of my clients was a buff American Cocker whose owners wanted clipper cut.

Most of you who have been groomers for any amount of time know some buff-colored Cockers track terribly when clipper cutting. This dog was no exception.

It didn’t matter what blade I chose.

Tracks.

It didn’t matter how powerful the clipper was.

Tracks.

It didn’t matter what time of year it was.

TRACKS.

The. Coat. ALWAYS. Tracked.

On one appointment, I basically threw my hands up. I could not get the tracking out of the coat. I had used all the tricks I knew to no avail. As I sat there contemplating how to remove the lines, I had an idea. What would happen if I reversed a blade over this coat? Hmmm. At that point, I figured I didn’t have much to lose.

I tried out the technique on an obscure spot on the dog’s body. I reversed a #7F blade then stepped back to check my work. I realized it was going to be way too short. I bumped up to a longer #4F blade. When I tried again – it was perfect. It was the length of a #7 blade. And even better, it was baby butt smooth. Eureka!

Over the years, I’d figured out how to get all coat types super smooth, but this Cocker type coat had always given me trouble. Once I mastered that coat type, coat tracking was a thing of the past for me.

So how do you get coat super smooth without any tracks?

There is not one simple answer but there are lots of techniques and trouble-shooting options. Here are a few tricks that I discovered with years of practice.

Page 479 Ways to Eliminate Track Marks

  • You need super sharp blades. The sharper the blade, the faster and smoother the cut.
  • Get a powerful set of clippers. They don’t necessarily have to be large and clunky. They do need to have enough power, speed, and torque to glide effortlessly through a thick coat.
  • Use consistent speed when clipping through the coat. As you guide the clippers through the coat, you need to run the clipper consistently over the pet’s body.
  • Card thick and dense coats before AND after. Dead undercoat clogs clipper blades. Removing as much dead undercoat prior to clipping and then again after the clipping will greatly reduce lines.
  • Always follow the lay of the coat either clipping with the grain or against the coat growth. Cross coat cutting typically creates track lines. Focus on working with the natural lay of the coat.
  • Reverse blade clipping. When the coat growth pattern is distinctive, reverse clipping can be beneficial to remove or eliminate clipper tracks. Instead of working with the coat growth, work directly against it. Reverse clipping cuts the coat closer than working with the grain. Always bump the blade up two lengths longer – a #4F cuts the length of a #7F with the grain.
  • Maintain a consistent degree of tip on the blade as you clip. Every clipper blade works most efficiently when the heel of the blade is tipped up slightly. The shorter the clipping action, the higher the degree of tip.
  • Keep consistent pressure against the skin as you clip. Typically, the weight of the clipper is the correct pressure to apply. Keep a supple wrist as you guide the clipper over the pet’s body.
  • Fine detailed thinners work as erasers on stubborn lines. When all else fails, you can buffer clipper lines with thinning shears, knocking off just the high points of the tracks.

Every coat type is a little bit different. Some coats barely track at all. Others are almost impossible to get smooth. Learning how to minimize tracking takes time and practice. Mastering a smooth clipper cut in the least amount of time takes focus and attention to details.

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to mastering clean perfect clipper work. Groomers who have mastered a track free simple “All Trim,” on a regular small to medium-sized can groom a pet in one hour or less.

If you struggle with this problem, my book, Notes from the Grooming Table, has a very detailed section about clipper work in the front of the book. My Learn2GroomDogs.com streaming video platform also has some great videos about efficient clipper work in the Core Video Category. Make sure to check out those two educational resources. If you work with a team of stylists, someone within your group might be able to coach and mentor you. You can also look for local clinics or workshops where you can work with a seasoned professional.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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3 Options for Clients with Matted Dogs

How many times a week do you deal with a matted dog? If you are like many of us, it’s more than once. For some, it might even be a daily occurrence.

There are immediate questions that needs answers:

  • How do you talk with the pet parent?
  • How do you tell them they are not taking care of their pet properly?
  • What are the consequences of their neglect?
  • What can you do for them today?
  • What can you do for them in the future?

As a professional pet groomer, we always need to remember – humanity before vanity.

Can you demat a badly tangled coat?

Probably.

Should you?

Not necessarily.

