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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.


Get ’em Talking

The lifeblood of any successful business is positive word of mouth marketing – but how do you get people to talk about you? The answer is simple.

IMAGErrDynamite customer service.

When it comes to creating amazing customer service, there are a few things you need to focus on.

  1. delight your customers
  2. earn their trust and respect
  3. be interesting
  4. make it easy for them to talk about you

Going the extra mile pays huge dividends. Yet sometimes you don’t have to even go that extra mile. Sometimes it’s the simple things like:

  • helping people and their pets
  • solving problems
  • treating both the client and the pets with dignity and respect
  • creating a warm, clean, and safe environment

If you genuinely care about your business and your career – none of the items listed above are difficult.

One my companies, Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, is phenomenal at impressing people which in turn gets them talking. We do virtually zero paid advertising. Instead, we focus on those four key elements listed above; delighting our customers, being interesting, earning our clients’ trust, and making it easy for them to talk about us.

Here are a few examples.

We offer full facility tours ANYTIME we are open to the public. We have extended hours from 6 AM until 9 PM Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, the resort is open from 7 AM to 8 PM.

When folks tour the facility, it is an automatic wow factor. Even though we have 180 rooms for the dogs, it is always spotless. It’s wide open and inviting. The noise levels are not out-of-control for a facility the size. One area of any pet care facility most people do not give a lot of thought to but it makes a HUGE impression. The smell. Rarely is a tour given where the participants don’t comment on this fact. We normally get that wide open expression people get when they are surprised. They look at us and say, “I would never guess there are over 200 dogs here! There is NO doggy odor!!” We pride ourselves on the fact that it always smells fresh and clean.

Our tours get people talking. Stop and think about it – what do you think someone is going to do as soon as they leave the tour? They have just experienced an amazing place that can help them solve many problems when it comes to their beloved family pets. Most of our prospective clients race home to tell their friends and family. Almost all of them become customers.

Here is another way to foster word of mouth marketing. Photos and events. Over the years, the Whiskers team has hosted many special events for both our overnight guests and doggie daycare clients. The entire goal for these events it to get people talking in the community. The parties are promoted through our monthly client newsletter and Facebook page. It works.

In fact, parties and photos worked so well, we’ve scaled back the amount of parties we offer. Why? Because we operate at over 100% occupancy rate during most of the summer season, almost all weekends through the year and major holidays we’re booked out weeks – if not months – in advance.

Even though these examples are talking about a pet resort – the grooming spa feeds off the same frenzy the word of mouth marketing creates. At the resort, the grooming department is open 7 days a week and with two shifts running on most days.

So how do you apply this type of marketing to your business?

First, make sure you have remarkable grooming and customer service skills. If there any weak links – fix them. You need to be able to delight your customers with your grooming skills while winning their respect and trust. Once you have done that, then you can start getting creative with the fun stuff. How to get clients and prospective clients talking about you. What will make you interesting? What will make you stand out from your competitors? If you are successful – people will start talking about you.

Remember, you need to make it easy for your customers. If they adore what you were doing – they will automatically love talking about you with their family, friends, coworkers, or anyplace people gather.

So here are a few ideas that you can use to help spread the word while making it easy for others to find you. On every piece of promotional material that goes out, whether it be print or in digital format, your name, address, and contact information easy to find and readily accessible.

  • Facebook Page – Make it appeal to your customers. Have fun with it. Post appealing photos you take while working. Add items that would be of general interest to the bulk of your customers. Pet general health. Fun things to do with your dog. Behavior and training articles. Recipes that cater to dogs or cats. Find things that will make people smile and laugh that are pet related. Always keep it clean. Always keep it professional.
  • Email Addresses – In this digital age, capturing an email address is more important than a street address. Having a robust email contact list will be your most economical source to stay in touch with your customers and potential customers. Always – always look for ways to collect email addresses.
  • Create a Monthly or Quarterly Client Newsletter – Electronic newsletters do not have to be long. Two or three smaller articles or points of interest are generally enough in our fast-paced information loaded society. Combine the articles with a few promotions you have scheduled for the month or for the quarter. And make sure it easy for your customers to share the newsletter through other social media outlets.
  • Special Events – Even if you do not have room to host a full-fledged party, don’t let that stop you from doing something special for your customers are participating at events. Most small towns have a parade – maybe they are taking part. What about charity dog walking events? Matching themed T-shirts and bandannas combined with freshly groomed dogs from your salon can make a big impact in the community. Maybe you give them a free spa upgrade with a special gift to take home. On Valentine’s Day, make sure every dog leaves with a special treat – maybe a rose with a card attached to it “signed” by the dog. Maybe you do a free pet facial or pet-i-cure. Whatever the event – make sure you have the promotional materials at your fingertips. That will make it easy for them to pass along your contact information when they talk about whatever interesting event you just hosted. Pay attention to details.
  • Encourage people to talk about you – Post signs around your salon. On your front door. Add it to your receipts. Make sure it is on all your informational handouts and service menus. Encouraged people to speak in a positive light about your services. Make it a personal goal to make your customer smile – or better yet – aim for a reaction that makes them gleam as they say thank you. Do something memorable!
  • Business Website – Make sure that it is clean and easy to navigate. It doesn’t have to be long or lengthy. With smaller businesses, simplicity can go a long way. Pictures are worth 1000 words – so make sure you use high quality images to support your text. One of the most popular pages on any website is the gallery. This is a wonderful place to showcase your facility and or your work. You don’t need 100 photos – that would be overwhelming and too difficult for most devices to download. 10 to 15 of your best images will do. Also, don’t forget to make sure your website transfers cleanly between computer and handheld devices.

