A 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!