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Customer Service Basics

happy-clientrrrThis is the time of year when we think a lot about being grateful. As someone who works with people every day, I often think about customer service and how much of it makes an impact on our business and ourselves.

It’s easy to take your customers for granted when your shop is booked out several weeks in advance – or if you’re the only game in town. Sooner or later, another business like yours is going to spring up nearby. Are you ready? If all things are equal…

  • convenience
  • location
  • quality
  • price

…what do you do to set yourself apart? When your clients have coffee with their friends do they say, “They aren’t that great, but they’re so close to my house…” OR “I have to drive out of my way to get there, BUT IT’S WORTH IT.

I’ve been to many businesses, large and small, corporate and home-grown, where the service has been so great that I was already making plans to come back before I even left the store. And it wasn’t even that they did something over the top for me – you know the stories:

  • The guy who wanted a lemonade with lunch but the restaurant didn’t have it, so a server ran to the store next door and bought one for him.
  • The store clerk who gave out the wrong change and walked to the customer’s house to correct the situation. (Yes, that WAS Abraham Lincoln.)

I’m not only a customer service provider, I’m also a customer.

I always think about both sides of each business transaction when I’m eating in a restaurant or picking out new pens at the office supply store. I expect to be noticed when I enter a business establishment, be treated fairly by someone who doesn’t treat me like an interruption, and helped to get what I need in the most efficient manner possible so I can get on with my day.

blogWhile the stories above are nice, I would never expect someone to go so out of his way that it makes the next customer in line wait (I’m not the only person in the store, nor am I more important than anyone else.) Or have the rest of the staff have to work extra hard to cover everything because one of their co-workers was being monopolized. I personally believe that when I enter a store as a customer, I am entitled to the services and products they provide. I do not believe I am entitled to receive a custom order every time I walk through the door.

With that being said, I do have standards and expectations for how I treat customers and for how I expect to be treated. When I feel I’ve received great service, it’s because:

  • I was greeted with enthusiastic and authentic friendliness as soon as I walked through the door. Did they stand up and come to me instead of shouting across the lobby? Which makes you feel more welcome?
  • They knew about their products and could help me find and choose the right one for my needs. I felt confident about my purchase.
  • The business was clean, organized, well-lit, and smelled nice. ‘Nuff said.
  • The employees were well-groomed, easily identifiable as staffers, and seemed to like their jobs. (I don’t expect business suits. I expect clean and neatly kept hair and beards, clean clothes appropriate for the business, and appropriate language being used.)
  • There were enough employees to handle the workload. I don’t mind waiting, especially if they’ve acknowledged me. A quick smile and a look that says, “I see you – I’ll be with you as quickly as I can,” is enough.  Ignore me – I’m gone, no matter how fast my money is burning a hole in my pocket.
  • The parking lot, sidewalks, and exterior were neat, well-lit, and safe. Nothing fancy – just clean.
  • My transactions were completed correctly and I was treated like a valued guest even as I walked through the door. Nothing gives you buyer’s remorse faster than staffers high-fiving and congratulating themselves on the sale before the door even closes behind you.

These are the basics, folks. We can go on and on about more possibilities and in greater detail, but the bottom line is this: great service is what brings people back. It should be the reason people come to your business, not the reason they don’t.

Remember, even if you are booked for an entire year in advance, there’s no excuse for taking your client for granted. Be thankful – this is the time of year when we think about this the most! After all, just because they have a recurring appointment in 6 weeks doesn’t mean they’ll keep it if you don’t treat them well.

Being busy does not excuse rudeness with clients – it’s not their fault that you don’t have enough people to handle the workload, even if it’s just for that afternoon. Your problems are not their problems – sharing your burden is not the service they were hoping you’d provide. Believe me when I say I understand about staffing budgets… sometimes you can’t afford to hire anyone – I’ve been there.

Do your best for each client.

Be present.

Be nice.

And above all…

SMILE… and be thankful.

You just might find that you enjoy your day a little more.

~Joelle Asmondy

Learn2GroomDogs.com has hundreds of videos to help you become the groomer and businessperson you’ve always wanted to be.  Check out one of our videos here:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/alZtP-F7yDk?list=UU6QEPG7JG7exQRpEr9e_nHA[/youtube]

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Nine Seconds to Make a First Impression

Dog-Computer-Wallpaper-1024x768rrYou meet someone for the first time – it could be a new client walking through your doors, someone at a grooming trade show or a new team member.

