Hold The Phones

By Khris Berry

Telephones…a groomer’s best friend, a groomer’s worst nightmare. It never fails, you have a matted shave down on your grooming table, a customer waiting in the lobby, and the phone is ringing off the hook.

When you finally get around to playing your voicemails, you filter through the usual requests for appointments, calls to see if Fluffy is ready, and calls from solicitors who are certain you need to buy what they are selling.

Invariably, when you return your voicemail messages, someone will complain that they called four times and you didn’t answer the phone. You may explain that you were attending to the pets in your care and they take priority. Likewise, the phone rings while you are chatting with your request client and you let it go to voicemail. It seems rude to attend to a phone call while you are speaking with a client.

On the other hand, the client who called four times may have called elsewhere because she assumed you were understaffed and therefore couldn’t provide good service. Perhaps the client you were chatting with saw you screen the call from another client and will wonder next time she calls and gets the voicemail if someone more important was placed above her.

It seems like a no–win situation. If you answer the phone, you are neglecting a responsibility. If you don’t answer the phone, you are neglecting a responsibility. What is a service professional to do? There are no perfect answers to an imperfect problem, but by assessing your business, its goals, and your values, you may find a solution that fits your grooming business.

Hiring a receptionist will allow someone to focus on your clients and your business while you focus on your grooming or the care of the pets in your salon. Having a staff member who is focused solely on the needs of the customer is a luxury that many clients will appreciate and many groomers need.

Some salons identify select tasks such as general cleaning, client follow–up emails, appointment reminders, etc. to ensure that the receptionist has plenty of tasks. For growth oriented salons, this position usually justifies itself financially in increased productivity for the stylists and people caring for the pets.

If a receptionist isn’t in the cards for your shop, you may choose to designate set hours each day during which your phones are manned and your clients can reach a real person. Many shops choose to have delineated hours for being open/closed but keep in mind, you can also have hours that your phones are open/closed. This leaves clients clear expectations regarding when you will and will not be able to attend to their needs via telephone.

You can leave concise information on your voicemail indicating when they may reach you, as well as information regarding the hours during which you will not be able to answer your business phone lines. While seemingly uncomfortable at first, trying to be “on call” to everyone at all times often ends up leaving a less than complete experience for some of your customers. This approach allows you to focus on pets when necessary and client calls when necessary, and will ensure a complete experience for all parties.

Another solution for busy pet stylists is to employ a hands-free phone device such as a Bluetooth compatible attachment so they can continue working while speaking with clients. While efficient, be cautious to counsel your callers if you are working during a phone call on the off chance that the client pet on your table emits a yelp, squeal, or yip. As pet stylists, we sometimes become immune to the sounds of our workplace and are unaware of the background noise around us. On the same lines, squeals of joy in the background may sound like squeals of fear in a client’s mind, without the visual cues that everything is running smoothly.

If you choose to utilize a voicemail system for answering calls in your absence or when you are unavailable, make certain that you are returning messages in a timely manner. Your personal business values should dictate the timeliness of the return call, but in most instances, all phone messages should be returned each day before the end of business. Keeping a written log of all messages allows the busy Pet Stylist to prioritize messages and not miss any client connections.

When setting up your voicemail, identify your business name, leave concise and relevant information (such as business hours or website), and instructions about how and when a caller can expect a return call. Your business voicemail is often times a client’s first or last connection to your business; keeping your message consistent with your business values is a great way to connect with your customer before you actually speak in person.

Think of your business telephone as not only a lifeline to the outside world, but also a pipeline to your clients and their pets. In the minds of many customers, how you manage your telephones and voicemail indicates how well you will take care of their pets when they are inside your business. Are you sending the right message? ✂

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