These are just a few ideas to help you get folks talking about you. There are thousands of ways to get the ball rolling – it just takes a little forethought and creativity on your part.

Happy customers are always your greatest advertisers. If you expect them to share their experiences with you, you’re going to have to help it along. To spur it along, make sure you give people a simple message to share and then ways to help them pass it along to others.

Remember, you need to give prospective customers and clients a positive reason to talk about you. People do not talk about things that bore them. They do not talk about just acceptable service. The only talk about things that excite them. Delight them. Wow them. If you focus on making your customers happy, earning their trust and respect – they’re going to start talking about you.

Word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective form of marketing any service company can do. It will far outperform any coupon or paid advertisement you can run anywhere. When people share their experiences about your company to their friends, family, coworkers and associates, It’s the highest compliment they can get. They are putting their trust in to you. They are encouraging people they know to use your services. That’s success and that’s the reason you need to get them talking about you!
Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

How do YOU deliver amazing customer service? Go online and tell us about it on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


Build Compassion Toward Your Clients

blogrWhat does it take to build a robust following of grooming clients? Simply put – compassion.

I’ve been in this industry a long time. I’ve seen my fair share of groomers pass though my employment.   I’ve had groomers and stylists that were phenomenal. They were super speedy. They could make a dog look dynamite in no time. Their advanced grooming skills were flawless.

…But they had personalities of snakes.

I’ve had groomers that were far from top level stylists. Their work would be considered “fair.” They got the dogs neat and clean, but they had not mastered advance styling skills. There was very little hand-scissoring, no hand-stripping, and their knowledge of correct breed profile trimming was limited. What they did have was compassion. They simply loved helping people and their pets

Who do you think had the fullest schedule?

Here’s the #1 secret ingredient to maintaining a full appointment book: compassion. It’s caring sincerely about a client’s needs, wants, concerns, and desires.

Compassion builds trust. I wish could single-out quality as being the most important ingredient to a successful pet profession, but it isn’t. It is a close second.

Throughout my years, the professional who truly cared about the pet was always the easiest to book. Their days were always the fullest with repeat customers.

When you have compassion, you’re putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. You honestly feel for them. You want to help them solve their problems in a kind and caring way.

So, the next time a client walks through your door – no matter how chaotic your day is going – stop and breathe. Then smile at the client. Remind yourself you are in business to HELP people and their pets.

Here is an important tip that helps create considerate customer service: ask questions. When you ask questions, you show compassion and concern for the needs of the client and their pet. It helps build rapport. Make sure your questions are sincere and to the point.

Asking questions also allows you to get valuable information from the client. This line of observations and questions work exceptionally well when communicating with a customer.

  1. Be observant of clients as they walk through the door. Let common sense guide your line of questions.
  2. Find the problem. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a thorough bath and brush for Fluffy today, or more of a full haircut?” to find the problem.  Let the client talk. LISTEN.
  3. Gather clues from what the client tells you and what you observe.
  4. Offer limited choices as you help the client solve the problem.
  5. Guide the questions in five areas of the pet:
    • overall body
    • head
    • ears
    • legs/feet
    • tail

I hate to break this to you, but a large part of being a successful pet stylist IS a personality contest. Clients are experts on knowing if they feel valued. Make them feel special. Ask question and then LISTEN to what they say. Active listening skills let a customer know you care about them and their pet.

If you want to have an unstoppable career – become both talented AND compassionate towards your clients and their pets. Not only is that combo financially rewarding – it’s extremely gratifying too!

-Happy trimming,

Melissa

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What Does the Client Want?

puppy-trainingThe #1 Role of Service Based Businesses: Solution Experts

A product is a physical thing. You can see it and touch it. You can box up the parts or the assembled item and know how it will look, how big it is, and where you’ll put it when you get home. A service, by contrast, is intangible. You can’t mail a service to your house or carry it from a store.