The moment that stranger sees you, their brain makes a thousand assumptions.  It might be a new client or someone you meet anywhere else.  You are giving off clues about yourself before you ever begin to speak.  They are gathering a wealth of nonverbal clues about you.

What are nonverbal clues?

Nonverbal clues include all the ways you present and express yourself, apart from the actual words you speak.  Things like eye contact, gestures, posture, body movements, and tone of voice.  All of these signals can convey important information that isn’t put into words.  They are extremely important at work and in business.  Perception is reality.

If you are dealing with a prospective customer – the following items will instantly fly through their head upon your first meeting:

  • Are you trustworthy?
  • Will you be kind to their pet?
  • Do you have the skills required to groom their dog or cat?
  • Are you likable?
  • Are you confident?
  • Will you charge a fair price for your services?

These impressions form at lightning speed.  Making major decisions about another person happens within seconds of meeting them.

Picture1In business, first impressions are crucial.  You can’t stop people from making snap decisions – the human brain is hardwired this way as prehistoric survival mechanism.  However, you can understand how to make those decisions work in your favor.

First impressions are more heavily influenced by nonverbal clues than verbal clues.  In fact, studies have found that nonverbal clues have over four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say.

Here are nine nonverbal ways to make a positive first impression with a grooming client, a new team member or a new business associate.

  1. Present yourself professionally.  Blue jeans, sweatshirts, T-shirts and a baseball cap are not professional.  If you are in your shop or van, wear fresh garments that repel dirt, grime and hair.  At a trade show? Dress in ‘professional casual.’
  1. Pay attention to details.  Hair style, light make-up (for women) and your nails all give strong visual cues.  Having fun with personal style is fine – as long as it stays a little more on the conservative side.  Over-the-top piercings, tattoos and gauges will not instantly form a positive impression on most people you meet – especially prospective clients.
  1. Attitude – attitude – attitude.  People pick up on your attitude instantly.  Before you turn to greet someone, or address a team member, or walk into a trade show, think about the situation.  Make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to project.
  1. Fine-tune your posture.  Position and authority are non-verbally conveyed by height and space.  Standing tall, pulling your shoulders back, and holding your head high are all signs of confidence and competence.
  1. Facial expression.  Human faces are incredibly expressive including the eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and any other movement.  Open your eyes slightly more than normal to simulate the ‘eyebrow flash’.  This is the universal signal of recognition and acknowledgment.  Emotions such as anger, happiness, hurt, and boredom are all easily expressed with facial movements.
  1. Smile more.  A smile is an invitation, a sign of welcome.  It says you are friendly and approachable.  Smile at the pooch too.  Owners love that!
  1. Make eye contact.  To transmit energy look at someone’s eyes.  Looking into someone’s eyes indicate interest and openness.  And if that person has a pet in tow, make sure you look into the pets eyes as well.
  1. The handshake.  This is the quickest way to establish a connection.  It’s also the most effective.  Here’s an interesting fact.  On average it takes about three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level a rapport that you get with a single handshake.  A firm handshake indicates a strong personality.  But don’t crush someone else’s hand – as groomers, our hands are typically really strong!  A weak handshake is taken as a lack of strength.
  1. Lean forward slightly.  Leaning forward shows you’re engaged and attentive.  But be respectful of the other person space.  That normally means staying about two feet away.

Every encounter from chatting with new clients, going to trade shows or attending training sessions presents an opportunity to meet people.  It’s a great way to network, expanding your professional contacts.  Making a positive first impression counts.  You’ve got nine seconds – but if you handle it well, those nine seconds are all you need.

~Happy trimming,

Melissa

PS.

You should check out our videos on Learn2GroomDogs.com.  Here is a featured video clip from our channel on YouTube:

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Creating the Round Head with a Clipper – Drop Coated Head Styling

1rrThere are a number of different ways to create a round head style on a dog.

Here are two clipper options that will help you be more consistent from trim to trim.

Setting the Pattern

Use this hold to define sections of the head that are to be clipped or to be hand scissored:

2rrStanding in front of the dog, place your hands just behind the eyes so both thumbs touch under the jaw and both first fingers touch just above the eyes.