Once in a great while, a client will have a legitimate reason why their dog is in poor condition. Occasionally, I will demat a dog if I sense it’s a one-time occurrence. I know the tricks to get a dog detangled relatively quickly. I have the skill, products, and tools to do it safely and humanely. However, there are two main reasons why I won’t always do it.

  1. The dog has a low pain tolerance.
  2. The client will not appreciate the work.

Here’s a perfect example. Years ago, I had a Bichon owner who always brought her dog in matted. This Bichon had a dense, curly coat. She was a regular six-week client. The owner was always immaculately presented when she dropped her dog off – the clothing, the hair, the makeup, the shoes, the jewelry, and nails. You get the idea. Oh, and she drove a Cadillac.

This was a woman who was used to getting her way. Her dog was always on the edge of whether we could brush it out or not. She never brushed the dog at home between groomings. The dog was a great advanced student dog. He was quite tolerant of the brushing process making him a super lesson dog.

One week she missed her six-week scheduled appointment. When she showed up two weeks later, the dog was trashed – matted all the way to the skin.

Crest. Head. Legs.

We told her we were going to have to start over. We would need to shave her Bichon down to the skin. He would be naked. It was the only humane option.

She was horrified. She couldn’t be seen with a naked dog! There must be some way to save the coat.

There was. She could get the dog combed out HERSELF and bring it back. But we were going to have to be able to sink the comb in all the way to the skin and pull it easily through the coat.

We gave her a thorough lesson. We even sent her home with the proper tools. We told her to come back when she felt her Bichon was totally combed out. Then, and only then, would we would give him his longer, fuller Bichon haircut.

She went home determined that she would be able to get him detangled. A few days later she returned. When we did the comb test, do you think he passed?

Not a chance. She watched the comb clearly get hung up in the coat on the first pass.

We told her to take the dog home and continue working on him.

Long story short, she returned six more times before she finally gave up. We shaved the dog with a #7F blade. We were able to leave a little tiny bit of extra coat on his head and a tiny bit of fluff on his tail. Everything else was naked.

When her sweet Bichon finally grew out about 12 weeks later, we set her up on a two-week maintenance schedule. She never missed another appointment. She learned her lesson.

Here are the three options for clients who bring you a matted dog.

  1. The pet parent needs to learn how to brush.
  2. The pet parent needs to learn to like it short.
  3. The pet parent needs to book more frequent appointments.

When faced with a matted dog, how do you have a conversation with the owner?

The conversation needs to be sincere. It needs to focus on what is in the best interest for the pet. You need to be sympathetic to the reasons why the dog got in this condition.

(Stop rolling your eyes… I can see you.)

When you speak with an owner, they need to understand there’s only so much we as groomers can do. The last thing we want to do is hurt, injure, or bring discomfort to their pet.

b5205d66495a007babfa874878a04a88--haircuts-for-boys-layered-haircutsDogs have the mentality of a two-year-old child. If their two-year-old child, grandchild, niece, or nephew came to them with their hair matted all over their head, would they ask the child to tolerate having it combed out? If the tangles were tight and right next to the scalp, making every stroke of a comb or brush painful, they would most likely trim the matted hair out. Have you ever tried to remove gum or candy stuck in a child’s hair? Imagine the same impossible tangle right next to the scalp, covering the entire head. Trimming off that hair would be the most humane thing to do, even if the end result is not the haircut you would typically prefer.

It’s similar with a dog, only with the dog, the hair isn’t just on their head. It’s all over their entire body. You might be able to salvage a very small section but it’s not fair to ask the dog to submit to a lengthy dematting process. Most dogs do not have the pain tolerance or patience to sit through it. It could take hours to thoroughly brush and comb a dog out. Plus, there is a high risk of injury to their skin. And to top it off, asking a dog to sit through an extensive dematting process could be traumatic. It could scar them for the rest of their grooming life.

Even if a dog does have the tolerance for it, the cost will be extensive. Tell them what your hourly rate is. Estimate how long the dematting process would be. On a small dog, it might be about two to three hours (and yes, I would estimate on the high side), plus the regular grooming time.

If my hourly rate was $60 an hour, the customer would be looking at an extra $90-$120 for the dematting, alone. Money talks, so most of the time you can stop there.