In most cases, services are purchased – touch, taste, smell, and sight unseen. It’s a leap of faith based on the client’s ability to say what they want and the expert’s ability to interpret them correctly. When you go to a salon or barbershop, you can’t try out a haircut before you buy it. You tell your stylist what you want, then – hopefully – you get it. The better you describe what you want, the better the outcome.  Dogs can’t tell you to take a little off the top, so how can you unlock the secret of what your (human) client wants?

By understanding that the person asking the questions controls the conversation!

When you are asking a question, it forces the other person to pay attention to you. It involves them in the conversation. If you’re doing all the talking, the listener’s mind can (and will) wander to other matters – and the end result may not be satisfactory to either of you. But the minute you say, “Let me ask you this: what if we…” the listener must pay attention because they’ll need to answer. It is an automatic reflex.  The power of the words “what” and “how” is almost magical – they command a response.

You’ve now included them in the process.  It’s become a team effort.  You want to get the client on your team – that’s why this conversation is so important.  When you ask questions, you show compassion and concern for the needs of the client and their pet. It helps build rapport. It also allows you to get valuable information from the client.

On average, a person can speak at about 250 words a minute while a person who is listening can think at about 1200 words a minute. So, if you are doing all the talking, the client has a great deal of time to figure out what they may not like about what you are saying, thus giving them an opportunity to complicate the situation! Not only are they manipulating the conversation out of your control, they haven’t heard a thing you’ve said!

How do you develop an effective line of communication with your clients?

Find a Solution in 5 Simple Steps

1)  Make observations. Let your senses guide you when your client walks in. How does the pet look? How does it smell? Do you hear the ticking of nails on your floor? Don’t stop there – observe the human client, as well. Is the dog owner elderly or did s/he come in with small children? This might indicate that a nail filing service might be beneficial to protect sensitive skin. Let common sense, experience, and intuition guide your line of questions. Remember – you’re a problem solver. The more observant you are, the easier it is to find solutions.

2)  Be a detective. This step involves your observations in Step 1 and takes them to another level. Gather clues from what the client tells you and what they don’t. Use your experience and expertise to find solutions that go deeper than the cosmetic.

3)  Filter your data. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a thorough bath and brush for ‘Fluffy’ today or more of a full haircut?” Let the client talk. Then listen. This will help form an overall rough picture in your mind of the outcome*. Think of this as a sketch to your finished masterpiece.

4)  Pinpoint focus to 5 areas of the pet+.  Ask more specific questions about these key aspects of the pet so you can make a better decision about how they should be styled.  This will provide details that fill out the sketch.  The areas of the body pet are:

  • Overall body
  • Head
  • Ears
  • Legs/feet
  • Tail

5)  Offer limited choices. Now that you know what you can (and maybe should) do for the pet, I personally suggest limiting options to two possibilities. Paint your picture back to the client to show you understand what they want and how it should look.  This also demonstrates that you have listened to them and care about what they have to say.  After all, isn’t that what you expect when you’re the customer?  Make these options your best two – offering more just means spending more time narrowing the field from those that will have less favorable outcomes, anyway.

Always remember, the person asking the questions controls the conversation!

Successful groomers and stylists are master problem solvers. While solving the problem, they also demonstrate concern, compassion, and respect for the pet and the owner. That’s what creates happy customers who keep coming back!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

 

*Remember to start from the desired end result.  My blog Begin with the End in Mind has more on this topic.

+I recommend using Theory of 5 as a guide to guiding the conversation. Understanding how to break each dog into its essential parts helps simplify the process.

 

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How to be an Indispensable Groomer’s Assistant

blogrThis always shocks me. A competitor or a workshop participant presents me with a DIRTY DOG for evaluation. A dirty dog?! No joke – it happens all the time.

Nails are not trimmed correctly… coats are not dried properly or completely… or worse yet, there are still mats and tangles left in the coat. These are all constant problems I see all the time. Not only at in the ring or at hands-on events, but in salons with every day grooming too.

To me, bathing and drying are the most critical parts of any groom. One bather can make or break your entire grooming department.

Here are 7 skills I look for in an indispensable groomers’ assistant (AKA the bather!) All 7 of these skills must be MASTERED in if you want to be highly valued in your grooming salon, if you want to move ahead in your career, or before you can you gather loads of glowing clients.

1.  Be able to identify popular breeds

Anybody working professionally with pets needs to be able to identify the top 15 or 20 breeds that regularly come into your salon. It’s the fastest way for groomers to be able to communicate to one another.