  • Anything behind your hands is considered the skull and should be clipped.
  • Anything in front of your fingers is considered the eye area and muzzle and should be shaped by hand.

3rrUsing a similar hold, place your fingers around the neck of the dog.  Slide your hands up until they rest at the base of the ears.  This is your dividing line between the neck and headpiece.

The length will vary based on client preference and length of body coat.  The shorter the body length, the shorter the head should be.  Longer trims look balanced with longer head styles as long as they are not extreme.  In both cases, it’s most important that the head be in balance with the body.

Style Option #1:

  • Take the same blade used to trim the body and use it again for the top of the head and down the sides of the cheeks.
  • If a #4F, #5F, #7F or #2 guard was used on the body, follow the natural lay of the coat, working out from the center of the skull.
  • Feather the coat over the tops of the ears and at the transition line just behind the eyes separating the head with the muzzle area.  There will be an imaginary line just behind the eyes where you can feel the eye socket rims.  The hair over the eyes in this area should be left to hand scissor, framing the eyes in the final stages of the trim.
  • Lift the ears out of the way and come down the sides of the face, in the cheek/jowl area.  Follow the lay of the coat and blend into the clipped neck. Leave just enough hair at the back corners of the eyes to complete the framework for the eyes in the finished trim.

Style Option #2

  • Use a medium to medium-long guard comb for small – to medium-sized pets; longer combs can be used on larger dogs.  The key is the head should ‘balance’ the trim and compliment the dog in size and shape.
  • Due to the length of coat these combs leave, they are most effective when pulled forward from the occiput to the eye area.  Your goal is to feather to coat at the transition point, softly framing the eyes.  The outer edge of the guard comb should ride right at the junction point of where the ear meets the skull.
  • The cheeks and jowl areas are handled the same way as outlined above.

Common Styling Techniques with Both Round Head Styles

The stop area should be trimmed for both options.  Personally, I like to catch this area when I do my close sanitation work just before I do the full haircut.  Don’t remove too much coat between the eyes – less will be better than more.  Focus on the area just in front of the eyes and the stop area.  Use thinning shears or clip the area with a close blade, such as a #10 or a #15.  This will clear the area of long fur and accentuate a nice, deep-set eye.

With both head styles, the framed area over the eyes should be scissored by hand.  Comb the coat forward over the eyes, making sure to get the hair in the stop area, too.

Scissor off the longer hair at a 45-degree angle, starting at the stop area.  The fur will be super short right above the eye and taper out slightly over the eye, framing it.

Use straight or curved shears in reverse, framing the eyes trimming up and over the eyes.  The beveled edge creates a ledge for the longer coat to sit on, keeping it out of the eyes.  It also creates a desirable “soft expression.”  A deep-set eye adds dignity and character to the facial expression, too.  There should be just enough depth to this frame to accomplish the look, but not so much as to give a heavy “visor” look.

Double-check and triple check this line framing the eyes.  It is the most important part of the entire trim.  Pay close attention to the stop area – this is an area that long strays love to hide.  The last thing you want is to have random hairs pop out once the dog gets home!

4rrOnce you are satisfied that the frame is even, the line will still be sharp.  Soften the framed area with thinning shears.

Double-check the line just behind the eyes where the clipper work feathers off.  It should be smooth and even at the transition point.

Check the transition lines over and around the ears and neck.  Use thinning shears to neaten these areas.  Make sure to look behind and under the ears too.  Follow the line under the jaw, too.  Everything should be even, neat and tidy.

The muzzle on many round head styles is trimmed by hand, keeping the eyes and nose at the center.  However, there are multiple style options.  Many stylists like to continue their longer guard comb work on the muzzle as well.  Or you can scissor it by hand.

When using a guard come on the muzzle, you can work either with the grain of the coat or against the coat growth with longer combs.  Once you are close to a consistent length – stop and finish the area by hand with thinner or blending shears.

For hand scissoring the muzzle coat, comb the coat down.  Use the jawbone as your guide.  Trim parallel to the jawbone adjusting the length as needed.  Once the length is established, finish trimming the area with thinning shears for a soft and even look.

