By Kathy Hosler
Although your official job title may be “Professional Pet Stylist,” it’s a safe bet that many of your clients also expect you to be a mind reader. Whether you have been grooming for only a few months or for 30-plus years, lots of pet owners think that you should automatically know exactly how they want their precious pet groomed.
Do you shudder when someone comes into your salon and says that they want a “puppy cut” on their dog? We all know that a puppy cut means something different to each person. You may instantly visualize the kind of trim that would look great on their little darling, but what they have in mind may be completely different. The fact of the matter is that a lot of problems that arise between groomers and pet owners are a direct result of poor or unclear communications.
Let’s look at the example of the puppy cut. A new client comes in and requests a puppy cut for her eight-month-old Miniature Poodle. “You know, I want her fluffy all over, just like a puppy,” the client says emphatically. This is when you not only need to be a mind reader; you have to be a detective as well. Start by making direct eye contact with the client and asking specific questions about what they want. Do they want Poodle feet? A clean face? How about the length of coat to be left on the body?
Now is the time for you to get out three very valuable tools. The first is a styling chart or pictures that show the different styles and lengths that can be put on their dog. Let them look it over and point out to you what they want for their dog.
The second is a ruler – yes, a ruler. How many times has a person told you that they wanted their dog to have one inch of hair left all over its body and then show you the length they expect by opening their thumb and finger – and the space between them is at least two inches? There is no arguing with a ruler.
The third and possibly the most valuable tool is a comb. Examine the pet while the owner is still there to see what kind of condition it is in. Even if the owner swears, “I brush him every day!” you must take time for this important step.
If the pet is matted and you know that it will have to be put in a short clip, be straightforward and tell the owner. Show them where the matting is and why it cannot be combed out. It’s a good idea to have them sign a release if you do have to give their dog a “smoothie.” Never say, “I’ll see what I can do,” knowing that you will have to clip it really short but giving the owner the impression that somehow you will be able to salvage their darling fluffy pooch. Do not promise what you cannot deliver.
It’s never a good thing when a client returns for their pet and they are unprepared to see their dog with very little or no hair. They may feel that you betrayed them and will always remember that you shaved their poor baby. (Never mind that it was matted to the skin… To the owner, it’s still your fault that their pet is “shaved” if both of you did not agree to the short clip at the time of drop-off.) On the other hand, if the pet is in good condition and you and the owner are both in agreement about the kind of styling you will give their dog, you may be able to turn out a groom that will have the owner jumping for joy.
No matter the final outcome of the “puppy cut,” if you are truthful, direct, and have the pet’s best interests at heart anytime you talk with an owner, they are very likely to see things your way. Good communication goes a long way toward making a satisfied and loyal client.
A good pet stylist has to wear many hats: mind reader, detective, communicator, negotiator, and more. So hang on to your hats and get grooming!