By Michell Evans
“Dear Michell, I own a busy upscale salon in Canada. I have been grooming for more years than I care to admit. I am a Certified Master Groomer and I don’t really take new customers anymore, but my employees do. We often get ridiculous special requests from clients. I tend to be intolerant of these requests. However, my employees are still building clientele and need to be open to offering special services. Any suggestions on how to deal with special requests?” — Alex H.
Hi Alex. This is something that all groomers have to deal with so thank you for asking this question. Let’s face it, this is all about supply and demand. You said it best when you mentioned that because you are in no need of clients, you do not tend to tolerate special requests, but your employees do. If you are in a situation where you are struggling to have enough work, then special request grooming can be just the ticket for building and maintaining a clientele.
The customer is always right, unless you can convince them otherwise. There is no need to be insulted by their request. They truly believe that this is best for their dog and the most beautiful. Try educating them on proper styles, balance, health and safety. Pictures are a great tool for showing them what is possible. And a good conversation about their dog’s safety and wellbeing goes a long way. Consider letting them come and watch for a few minutes when you are working with someone else’s dog.
In some cases their requests are unintentionally insulting. For example, if a customer were to complain about the groom in the past and ask you to change it to something out of the ordinary; or if a customer has been coming for years, reads an article about the death of a dog in a salon, and now asks that you not use a loop. Even if the request is outrageous in your mind, try not to make them feel uncomfortable. They probably do not understand that their request is so far from the norm or that it is counterproductive.
Some requests are about style, “Let the skirt on my Schnauzer grow to the floor”; some are about the comfort of the dog, “Do not put my dog in a cage”; some are about the health of the dog, “Do not get water in the ears”; some are about your skills as a groomer, “Please make him look smoother this time”; and some are about the dog’s behavior, “Please keep him calm today”.
Many groomers will choose to refuse one or all of these requests. And that is ok. Many more will educate the client about the implications of each of these requests and then accommodate the client, having done their due diligence. The truth of the matter is that all of these things can be accomplished. If you choose not to offer them, you are refusing service. You must be very diplomatic in your approach.
It is important to weigh the implications when choosing to refuse service. If the health and safety of the dog, owner or yourself will be compromised, absolutely refuse. If all that needs to happen to make the client happy is that you need to give in, consider taking the high road. Letting go and giving them what makes them happy can be a lot less stressful and tiring for you, plus they might tip you better. Many times the client will come around to your way of thinking if they don’t feel forced into it.
There are many arguments about why not to offer special requests. One of the most common is that your work is a walking billboard, and if people see an incorrect groom they will think that you don’t know what you are doing. Try telling the owner that, because this is a special request, you would appreciate it if they would mention that to anyone inquiring.
Don’t underestimate building a clientele on special requests. A clever and talented groomer can take nothing but special requests and build a high–end specialized clientele that is nearly impervious to competition. If you can feel good about taking care of the special needs of the dog and the client and make a good living doing so, consider yourself a special request groomer. Good luck! ✂
I am a multi–Best–In–Show and Best–All–Around groomer. I am the recipient of many Barkleigh Honors Awards, including journalist of the year. I am a Silver and Gold medalist for GroomTeam USA. I am the winner of Show Dog Groomer of the Year 2015. I have been teaching as The Grooming Tutor since 2000. And I groom to make a living, just like you. Please send questions to [email protected]