Many owners appreciate removing the longer hair right under the nose, at the end of the muzzle.  On round-headed dogs, this is extra fur that gets messy at feeding time – collecting water and picking up all sorts of nasty things as the dog is outdoors sniffing around.  There are two basic ways to deal with this area:

  1. Simply hold the dog’s mouth firmly closed and quickly remove the extra hair with a close blade – anything from a #30 #15 or #10 blade will work.  Just watch that tongue!
  2. Hand scissoring works, too.  Use either thinners or a smaller pair of shears to trim the hair away from this area.  Comb the coat forward at the end of the muzzle.  Trim off the excess.  You can also taper the area back towards the neck.  This will help prevent dirt and debris from collecting in this area and provide a neat and tidy appearance to the overall head.

To finish the head style, soften all lines with thinning or blending shears.  Look for stray hair or anything that is out of place.  There should be no sharp lines anywhere on the head.  From side-to-side you are looking for symmetry, both in length and density.

In the end, the expression should be soft and kind.   The eyes will be the key feature you want to highlight.  Framing the eyes, you bring out the pet’s expression – something every pet owner loves to see!

 If you liked this lesson, you’ll love this video.  You’ll find it on Learn2GroomDogs.com.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/NzLWtaBFAoc[/youtube]

Not a member?  It’s easy to join – click here!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


Closet Organizer

Messy-Closet-PhotorrI talk to people in and outside of our industry every day and I am always looking to learn something from every conversation, not matter how short or long the conversation happens to be. Sometimes the conversation is very short, a simple phone call to check in with staff at the office or colleagues in the field, and sometimes the conversation are much more lengthy, which could include planning meetings or networking opportunities. All in all, everyone has something to say and there is always something to learn.

Recently, I was speaking to someone on a plane about their business. We engaged in the standard reciprocal greeting when we found ourselves sitting next to one another and then proceeded to go to work on our laptops. After clicking away for about 30 minutes, I happened to pick up a vibe that the man I had said hello to just a little while ago is in some form of law enforcement or military, I wasn’t sure yet. So, being the social butterfly I am, I asked. Boy am I glad I did!

The man was a retired Marine who is now working as a management consultant. I was instantly intrigued. I asked him what lessons he learned from the military that he felt were the most valuable to him in his new line of work. He answered very quickly. His top pick was “systems” and “standards”.

joe quoteWow! I couldn’t agree more and I let him know this. I told him he was going to be the inspiration behind my next blog post. You see, we often times catch ourselves in situations that take up a huge amount of energy addressing the same problem over and over again in our business.   Sound familiar? Why does this happen? How can we prevent this? What do we need to do or become to help ourselves? We need better systems and standards in our business. Here are some ways you can help yourself. Please understand, however, there will be an investment of your time and energy creating and documenting these things, but like any other investment, do it correctly and you should yield positive results.

No matter the size of your business, (yep, even if it is only you) all businesses deserve a systematic way of creating accountability. The best way to do this is to “declare” to everyone in your business, staff and clients, that you have standards you wish to operate by and expectations you intend on being held accountable to. Here’s a quick tip. If you want your staff to understand and accept the notion of accountability, the business must adopt this mentality first.

The easiest way to make promises to staff and clients is to define a clear picture for everyone what “correct” looks and feels like. While some may feel this is subjective, and I agree to a point, your business is your business and you get to make the rules. This culture of “correct” starts with the hiring and training of staff. From the first minute you meet a potential employee in an interview, be sure they have a clear understanding of your standards. From the first minute you meet a potential customer, be sure they too have a clear understanding of your standards. The employee is accountable to you and you are accountable to your customers.

There are some mechanisms or tools you can put in place to help you with this definition of “correct” and the organizing of your thoughts, direction, standards and accountability. Setting standards is a way of organizing your business, your time, and your efforts so that everyone is pointed in the same direction. I compare a loosely run business to the chaotic nature of an unorganized closet. It takes effort to continually mind the clothes, hangers, shoes, boxes, hats, and various other things found in your closet, but there are few things more frustrating than not being able to quickly identify what you have, what you need, and what you want to wear. If everything in your closet were always perfectly hung, in order, and in good condition, wouldn’t your day be much brighter? Wouldn’t your attitude be more positive? Wouldn’t this save you a lot of time? Be a closet organizer for your business. Keep things organized and take control of your situation.