2.  Be able to handle pets safely and compassionately

How many times have you heard others (or maybe even yourself) say, “This dog is driving me nuts!” Impatient treatment of a pet is never acceptable. If you lose control, you can bet that you won’t have clients for long. Being able to understand canine body language is job requirement #1. If you are going to win the pet’s trust and cooperation, you must be able to speak its language. It will keep you and the pet safe. It will also make the entire experience much more enjoyable for all parties.

3.  Understand the many different coat types found on individual pets

Each coat type has special needs that need to be addressed in the bathing and drying process to get the best results. A Beagle has different bathing and drying needs than a Standard Poodle. The same holds true with a coat on a Golden Retriever or an Airedale Terrier. A talented bather will instantly be able to identify dogs that possess simple coats or dogs that are going to be time-consuming and a challenge.

4.  Bathe the dogs until their coats squeak

If they don’t squeak, they are not clean.

Period.

This is absolutely the foundation of every fabulous grooming job. I cannot stress its importance enough. There are many products on the market to help achieve superior results in only one or two baths. Even if you use the best shampoos on the market, the dog will not get squeaky clean unless they are rinsed thoroughly. Rinse until the water runs clear and you hear the ‘squeak’ when you push the water through the coat. And not just the easy to see or reach parts. Get soap and water to the undercarriage, under the ears, and the special parts. If the whole dog isn’t clean – it’s still dirty. Nothing wastes time or money more than having to re-bathe a dog because you didn’t do the job right the first time. There’s an old saying: if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? Get it right the first time.

5.  Dry the coat to perfection

Most of the time, this will mean utilizing a form of active drying. There are several drying methods and combinations to choose from, based on the coat type, trim, and the pets’ tolerance. Incorrect techniques or careless attention to drying will waste more time than almost anything else in the grooming process. In most cases, high velocity and stretch (or fluff) drying techniques will need to be used to get superior results. Oh, and the pet needs to be bone dry too!

6.  Learn efficient and SAFE brushing techniques

Systematic brushing is the only way to effectively work through a coat and get right down to the skin. Selecting the correct tool for the coat type will be important. Knowing how to hold the tool along with how much pressure to exert is also important. Not enough pressure and you will not be efficient. Too much pressure and you’re going to make the pet uncomfortable and could cause injury. The key is to work methodically and gently over the entire dog – right down to the skin until a wide tooth comb can easily be pulled through the fur.

7.  Nails, ears, and glands

Trimming nails and cleaning ears is just an automatic process when it comes to grooming pets. If it is not done – or not done well – it’s considered sloppy. Clients don’t want to spend their hard-earned money on sloppy work. Stylists executing haircuts should not have to go back and double-check this type of preliminary pre-work. Some salons routinely check and/or express anal glands. Whatever your salon option is, you should follow their guidelines.

Being a bather – or being a groomers’ assistant – can be extremely rewarding. However, it does carry a lot of responsibility. Many of these skills are considered the foundation of all grooming.

If you need detailed information in how to do any of these skills, become a member of Learn2GroomDogs.com and watch the Core Grooming Skills & Techniques Skill video lessons (click here for a complete video list) or review the front section of my book, Notes From the Grooming Table. Learning the skills does take time. They take dedication and focus to master them. You should never underestimate the value of strong foundation skills. They will form the building blocks of a long and successful career. Mastering these core skills to an absolute fault will ultimately determine how successful you will be in your career. (For more tips on how you can be more efficient and make more money, read my blog, The Need for Speed.)

Remember: every owner faces a choice when it comes to grooming. They can come to you, do the job themselves, not have the pet groomed all… or go down the road to someone else. Make sure they make the right choice by sticking with you.

Happy trimming,

Melissa

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Don’t Let Your Salon Become a Doggie Day Care (for Free, Anyway)

kennelrA salon owner recently asked me how I would handle a situation we all face.

What do you do when pet owners drop their dogs off for grooming that should only take 2 to 3 hours and expect you to keep them all day – at no additional cost?

Here’s what you do…

CHARGE FOR IT!!

Let’s face it – you’re never going to get away from this problem, so flip it into a positive.

Add a policy on pet pickup to your service menu: “We pride ourselves in getting your pet back to you as quickly as possible.“ Then briefly explain what your typical timeframe is for most grooming services. It might be something like, “Most grooming services take 1-3 hours depending on the size, condition, and the type of service.” Add something pleasant along the lines that you appreciate prompt pickup upon completion of the groom.

