By Emily Rupe
As a small business, you’re always on the eternal quest for the next golden stash of new clients, and with it, the reputation of being the best groomer far and wide. In a service based industry such as ours, image and reputation can be the difference between a full client book and moping around listening to crickets chirping. One of the first and most often forms of communication that the potential treasure trove of new clients has is through that telephone handset. These key initial seconds of greeting and engaging set the tone of what your grooming represents. Growing up with a father in business and sales, even at a small age, phone etiquette and its importance were drilled into my head. While he was selling bulldozers and cranes, and with grooming we’re selling our talents and experience, there truly isn’t much difference in how to interact with your clients in a manner that ensures the premier, professional service that pet parents demand.
Much like an award winning play, a great phone greeting must have a well oiled script and performance. Of course there are some key acts your scripts must include. Upon answer, acknowledge the caller and thank them for calling your business. While this only takes about a sentence or two, you’ve already established a friendly tone, bestowed how much you appreciate them taking time to call your establishment over another and reiterated the name of the business. The next act is to identify yourself and ask how you might assist them. By letting the caller know whom they are speaking with, you’ve made the employee accountable for the conversation and information imparted onto the client. This becomes invaluable when there is a discrepancy over a quote, appointment time or to give accolades for great customer service. The second aspect of asking how to assist is to once again reinforce that your business is here to cater to the client. A full example phone script may go like this,” Hello, thank you for calling As the Tail Wags Grooming. Emily speaking, how may I help you?” Simple, concise and much more professional than a mere hello or shouting out the business name. Once you’ve drafted the script, type it up and place it by the phone and in employee manuals so that the entire shop can answer the phone in the same manner.
A great script is worthless with a lackluster performance. Of course not every day is sunshine, unicorns and rainbows, but clients calling the establishment should be none the wiser. My family chides that my telephone voice sounds like I’ve been gorging out of the Xanax cookie jar. However, to the person on the other end of the line, who was not privy to the 5 minutes prior when I was yelling to the children about garbage duty, it sounds calm and cheerful. A potential client can be put off by a hurried, rushed, brash tone. Whether or not justified, it can give the impression that you run an unorganized, assembly line type ship without the focus on the more spa experience. Volume is another nuance to the phone persona. Ideally, it should be in medium volume and well annunciated. Speak too quietly and you’ll not only make the client struggle to absorb the information, but bestow a meek, unconfident image as well. Of course on the other side of the coin; loud, shouting tones and volume, not only are painful to hear, but give the impression of aggression. Balance and natural flow are what separate the blah from the wow performances.
Once the greeting script and persona are devised, translate these methods into all aspects of phone usage within your business. Often messages are left for clients letting them know their pets are completed, make sure to take the professionalism and promotion you learned and employ them. A message script can be almost identical to the greeting and requires only a few changes. The appreciation moving to the end of the script, acknowledgment of pet and providing a contact number are the only differences. For example, “Hello, this is Emily from As the Tail Wags Grooming. I’m just letting you know Fluffy is all finished and available for pickup. If you have any questions or concerns feel free to call us at _______, otherwise we’ll see you in a little while. Thank you and have a great day!” With those simple revisions, we’ve covered all our bases and given a uniform professional way for our business to leave voicemails. We want to impart that our business is going to be providing a great, consistent service every time and this does that without having to raise a single shear.
Also, create a proper message dictation procedure as well. A poorly passed on bit of information can put the caller already at a disadvantage right off the bat. It’s difficult to maintain a sense of professionalism and order if you aren’t able to return calls in an efficient and concise manner. Oral story telling is great, but not with business matters, always write the information down in print (some letters and numbers can be difficult to discern in cursive), for sake of a possible mental lapse. Time and date should be at the top so that each call can be returned in the manner it was received. Name of owner and/or pet and of course a contact number, should all be included. Any other instructions, or matter on which the call was made, should be concisely dictated as well. Having a well written message allows the individual making the return call to go in already knowing what topic or concern needs to be addressed in a timely fashion. If you can’t return your calls properly, clients tend to just call the next business on the list.
While phone etiquette is only a small facet in running a professional establishment, it’s a cost effective and easy one to achieve. It takes no expensive equipment, only the desire and ability to conduct oneself in a certain manner. First impressions are priceless and it’s the societal norm to make the initial contact when searching for a new service through the telephone line. Potential clients won’t be able to gaze at your amazing skills or stand in awe of a beautiful facility if they are instantly repulsed when picking up that handset. So instead, armed with your new acting chops and script, charm and woo them into taking that chance and booking that appointment.