Here are just some of the tools of organization that you might find handy. If you have some of these in place, congratulations. If you don’t, consider starting today! If you need help, reach out to me. I have developed templates that can help you get started. I have done the hardest part for you. I have identified the skeleton outline of the content needed; you just need to customize them for your business!

  • Safety Manuals
  • Employee Manuals
  • Operations Manuals
  • First Aid and Veterinary Protocol
  • Employee Agreements
  • Take care and I wish you and your business the very best!

 

This guest blog by Joe Zuccarello is used by permission from the author.  To see more from Joe, check out his blog at: High Performance Tips for Pet Industry Professionals

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Nail Mending Kits

As a professional pet groomer, you know it’s going to happen. Sooner or later you’re going to accidentally trim a nail too close to the quick – and it’s going to bleed.

You know that while the pet is in your salon, you have the resources to correct the problem: a pinch of styptic powder, firm pressure for at least 30 seconds. Done. Fixed nail.

But in the back of your mind, you have those nagging questions…

  • What if the nail breaks open again?
  • What if the nail breaks open in the car?
  • What if the nail breaks open in their home and gets blood all over the carpet?
  • How was the client going to feel?
  • How are they going to stop the bleeding?
  • How are they going to clean up the mess?

None of these scenarios will leave a positive impression with the client. So, how do you head off this problem? How can you turn a negative into a positive?

Simple.

Being honest with your client is a proactive way to deal with this common occurrence. I have a standing policy that our salon will pick up the tab for any professional upholstery cleaning that is needed if the toenail breaks open at home. Because we hand out these nail mending kits, our emergency upholstery cleaning budget has been reduced dramatically.

SONY DSCWe automatically send the client home with a nail mending kit whenever we have to use styptic powder to stop the bleeding from a quicked nail. We’ve been making these packets for over 20 years. They work like a charm, they’re easy to make with the right equipment, and are super inexpensive.

Start by telling your client which toenail had been trimmed too closely. Some clients don’t know what this means and it can be a little scary to them. Remember, this might have happened a few times in your salon and you know what to do, but it might be the first time they’ve experienced this with their pet. Be patient. Empathize with them – you want them to know that you care. You want them to know that you take even minor injuries seriously. While you want to validate their concerns, you also want them to know that quicking a nail is fairly common and can occasionally happen on any pet. The good news is that it can be easily fixed and that there shouldn’t be any more issues with the foot. Encourage them to take steps to prevent the nail from re-opening, such as avoiding walks on pavement or abrasive surfaces for a few hours. That should do it – but just in case the nail starts to bleed again it home, we give them the solution to fix a bleeding nail at home.

So what is in a nail mending kit? Just three items:

  1. a small plastic bag,
  2. a mini instruction sheet,
  3. one gelatin capsule of styptic powder.

It sounds like a lot, but guess what? They’re super easy to make!

Nail-Mending-Capsule-1rrQFirst, you need a capsule making machine. You can them at most health food stores or online along with the gelatin caplets. These handy little machines allow your make up 25 to 30 capsules at a time.

Next, you want a large container of your favorite styptic powder. Follow the directions on the machine to create the capsules. I recommend putting a piece of paper underneath the machine to catch any spillage so it can be returned to the container. You may wish to use a mask during this process, as the powder can be irritating. Don’t forget to completely seal your container of styptic powder when you’re done. This stuff can quickly harden if not kept in an air-tight container.

Once you’ve made up a couple batches of the nail mending capsules, pop them into small plastic bags. We use small Ziploc-type bags that we purchase in bulk from a packaging company, like U-Line. Because we prepare them in advance, having a bag/pouch that zips to seal ensures that the powder won’t dry out.

Nail InstructionsrrLastly, you’ll also include very clear, simple instructions on how to utilize the powder (see our example). It is VERY important that the client understands that this IS NOT an oral treatment. The client will need to break the caplet apart, pouring the powder onto a piece of paper towel or a small paper plate. Next, they need to take a small pinch between their fingers and apply it to the end of the toenail that is bleeding. It is important that they hold it for on the end of the nail for at least 30 seconds.

If they have any questions or concerns if the nail breaks open at home, we always encourage them to call us first.

Here’s another bonus trade secret to give your clients: hydrogen peroxide removes blood. It usually does a nice job of removing blood from carpet, fabric, or the dog’s fur. We also encourage them to test a small spot first before they use hydrogen peroxide in on a larger area. Just in case.