Next, add half-day daycare for select clients. Be bold! Proudly display this in your service menu. Place tasteful signs around your reception area announcing this new service – for “their convenience.” Set a price that establishes the excellent value of this service. Be strong. Be positive. If you’re feeling hesitant about this tactic, remember that this is something you’re doing to help them – you’re giving them the gift of time! They can now be pet free for a little while so they can get their shopping done, clean the house, or just take a little quiet time to themselves (because after all, don’t they deserve it?). You just also happen to earn back some cash for the time and effort you used to spend caring for their pet – for free. If you’re going to end up doing this for them anyway, why not charge fairly for it -because after all, don’t you deserve it?

If you don’t mind acting as canine daycare service – make it a reasonable rate. If you don’t want to do it or basically want to discourage it, set the price at a point that very much makes it WORTH your effort.

Maybe you charge $10 for it… or $25… or MORE. Whatever you choose, make sure people understand it’s by the half-day. If people have been abusing you in this area, you have to be strong. Be pleasant but do not let the clients walk all over you. Remember that this is a mutually beneficial thing you’re doing – you have the upper hand. Be consistent and follow through.

To enhance that positive spin, I would make it sound appealing on the service menu. Make it fun. Tell the client that their pet will be offered water, a mid-day snack, a potty break, and a cozy place to stay.

Then there’s another area we definitely need to talk about: the fine print on your service menu. This is where you state “your rules.” You don’t have to go overboard but you certainly need to set some boundaries for your clients.

One of the rules I would certainly encourage would be a late pickup policy. For example, if the pet is not picked up within an hour of its completed groom, you reserve the right to charge $XX per 15 minutes the pet is left in your care. You get the idea. You need to have something written and posted along those lines to help them remember. And you must follow through. The guests that take advantage of you will need consistent enforcement if you are to make any headway with them.

A late fee is different from a daycare expense. The Paragon School of Pet Grooming doesn’t charge for “daycare.” As a school, Paragon has the space to keep the pets – a luxury you may not have. Because we need high pet volume for our students, we don’t charge clients extra if they need to leave their pet all day due to work situations – we need the dogs more than we need the space!!

However, there are a few clients who just can’t seem to get there by closing time. We found that charging the late pick-up fee to clients that don’t respect our closing time works well to help re-train their thinking about lateness.

Basically, the client is charged $15 for each 15 minutes that they are late. Remember, it’s not just a late pick up – while this might seem a minor inconvenience from the client’s perspective, the staff member has likely made repeated phone calls, has delayed all closing activities (counting the register, closing out credit cards, etc.), and has sacrificed personal time. If you pay your staff by the hour, this may also result in paying out overtime, which adds to YOUR bottom line.

The staff member will wait up to half an hour. After that, the dog is taken out to go potty and is bedded down for the night. A note is left on the door and a message is left on their phone that lets the client know their pet is safe, it’s been made as comfortable as possible, and that it can be picked it up at opening time the following morning. Luckily we’ve never had anyone leave their pet on a Friday night! We let whoever waited for the client collect every penny of the late pickup fee. I just feel that is fair.

All of our front desk team is salaried. If they need to stay late, they don’t get paid extra for it. It’s totally their call whether they charge the fee or waive it, depending on the situation.

Needless to say, people don’t forget their dogs very often. And if somebody has had a true emergency – we’ve totally waived the fee.

Every shop is a little bit different. Find a solution that works for you. You don’t have to be ugly about it. You don’t even have to get frustrated about it. Put a positive spin on it and turn it into a newfound revenue generator! And make sure you smile when you’re talking to your customers about your new service!

Happy Trimming,

~Melissa

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The Importance of Systems

systemsrMy husband and I were just at the hospital for a scheduled surgery. Luckily, it was a non-emergency situation – just to get his nose repaired so he could actually breathe out of BOTH nostrils. Still, it was surgery and as much as he wanted to have it done, the anticipation levels were running high. We were a bit nervous.

The medical team was great. Their thorough procedures helped squelch our anticipation jitters. Everything, from the pre-screening call days before… check in… pre-surgery… waiting room… recovery… home… and follow-up, was explained to us. At every step along the way there were systems in place to ensure that the surgery went off without a hitch, which put our minds at ease. There weren’t any hiccups in the communication process or the surgery itself.

Checks and balances were firmly in place. Everyone in the medical team clearly knew their job. They understood how important their roles were, no matter how large or small. If even one of them made a mistake, it could have a devastating effect on the outcome of the surgery. We’ve all heard the horror stories.

If you stop and think about it, a grooming salon client has the same kinds of anticipation levels. They are entrusting you with one of their most precious possessions – their pet. Most clients are not that familiar with the grooming process and have no idea what truly goes on behind closed doors.