If you sense the client is willing to pay your dematting rates, move into your next talking point: what’s in the best interest of the pet.

While it’s good to know they would be willing to spend the extra money to have the dog combed out, it’s also important to see if the dog will even tolerate it. At this point put the dog on the counter or grooming table. Grab your combination comb, sink the wide toothed end down to the skin – and give a firm tug. Gauge the reaction of the dog. Most of the time they will flip around with extreme displeasure. It’s visually clear to the pet parent their fur baby is being hurt. That’s exactly the reaction you want.

Most pet parents cannot stand seeing their dog in pain. If they understand this condition is painful to the dog they can often be trained not to allow their pet to become matted again.

matted dog 2

The reaction of the pet, how deep the pet parent’s pockets are, and whether you feel the owner can be rehabilitated into a well-trained client will determine where your conversation will go next.

Most of the time, you’ll want to go with the humane route – and that means a full shave off. I might – or might not – try to salvage a small amount of coat on the head and tail, if possible. Mentally prepare the owner for what the dog will look like after the grooming process. Remember to emphasize that this is the only option for their pet.

Once you settle on what you are going to do that day, talk about future haircuts and how to maintain the dog so it never gets in this condition again.

Remind them of their three options.

  1. Learn to brush
  2. Learn to like it short
  3. Book more frequent visits

Talk to them about their lifestyle and how their pet plays a role.

Ask if they are willing to find the time to properly brush and comb their dog between professional groomings. If they are, give them a thorough demonstration on proper brushing and combing techniques for their pet’s coat type. We always keep the necessary tools on hand in our retail area. Make sure your clients leave with the proper equipment to maintain their pets at home. Having a handout outlining proper line brushing techniques is also extremely helpful.

If they don’t have the time or the desire to brush their pet at home between groomings, talk about booking more frequent appointments and setting them up on an economical maintenance schedule. The maintenance schedule could be weekly or biweekly.

If the dog is just too far gone, if the client is a repeat offender, or you just don’t have time to deal with a matted dog – skip to the chase. I would simply tell them, no – I will not comb their dog out. There are no other options other than to shave the coat off.

Talk to them about rebooking their next appointment in 6-8 weeks. By about 12-14 weeks they should be grown in enough to be able to get the trim of their choice if they want to maintain a fuller look. They might also opt for a simpler trim style that is short – one length all over. Their choice will be based on how they want to care for their fur baby.

Regardless of whether you are doing a brush out on a matted dog or simply shaving the matted coat off, I encourage having owner sign a matted pet release form. This form opens the door to talk about the dangers involved with matted coats. It’s a simple fact: if the dog is extremely matted, there is going to be a higher risk of injury to the pet. If you talk about it prior to the grooming and the dog does get injured in any way, most of the responsibility has been lifted from your shoulders. However, that doesn’t give you the excuse to be careless. The last thing any of us want to do is injure a pet. However, when they are severely matted, the risk of them being hurt is always present.

Remember these key points:

  • It is always important to do what is in the best interest of the dog.
  • There is a limit to what you can do.
  • There’s a limit to what the dog can tolerate.
  • You are a professional pet groomer – not a magician.

There are limits on what you can – and should – do for the animal. Be honest. Be sincere. Keeping the pet foremost in your mind when coming up with a solution will always play in your favor. Even if the client is upset, stick to your guns. It’s the client’s fault the dog is matted, not yours.

Mentally prepare your client the worst-case scenario: a totally naked dog. Over-estimate the amount of time it’s going to take. Over-estimate the amount of money it’s going to cost. Over-estimate the risks involved with dealing with a severely matted pet. If you do that, anything beyond naked or less expensive or even a mild nick is going to be seen in a positive light by the client.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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How to Handle Tardy and No-Show Clients

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy rule for solving the problems of tardy or no-show clients. The good news is that you have lots of options to help deal with it. Depending on how busy you are, cancellations can either be a blessing or a curse. In either case, if you have a client who is chronically dismissive or disrespectful of your time, you need to be proactive and correct the problem.