As a pet groomer, I always want to get the nails as short as possible without causing them to bleed. The last thing I want to do is make a dog uncomfortable. Trimming nails too close is unpleasant for you, the dog, and the owner. Unfortunately, accidents do happen. Nails get trimmed too short – and they will bleed. It is going to happen – period. By being honest with our customers and supplying them with a nail mending kit, we have reduced the negative consequences and let them know we care.

Here’s a video on the topics that you can see on Learn2GroomDogs.com

Happy Trimming,

~Melissa

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P.S.

If you like this blog, you might want to read last week’s issue.


Tips for Booking a Smooth Holiday Season

blog imagerDon’t blink. The holidays are going to be here before you know it. Are you ready?

If you have a reasonably busy salon – and have been at this for a few years – you know the holiday season is crunch time. In a very narrow window of opportunity, you will be busy grooming the regular clients in your database.

Every

one

of

them.

Are you going to let your clients run rampant over you or are you going to take charge of the situation before it runs out of control?

The holidays are a special time of year. Yes, it’s one of the busiest times for a professional grooming salon. However, it’s also the time of year to enjoy time with those closest to your heart.  If you are chained to your grooming table throughout the entire holiday season – how can you possibly enjoy your family and friends?

Sure, keeping your customers happy is important, but so is your family. So are your close personal friends. Don’t let the insanity of the holiday season put a damper on your festive mood.

Believe me, I learned the hard way, too. Grooming super long hours up to 14 days straight before Christmas left me totally spent and exhausted. I was definitely a Scrooge throughout the entire holiday season. I knew I had to make a change when one Christmas I literally slept through the entire day.

Here’s a trick I implemented a number of years ago. It’s worked like a gem for me and my teams.

We start looking at our holiday season in September. We start booking our top priority clients months out. How do we figure out which clients those are? Simple.

We start pre-booking all our premiere clients based on the number of weeks between grooming appointments. It’s a service we offer to our best clients for free.

We work in the following order:

Weekly clients get top billing. They get their choice of premier times and days. Once those clients are booked, we move to our biweekly clients. Next, our two-week clients are booked, then we move on to our three-weekers and so on until we reach the end of our 6-week clients. Always go in that order.

By the time we complete pre-booking all of our holiday appointments, there are very few holes left to fill with other regular customers. Those are the only other customers that we would take. Any customer that walks through our doors for grooming appointment during the holiday season MUST have a history with our grooming salon. During the peak holiday season, we never take a new customer.

Once we started utilizing this type of scheduling, the three days prior to a major holiday were a breeze. Almost every dog on the schedule is at least a three week client. How hard is it to groom dogs like that? You know the answer to that – they are EASY!

To me, that’s this best way to deal with the holiday season. Take care your best customers. Set limitations on how many dogs you going to do per day. You will be busy but you won’t (and shouldn’t) be chained to your grooming table during the entire holiday season.

Never forget the true meaning of the holidays. They are meant to be spent with family and close friends.

Have you already pre-booked all of your holiday appointments? Excellent . You’re well and your way to having a joyful and well organized holiday season. If you haven’t already started booking those clients – don’t waste any more time. Start now.

Here’s a little more on the subject – and aren’t our hats the BEST!  You can see more on this topic – and so much more – on Learn2GroomDogs.com.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/tvO4Ji8Lli4?list=UU6QEPG7JG7exQRpEr9e_nHA[/youtube]

-Happy trimming,

Melissa

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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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Thinning Shears are the Pet Stylist’s Eraser

Blog ImagerIt doesn’t matter how long you’ve been grooming or how talented you are as a pet stylist – sometimes you just need a little help. An “oops” can occur at any time. Mistakes happen.

Maybe there is a spot on the coat that you just can’t get smooth. Maybe there is tracking in the coat from the clippers or guard comb. You may have left scissor marks in the coat – or a hole in the coat you accidentally made with clippers or scissors. You might even be working with a dog that will not hold still long enough to work safely with clippers or scissors – leaving the coat rough and jagged.

Thinning shears can be your savior. They erase rough spots. They blend out jagged edges. They smooth out transition areas. They fix mistakes.

The difference between a good stylist and a great stylist can be determined by how much value they place on their blending shears.