Is you grooming salon set up like a well-oiled medical team? We may not be doctors but our “pet clients” are extremely important to their owners. There are many steps within the grooming service procedure that could turn into shining moments – or go horribly wrong:

  • They get the wrong haircut.
  • The pet isn’t done when promised.
  • They’re charged the wrong amount.
  • They get the wrong collar or lead – maybe even the wrong pet!
  • A pet is injured – or worse.

This list could go on and on. The larger the team that works together, the more processes you need in place for a smooth running operation.

Every grooming salon needs:

  • a customer service team (even if that team is YOU)
  • a bathing department
  • a drying department
  • a grooming/styling department
  • someone in charge of client records/data entry
  • client education
  • marketing
  • proper cleaning and sanitation

To be successful in the long-term, you need to spend time in the short-term setting up processes. Systems are your routines – the way you do things every time. Here is a short list of items that need to be in place for systems to work:

  • Every procedure needs to be broken down, step by step.
  • Each process needs to be written down and reviewed regularly.
  • Every person participating in the activity needs to know and understand how to correctly perform the procedure.
  • Every person then needs training and follow-up supervision until the task is perfected.

Accountability is the key to success. Positive and negative consequences need to be in place and consistently enforced.

If you don’t have any systems in place at the moment, don’t fret. Take one procedure at a time and break it down into smaller chunks. Figure out what needs to be done or happen for each piece. Then move to the next one – and the next one.

Remember the story book fable about the tortoise and the hare? You don’t need to be a jack rabbit straight out of the gate. Slow and steady will win this race. It all starts with the first step. It might take you a month to get your systems in place – it might take a year. If you are in a state of growth, creating systems for your business might be an ongoing process. The trick is not to be overwhelmed by looking at the big picture. Keep it small so you don’t give up – and keep going.

At the end of the day, you always need to focus on your overall goal: to offer outstanding, consistent customer service – just like my husband and I received with his recent operation.

… As for those horror stories? Don’t be one of them. The salons that have the right systems in place will be prepared. Their staff will offer better service and the guests (furry and human) will feel better knowing that they are in good hands. it’s never too late to start. Do it now! Take that first step.

 

Happy Trimming,

-Melissa

 

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The Jennifer Hecker Story

Bouvier HugrIt was May, 1996. Star pupil Jennifer Hecker was three days away from graduating from grooming school and I was still very much a hands-on Director of The Paragon School of Pet Grooming.

I remember walking into the lobby during check-in. The front staff was just greeting a new client with a very large Bouvier des Flandres. I looked at the dog and immediately sensed something was off. The dog came in willingly enough, but its body language and eyes were telling me to be very, very careful with this dog.

Once the owner was gone, I told the front staff to attach the dog to a wall tether. I sensed we could have a real problem if we tried to place that dog in a kennel. Being out on the practical skills floor where we could closely observe this dog without the housing restriction was much safer. I suggested that the instructors place a muzzle on the dog before they attempted to do any grooming, just in case.

Because we didn’t see that many Bouvier’s at the Paragon Training Center, it was assigned to Jennifer, one of our most advanced students. At that time, Jennifer had shown Giant Schnauzers and had advanced one of them through the highest levels of French Ring Sport. She was not intimidated by the size or the potential attitude of this dog.

Not 15 minutes into the class, someone raced into my office and told me I’d better get out to the practical skills floor – fast. Someone had been hurt. Seconds later, I was on the practical skills floor. The first thing I noticed was how empty and quiet the room was.

The second was the blood trail.

It led diagonally across the space towards the bathing room. There was a crowd of people around a small prep sink. One person in particular was obviously in great distress – Jennifer.

Our general manager was holding her hand under cold water and asking her series of questions. One of the questions still haunts me today…

“Can you feel your fingers?”

I got a glimpse of Jennifer’s hand. Place a quarter on the meatiest part of the heel of your hand. Now imagine that area… gone.

handrThe Bouvier had done exactly what I had feared. The instructor and Jennifer had done what I had requested. They had muzzled the dog before team-lifting it onto the table. That’s when it struck. Unbelievably, it bit Jennifer through a muzzle. It was a nylon muzzle that was open at the end of the mouth so the dog could breathe freely. This type of muzzle can be effective as long as it fits snugly. In this case, they had selected a muzzle that was slightly too large. Even though the dog was muzzled, it could still open its mouth just enough to grab the heel of her hand to chew through her flesh…

…and it did.

We raced Jennifer to the medical treatment center. The local med-station felt that they could handle this wound despite the fact that she had lost sensation in her little finger – or maybe the pain was so great – she couldn’t be sure. They stitched her up, bandaged her, pumped her up with antibiotics, and sent her home.

The following day she was she was back at the doctor, but this time to see a hand specialist. They ripped out all the stitches from the night before and started over. Jennifer was looking at a long recovery period.