Our kennel, Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, experienced 68 reservation cancellations over the 4th of July holiday. During the summer months, Whiskers runs at over 100% occupancy rate with its 180 rooms. During peak holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Spring Break, Whiskers charges a $50 deposit for all reservations. This deposit is nonrefundable if the cancellation takes place two weeks prior to their check-in date. In the past, the deposit has not been charged for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day. That will be changing.

For years we’ve tracked grooming appointment cancellations at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming.  Despite our continual efforts to knock the rate down, its remains a persistent 10%.

late

In the pet grooming industry, time is money. Clients who are chronically tardy or don’t show up for their appointments create havoc for both your schedule and your pocketbook.

It’s frustrating.

It’s disrespectful.

It’s rude.

(However, if you are overbooked, it can also be a blessing.)

There is no perfect solution for this problem. Everyone has a slightly different take on this situation. Some salons run on a very tight schedule while others are more relaxed. And let’s face it, there are times when the client has a legitimate excuse. So, what do you do?

8 Ways to deal with Tardy and No-show Clients.

  1. Call or text to confirm the day ahead. Sometimes clients just need is a gentle reminder to avoid a scheduling conflict.
  2. Breathe. For some pet stylists, having a cancellation is not a big deal. It doesn’t happen that often. The clients are well-trained and respectful of their appointments and time. In some cases, it might even be a relief.
  3. Overbook. Service businesses do this all the time to ensure they are full. The key here is to have a variety of pets on the books. If there are a few easy jobs sprinkled between the more difficult ones, you will get through your day, even if your cancellation rate is below the 10% mark.
  4. If they are 10 or 15 minutes late – call them. If they can make it into the salon within a few minutes, keep the appointment. It’s easier than trying to refill it – unless you don’t want to! If you opt not to honor their appointment, rebook them for another time. Don’t wait 30 or more minutes and then explode when they walk in the door expecting to keep their appointment. It’s better to make the call right away and know what your next step should be. This method offers you more control over the situation. With some clients, you need to personally point out why it’s important for you and/or your team to have set appointment times. This can be done in a friendly – yet firm – professional manner. This tactic also works well with non-chronic cancellations.
  5. Have a 3 Strike Rule. Some people are just forgetful. Others are just plain disrespectful. Others are downright rude. If the client will not respect your time, you don’t have to continue to put up with it. Occasionally, there are solid reasons why someone misses an appointment. Life happens. The 3 Strike Rule covers clients who are chronically late or don’t show up for their appointments. If you’re going to set up a 3 Strike Rule, what are the consequences? Do you refuse to groom the dog in the future? Charge a cancellation fee? Do you have a client prepay a nonrefundable amount for the scheduled next appointment? If you make a rule, there must be consequences. Make a policy, then consistently stick with it.
  6. If the client cancels, fails to show up, or is tardy beyond being able to groom them at their appointed time, reschedule them. Don’t do them a favor by squeezing them in the next day or two. Push them out at least two weeks. I’ve known many stylists that are so busy they have NO flexibility left in their schedules. If a client misses today’s appointment they can’t get another one until their next pre-scheduled appointment. This works exceptionally well for stylists that are booked out weeks, months, or even a year in advance. It can be a hard lesson for the client but it is generally very effective. Rarely do they miss another appointment.
  7. For clients who are chronically tardy or don’t show up, charge a late or no-show fee. You won’t always get it, but if they book another appointment, you can tack it on to their next grooming fee. You could also consider raising their base price to include an inconvenience fee.
  8. If you have a client who simply cannot adhere to a schedule or does not respect your time, have them prepay prior to their grooming appointment. This should be a nonrefundable amount. After all, your time is valuable and it’s worth money. If they cancel, you can’t get your time back nor the money you would have earned if they had kept their appointment.

late-payment-excusesAre there exceptions to your rules? Absolutely.

If you don’t already track how many cancellations you have each day and each week – start tracking it. Find out what your cancellation average is per day. Once you know the number, you can be proactive in correcting the problem.

Another way to look at it is from a dollar standpoint. At Paragon, our average cancellation rate is 10%. If you apply the 10% rate to your situation and you do 20 dogs a day at $50, that starts to add up! That translates into losing two dogs or $100 every day! Times that by five days a week and you’re at $500 of lost revenue. To me, it’s worth taking the time to simply call and remind people of their upcoming appointment the day before!

