By Daryl Conner
“I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” — Ed Sheeran
As professional pet stylists, we are members of a service industry. This means we do work for customers rather than providing goods or manufacturing things. And this, by its very nature, means that we must please our clients. If we fail to please them, we will not have a profitable business. However, it is important that we realize that we cannot please everyone. Trying to make everyone happy sets us up for certain failure.
There are some people in the world who are determined to be miserable and unhappy all the time. We need to learn to recognize these people and understand that nothing we can do will change who they are. Beyond those difficult humans, there is the simple fact that the way we each operate our own individual business will not be desirable to everyone.
The idea for this article came to me after I posted on a social media site about an interaction I had with a potential customer. The man had a Bichon and a Standard Poodle and had moved from another state. His previous groomer is highly skilled, and he was used to having his dogs look terrific after being groomed. His stylist gave him two recommendations of potential places to bring his dogs near his new home. I was gratified that she had given my name.
The man and I had a long conversation. He had taken his dogs somewhere three months ago (against the advice of his previous stylist) and was not pleased with the results. When we spoke, he told me the dogs were a mess and asked for a quote. Although my rates are in line with others in my state, he found them to be too high and tried to convince me to do the work for much less. I was polite but firm. I didn’t like the idea of losing a new customer with two dogs, but I also didn’t feel the need to undercut my normal fees to please him. And that is a good thing.
I started thinking about how groomers cannot please everyone, and here are some things I came up with:
• Being firm about your business practices does not mean that you cannot still be kind. In fact, it is extra important to be polite when you are telling someone that you can’t accommodate their wishes. I was very polite to the man who was asking me to groom at a drastically reduced rate, and when he hung up, I felt that at some point I might hear from him again.
• The service we provide may make many of our customers very happy but be inappropriate for others. For example, I have worked Saturdays for my entire career. When I opened a new business four years ago, I decided I’d done my share of working weekends and it was time for a change. However, I had a handful of valued customers who legitimately could only come to me on Saturdays. So, I got creative. I got them all on the same 6–week rotation, and now I only work one Saturday every 6 weeks. I can live with that, and they are grateful that I have found a way to accommodate them. They understand that if they must miss their Saturday, it is up to them to figure out how to get here on a week day or wait another 6 weeks and perhaps have added charges due to coat condition.
• Although it feels good to say, “Yes, I can do that for you,” we need to know that it is not a good idea to do so if it goes against our higher priorities. So, if your priority is to be home every night to have supper with your family, you must refuse to allow a customer to convince you to stay late so they can pick their dog up at a time convenient to them. I find that a nice way to phrase a refusal like this is, “I’m sorry, that doesn’t work for me.” This simple response leaves little room for argument.
• When you must refuse a request, try to temper your refusal by offering an alternative. Let’s say Mrs. Brown wants you to leave the coat on her matted Maltese 1–inch long. You know you are going to be lucky to get a #5 blade through its fur, and there is no way you can fullfil her wish. You can offer something else, such as; “I won’t be able to leave Puff’s fur quite that long on his body this time, but I can leave the hair on his head and ears that length, and we will reschedule him for 6 weeks so we can grow the coat out to look the way you want it to.”
• It is important to differentiate when you are trying to be generous, and when you are trying to dodge conflict. I happily give discounts (or even complimentary grooming) to a few customers who I know are on a fixed income but still take great pains to maintain their pet’s health and grooming care. This is my choice and I do it with a happy heart. However, if some random person demands a price reduction, I stand my ground and do not feel the need to take a pay cut just to please them.
The essential point is that you should not make yourself miserable, or lose income, just to please customers. In the end, it should be you who makes the rules for how you choose to run your business. Clients who will be a match for you and the way you work will find you if you are authentic to yourself, show that you love what you do and do your best work.
As Toby Mac once said, “Stop trying to make everybody happy, you aren’t chocolate.” ✂