Jennifer had such a great attitude towards this whole thing – it was hard to believe. Even though she missed the last three days of class, she still graduated with very high grades. However, finding a grooming job was certainly out of the question for her – at least for a while. We ended up hiring Jennifer for our front office at Paragon while she healed.

As Jennifer’s medical bills mounted, we collected everything and turned them into our insurance company.  However, our carrier did not feel the situation warranted a payout on their behalf.

What??

That’s when we learned that in the state of Michigan a pet owner is ultimately responsible for their dog – even if they are not with it. The insurance company went after the pet owner. They were able to collect from their homeowner’s policy. That was news to me and served as a lesson to all of us.

As the story unfolded, we got more information that was unnerving. My initial gut reaction was well-founded. This was the third reported bite case for this dog – and the third owner. Of course the owner never bothered to share that information with us upon check-in. The dog was destroyed after this third incident with Jennifer.

We learned 5 lessons through this unfortunate event.

  1. Trust your gut. Never do a dog that you feel is dangerous to you, your team, or itself.
  2. Use muzzles when necessary and make sure they fit properly (we changed to full basket-style muzzles).
  3. The pet owner is ultimately responsible for their pet regardless of whether they are with them or not.
  4. In the state of Michigan, if the dog creates an insurance situation, the pet owner’s homeowner’s policy will be responsible for paying any damages or claims.
  5. Love and passion for dogs can still shine through despite severe injuries inflicted by them and long recovery periods.

Jennifer has been grooming with us for over 18 years. I’m fortunate that she is still on my team. She has become one of our most talented and productive pet stylists. She grooms every day at our luxury kennel, Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa. Plus, Jennifer has been one of our talented Training Partners on Learn2GroomDogs.com since the beginning.

We just filmed her for Learn2GroomDogs.com. We had been looking for someone to do a traditional style grooming lesson on a Bouvier des Flandres for a very long time. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect Jennifer Hecker to step up to the grooming table for this lesson! I’m so glad she did. Her love and compassion for all dogs is clearly evident – even for the Bouvier des Flandres.

 

Happy trimming,

Melissa

 

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Neutralizing Stench

stinky Cache - CopyrI love being a professional pet groomer. It’s creative. It’s gratifying. There’s nothing better than having a dog leave your salon looking and smelling amazing.

Being a professional pet groomer means we are problem solvers. Our clients do not have the skills – nor the products – that can solve many coat problems. As pet professionals, we know which products and tools work.

My husband and I live on 160 acres. We have approximately 6 acres enclosed with Invisible Fence. All four of our 100+ pound dogs can roam unsupervised. This keeps our dogs safe – and out of trouble – while giving them the luxury of freedom. Most of the time it works.

Occasionally, it does not.

I was driving back from the farmers market when I got a call from my husband. He was headed out for an appointment and called the dogs into the house. All of the dogs came bounding up to the door like they typically do. However, two of the dogs seemed to be especially proud of themselves. As they got closer, my husband understood why. THEY STUNK TO HIGH HEAVEN!!!!! Especially one of them. Cache was absolutely covered in something very black – and very gooey. You could hardly get near them without wanting to vomit.

Because he was headed out the door, he simply called me and told me what to expect when I got home. I didn’t think much about it, our dogs are rolling in things all the time. He simply shut them back in their “dog room” towards the back of the house.

20 minutes later I stepped through the front door and was virtually attacked by the odor. This was as bad as a direct skunk hit – maybe worse. I made my way to the dog room and peered over the half-door. (By this time I was holding my breath.)

I had never seen a dog so successfully cover herself in a foul material. Heck, Cache even had it on her tail! I booted all the dogs out immediately and set to work steam-cleaning the back room before I tackled the dogs themselves.

I knew I had my work cut out for me. Not only are our dogs all over hundred pounds – they’re extremely heavily coated. At our home, we do not have standard professional grooming tubs or tables, but we DID have the products and tools to wash, clean, and neutralize the foul substance that was all over two of them.

Once I got the back room cleaned up, it was bath time for the pooches. Needless to say, they were not thrilled with me as I gingerly clipped leads to their collars. They were quite proud of their accomplishment. Down to the horse wash rack we went. It wasn’t the most sophisticated dog bathing station – but it worked.

A long time ago, I learned that the Coat Handler product line is my ‘go-to’ product of choice for all my bathing needs. One of the best odor neutralizing products on the market is Odor Handler. There are literally thousands of uses for this product. I personally use it so much (and not just on dogs) that I keep and 9 1/2 pound container of it in the laundry room! Down in the barn, we keep gallons of Coat Handler’s 15 to 1 Shampoo, Coat Handler Conditioner, plus a high velocity dryer for our horses.