We are in the business of building positive relationships with our customers, both the two-legged and four-legged variety. Your personality and the type of relationship with your clients dictates how firmly you adhere to the demands on your time. Remember, these customers not only affect you and your time, they ultimately affect your schedule and your other clients. You need to be warm, caring, and maintain your professionalism.

Just because you are warm and caring does not mean you can’t set rules and boundaries. Remember, you can still provide great customer service and have a mutually respectful relationship that benefits both you and your client.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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When Should You Just Say No?

Agressive dogrrPet groomers and stylists are in the service industry. Our role is to help people and their pets. When we do it well, we make people happy.

What if you can’t make them happy because you can’t groom the dog safely due to its aggression or health? Should you still groom the pet?

If you have been in business for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve run into this scenario. Even seasoned professionals struggle with this dilemma at times. Should you groom the pet or turn the client away?

The easy answer is to refuse to groom the pet. However, there are many variables. If you feel the situation presents a high risk for the pet or you – simply say no. That’s your right as a business person or a conscientious employee.

You must put the safety of the pet and yourself first.

Once you have that clearly established in your mind you can start analyze the situation.

  • What is raising the red flags in your mind?
  • What are your qualifications when it comes to handling a difficult grooming situation?
  • Is this a new or a long-standing client?
  • Can the pet be groomed safely with the help of an assistant?
  • Will the pet cooperate if the owner stays or assists in the grooming process?

When I think about these questions, I always mentally play out the worst case scenario. The last thing that I ever want is to have to tell an owner that their pet was injured while in my care. Or that we had to take him to the vet for treatment. Worse yet – that their dog died during the grooming process.

Let’s face it, there are a host of things that could go wrong in any grooming salon even under the best of circumstances.

The list of dangers working in every grooming salon is massive. We are working with:

  • live animals
  • sharp instruments
  • tall tables
  • bathtubs
  • dryers
  • abrasive brushes
  • stacked kennels
  • slippery floors.

On most days, an experienced bather, groomer, or pet stylist takes all these dangers in stride. We know how to avoid accidental injuries to our four-footed clients.

So what do you do when that internal gut instinct kicks in?

You are standing there, looking at a dog (or cat) and listening to a client talk about their precious fur child. Deep down – some type of internal fear grips you. You just have a bad feeling about this particular groom. You know the old saying, “trust your gut instinct?” Well folks, that natural instinct is working in full force. Listen to it.

It’s okay to say “no” to a grooming client. It’s never worth grooming a dog you honestly feel is beyond your level of experience. If it’s more than you can handle, you have a potentially dangerous situation. The pet and you are the ones at risk – not the owner. I don’t know a single pet care specialist that ever wants to intentionally harm a pet.

Yet, if something goes wrong with the groom on that day, whose fault will it be? Yours.

Weigh out the risks. Whenever you need to decline service to a client, it’s an uncomfortable situation. But the alternative is much, much worse. Telling an owner their pet has been seriously hurt or died in your salon it the most difficult task you will have to address. You want to avoid that at all costs – even if it makes the client angry or upset.

If it’s a new client, it’s much easier. There isn’t that emotional tie that comes with repeat or long-time clients. It’s much easier to refuse to groom a dog that is too big or too aggressive for you to handle.

It’s the long-time clients that are tough. The longer they have been a regular client, the harder it is. If a pet has physical ailments, it’s tougher. This is when you need to weigh out the risks and look for alternatives to your standard grooming practices. The health and wellness of the pet has to be a top priority.

Here are the questions you need to ask.

  • Could the pet be done safely with an assistant?
  • Would the dog benefit from the owner staying with the dog during the grooming process?
  • Would a different time of day work better for the pet? Maybe a time when you can focus solely on the pet without distraction?
  • If your salon is busy, would a solo stylist or mobile stylist be a better option?
  • Would it be in the best interest of the dog to get the grooming done without stopping? Maybe it’s best to break the grooming into sections, letting the dog rest between sessions? That might be over the course of the day or even over several days.
  • Would it be in the best interest of the dog to be groomed at a vet clinic where medical attention could be rapidly administered, if needed?

Years of experience have taught me there is not an easy answer. Whenever you need to decline services to a client, it’s an uncomfortable situation.