Thinning shears (or blending shears) are the best-kept secrets in the grooming world. Used properly, they can make mistakes much less noticeable. For a new stylist, this is one of the first shears I always recommend upgrading in your toolbox.

Stylists that understand the value of this type of shear will invest in multiple pairs. Just like straight edge shears, there are wide varieties from which to choose. Some are for more general use while others have more specific usage. The key is to know how you want to use the shear. Do you need it for light wispy coats? Drop coats? Terrier styling? Working around the head or eye area or dealing with large surface areas? There is a blender to fit every single one of these needs.

I always suggest you personally try out thinning shears before you purchase them. Just like Colin Taylor says, shears are like shoes. You need to find the ones that fit… you! They have to fit properly as well as cut smoothly and run effortlessly in your hands.

So how do you narrow down your choices? Ask. Find out what other groomers and stylists are using. Determine which thinning shears they rely on every day in their salons. Believe me, they have opinions! There are lots of fabulous thinning shears out there – but there’s also a lot of junk.

Most high quality blending shears will have an average cost of $150 – $350. Of course, you can spend more if you like. Your equipment is an investment in your career. You may not need the Rolls-Royce when you first start out — but you do need something that is reliable and dependable. Luckily, there are many styles and varieties from which to choose.

The difference between a good stylist and a great stylist is that they know how to fix mistakes. Every one of us makes them. Having a nice collection of thinning and blending shears will be the erasers you need when that “oops!” happens.

Happy trimming!

-Melissa

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Rating Dog Personalities

blogrYou have a new client on the books. It’s a Lhasa/Maltese mix – or in the new world of designer dogs, it’s a “Lhatese.” The client arrives precisely 15 minutes late. She’s dressed to the nines and everything matches… even the dog.

The dog’s name? You guessed it…

…Precious.

You know you’re in trouble.

If you’re a one groomer salon, you can keep the personalities of all your canine clients in your head. You know any dog named Precious is far from… precious.

But what if you start expanding your salon? What if you bring on a new bather? Or maybe you have an assistant handling your appointments? Or maybe you have an inexperienced groomer joining your team.?

Wouldn’t it be helpful to know the personality rating of the dogs scheduled for the day?

Here’s a rating system that I’ve been using for years in my salons. It’s been extremely helpful in many ways:

  • It allows us to clearly evaluate the personalities of our canine clients.
  • it opens up communication with our customers.
  • it allows us to assign more challenging pets to the appropriate groomer.
  • the groomer clearly knows s/he will need to be on high alert with certain pets.

This is how I rate dogs. Simply put, we rate them one through five. It’s worked exceptionally well for years.

Our bathers, groomers, stylists, and students know what to expect from the pet. Even our clients know our rating system. It allows us to have an open conversation with them about their pet’s attitude towards grooming. Many customers are even anxious to see the paperwork to see if there dog has progressed to a more positive level.

Melissa’s Pet Personality Rating System:

  1. The Perfect Angel – This is the dog you love to see. It’s 100% cooperative with the entire grooming process.
  2. The Dancer – This dog is not aggressive but it does not hold still. You’re constantly working on a moving target.
  3. Easily Irritated – This dog will bite if you do something that it does not care for: trimming toenails, cleaning ears, dematting, high velocity drying. This dog might need to be muzzled for things they dislike. They generally respond well to an experienced pet professional.
  4. Angry – This is a dog that does not like the grooming process. One. Bit. You cannot trust them. Typically, they can be done safely if handled by an experienced professional. That person needs to be confident when dealing with an aggressive dog. They need to be authoritative and respectful of the pet while balancing firm but gentle handling techniques. Most dogs that fall in this category require muzzling.
  5. Unsafe – This is a dog whose eyes will glow red or green. Is extremely dangerous for most pet professionals to deal with safely. There is no question that given the opportunity, they will bite and/or attack. The dog or the groomer is at a very high risk of being injured. Personally, this is a dog I would fire. I would refer to a facility that could provide a mild sedative – under veterinary supervision – to take the edge off the grooming process.

By using this rating system, we have a clear way to rate the personalities of all the pets that come through our grooming doors. Using the system also means I can communicate with my team, my teams can communicate with each other, and we can openly communicate with our customers.

This time-tested system has worked fabulously for my team. I hope it will work well for your team, too. Now, next time “Precious” comes striding through your door, you’ll know what to do!

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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