My products and tools of choice for this project: Coat Handler 15 to 1 shampoo mixed in a squirt bottle with a generous scoop of Odor Handler and hot water, a long-handled scrub brush, a firm horse brush, a rubber curry, and a garden hose. (Luckily it was 80 degrees outside so no one minded a cool bath!)

I did my best to hose off the bulk of the offensive material clinging to their coats. Luckily it was water-soluble so with the water pressure from the garden hose, I was able to remove most of it. But the odor still remained.

I generously applied my hot soapy solution of shampoo and Odor Handler to the soiled areas. I worked it in with a rubber curry (there was no WAY I was going to touch that nasty stuff with my bare hands!) Then I went back with a horse brush to really work it into each strand of the hair. I finished with a smaller handled brush to deal with the hard to reach places. I let the solution sit for approximately 10 minutes before thoroughly rinsing the dogs until their coats were squeaky clean.

It was time to use my gallon jug of Coat Handler Conditioner. I poured generous amounts into my hands and applied it to their coats, straight. I did not rinse out the conditioner.

I let them have a few generous shakes before I proceeded with towel drying. Then, I pulled out my trusty K-9 II high velocity dryer. I needed them to be dry so I could see if I had been successful with neutralizing the foul stench before I let them back into the house.

By that night, all of our dogs joined us in the living room, lounging at our feet. Everyone had a slight scent of baby powder which was much more appealing to my husband and me.

The reason I was so successful in neutralizing the odor was because I had the knowledge and the tools at my fingertips. As a pet grooming professional, it’s up to us to know the products and techniques that work the best. I’ve tested many products over the years, and the Coat Handler line of products (especially Odor Handler), beats everything else, hands down.

Just ask our noses – and Cache, of course!

 

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

 

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The Aha! Moment

blog imageIt’s no secret that I love learning new skills, ideas, and applications — it’s the main reason why I love the pet grooming industry so much. You can never learn it all. There is always something new, different, or enlightening to learn.

In 2010, I founded the Learn2GroomDogs.com (and cats) streaming video library. I have directed and produced over 400 educational grooming video shoots. Each one is both a lesson and a demonstration. Every video inspires and teaches me something new. I’m constantly having my own ‘Aha! Moments’ – even after 30 years in this business!

I’m proud to be able to bring the quality of training directly to you that will challenge, educate, and energize the student in you. All you need is access to the internet and you can have your own ‘Aha! Moments’ wherever you are. Our Training Partners have earned their right to be labeled “the best professional pet stylists in the country.” They are simply amazing.

I take detailed notes on every shoot. Heck, with some Training Partners, I can barely make my fingers fly across the keyboard fast enough! Those comprehensive notes eventually become the video descriptions. As I review the lesson during editing, I sift through the pages of my notes and highlight the key points that I feel would be worthwhile takeaways for you. Believe me, there are loads of them!

I truly believe you will only be as good as your teachers. Being a member of Learn2GroomDogs.com is like going to a massive pet grooming summit. There are over 400 lectures and demonstrations from over 40 training partners that are hand-picked as the best in the industry. We provide the information you want and need from people who know dogs – including a camera man who is also an accomplished pet stylist and a long time grooming instructor, so he knows what you need to see through the lens!

When you are fresh to the field – you are like a dry sponge. ‘Aha! Moments’ come fast and easily. As a seasoned pro, they become harder to come by — you must seek them out with dedication and apply them to your work.

But there are still plenty of golden nuggets to unearth.

Take notes as you watch the videos. Pause, rewind, and watch again. And again. You have unlimited access to every video lesson we offer with your membership, so wring every drop of learning gold you can from each one. If you can pick up even one of those per month of membership, it’s worth the price of admission and more.

There is a great saying that goes, ‘The more you learn, the more you earn.” I have always believed that the more educated you are in your craft, the more self-confidence you will have. That turns work into a joy no matter what you do. You have the power and the choice: keep learning and keep your passion for your career alive…

…or let it get stale and face burn out.

With Learn2GroomDogs.com (and cats too) we make it easy to learn at the touch of a keystroke. Wherever you have access to high speed internet, you can watch, listen and learn. In your home. At your shop. Traveling to a grooming event. By yourself or with your team. We have grooming video lessons for everyone. We can help you achieve more wherever you are in your grooming journey.

The key is to invest in you, whether that is time, money, or both. You have to make an effort – a commitment to put in the work to get better and seize any opportunity to do so. Once you open your mind to education, you will be amazed at how many ‘Aha! Moments’ you will have.

Enjoy the ride. The educational voyage is a blast.

Happy Trimming

Melissa

 

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