However, if you decline services, do so out of care and compassion for the pet. Be prepared to offer alternatives to the client, even if that means you simply tell them “no,” you cannot groom their dog. Be ready to refer them to someone better suited to handle their pet. List all the reasons WHY you cannot and will not groom their pet. Do it with the confidence of a professional.

In the end, as difficult as it is to say “NO” to clients, you will sleep a lot better at night when you do. Trust me on this one.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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The Art of Giving Great Service – The Zingerman Way

bookAbout 6 years ago I read a great book while sailing on my dad’s boat. It was Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: Building a Great Business.  At one point, my dad picked up the book. He read a few paragraphs I had highlighted when I went below. When I returned a few minutes later, he said, “Good book. They know what they are talking about.” Wow. Coming from my dad, that meant a lot.

Zingerman’s is an institution in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hailed by Inc. Magazine as The coolest small company in America,” the original business was founded in 1982 with Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Since then, Zingerman’s has expanded to 11 food-related business, 724 staff members, and sales of over $62 million.

Service is a cornerstone of Zingerman’s success. Zingerman’s has earned its reputation for great service by intentionally creating a culture that nurtures amazing service. They teach every one of their team members system “recipes” which are at the heart of their extraordinary service.

I was so impressed with the book, I ordered copies for all my team leaders!

At Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, we really rolled up our sleeves. We took the summer to read the entire book together. Once a week we met to review, strategize, and implement what we learned from the pages.

When we started Zingerman’s training in 2011, we were earning about $655,000 in annual gross sales between overnight lodging, daycare, and grooming. Last year we grossed just short of $2.25 million. And the real kicker – we spent virtually nothing on advertising! Our growth has been fueled by stellar customer service from an amazing team of enthusiastic, pet-loving staff.

I know the Zingerman’s training isn’t totally responsible for the growth. However, I’d like to think it helped us formulate a positive culture for our Whiskers team.

Recently, we learned ZingTrain was coming to Grand Rapids for a half day of service training. We could not sign up fast enough. We had 13 team members there from all facets of my companies taking up two corporate tables. We all walked away pumped up and energized! Some of what we learned was a refresher for some of us – for others is was all new. Plus, it was refreshing to learn new service ideas the Zingerman team had formulated since we read the book. The concepts are all easy to implement, too.

I’d like to share a few of those with you.

Zingerman’s 3 Steps to Great Service

zingerman#1. Figure out what the customer wants.

  • Ask questions. Listen to what they really want. Give choices. Repeat questions back to the customer for clarity and understanding.
  • 10/4 Rule. When you get within 10 feet of either a customer or a coworker– make eye contact and smile. Once you get within 4 feet of a customer or coworker, verbally exchange a positive comment. (I’m not talking about those that you work with side-by-side all day long – however a room full of smiles and positive interaction is energizing).
  • Spend as much time as necessary to positively impact the customer. For repeat customers, it might be a quick exchange. For new customers, it’s going to take longer to help build a relationship, form a bond, and build trust.

#2. Get it – or do it – for them…

  • Let people know realistic deadlines, cost estimates, and realistic outcomes. Be specific. Under promise and over deliver.
  • Always say please and thank you. Avoid industry jargon.
  • You want the customer to leave feeling like the interaction with you was the best part of their day.

#3. Go the extra mile.

  • Do something the client didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to be costly. Even simple things can delight and pleasantly surprise your customers.

Within this framework, employees use their own best judgment about how to serve each individual customer.

If you’ve never heard of Zingerman’s or ZingTrain, I encourage you to look it up. If you want to dig in deep, grab the book and apply its principles. If you need a quick pick me up, participate in one of the mini sessions like we did today. Their systems approach is applicable to businesses of varying industries, organizational structure, and size. They are committed to helping others succeed.

You can learn more about their training programs at www.zingtrain.com. You can get the book at the best price by ordering directly from Zingerman’s www.zingtrain.com/building-a-great-business

My entire team left energized and ready to implement many ideas immediately. We were all impacted by the training we received. Hats off to the Zingerman team of Elnian Gilbert and Tabatha Mason and to the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring the program!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat did you think about these ideas? What do you do that works great for your team? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.


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