Culling Your Client List: Who Should Stay and Who Should Go?

Ask the Grooming Tutor

By Michell Evans

Hi Michell.  I own a small grooming salon and I am finally getting to the point of being selective about what new clients I will take and about what existing clients I should keep. 

I just had a reduction in staff and we are overflowing. Do you have any advice on how to choose what new clients to take? Do you have any suggestions on how to approach existing clients that I don’t want anymore? Thanks, K. Willis”

Hi Mr. Willis. This is a great time to weed out unwanted customers, start a waiting list, be very particular about what new pets you will accept and raise prices. While your income might be down, your options are abundant. A price increase will help to offset the loss of labor and there is a never a better time to raise prices than when you are booked to the hilt. A change in staff can impact morale, but a price increase should improve the income of the remaining employees thereby, hopefully, securing their loyalty. 

It is never fun to tell a client that you are no longer interested in servicing their pet. We groom pets because we care about them but there are so many other factors to consider. At the end of the day your staff is doing the labor. Keeping your labor force happy, healthy and fresh just might be the best way to maintain a long–term staff. 

Large dogs take their toll on groomers’ bodies as well as equipment, utilities and supplies. Consider implementing a weight limit. This can certainly be used for accepting new clients, but it is a bit harder to turn away existing large dog clients. A hefty price increase may send some of them searching for a new caregiver. The ones that stay will at least pay better. 

Difficult pets are a risk because they can cause injuries to themselves and groomers. Let’s face it; some can be downright dangerous. In some cases, a groomer may be off work for days or weeks due to a bite, broken finger or pulled muscle, not to mention the headaches and cost of workers compensation claims. Consider letting some of these pets go. 

I am not suggesting that you tell all your special cases to take a hike. I have met very few groomers who don’t have at least a few “special clients”. You know the ones; you see them on your books and you cringe and put on your big kid pants and get em done. Then do it all over again in six weeks. It can be hard to tell these clients that you are unable to continue to work with them. But in your case, using the staffing deficit as a polite reason to let them go might be helpful. Also referring them to a trusted grooming colleague or local veterinarian, wh ere sedation might be an option, can give them some options to move forward. 

Speaking of six weeks, this can be a good criterion for sorting clients. For example: when accepting new clients, tell them of your policy of only accepting new clients who pre–book at least every six weeks. For existing clients, you could also inform them of new policies like, all clients are now required to pre–book at least every six weeks. This is a great way to off–load clients that are call–in clients and/or random and overgrown. 

Also keep an eye on the good tippers! Exceptions might be made for a client who offers to pay for missed appointments or tips well every time. Remember that it is only the clients that do not intend to be regular pre–booking clients that will have complaints about these policies. The core of your loyal clientele will have no issues with these polices. 

A waiting list is a useful tool for filling appointments when an existing client moves or passes. It is also a useful tool for telling people “no” without really saying it. Another benefit of a waiting list is that it makes you seem elite to the clients. They love to tell others that their groomer has a waiting list. Since the clients that are on the waiting list don’t know where they fall on the list, you can be selective even when working from your list. 

The human clients can be much worse than their pets! If a client is never happy with your service, is always late, no–shows on a regular basis, is abusive to you or your staff, complains about the price every time or is just plain difficult, it is ok to tell them to try another groomer. If, after implementing some policies that narrow your clientele into a more ideal clientele, you still have some unwanted clients, you might just have to look some of them in the eye and say, “This isn’t working out, you should find another groomer”. 

If you are grappling with whether or not to fire a particular client, ask yourself if you would be sad or relieved if they told you they were not coming back. If the answer is relieved, send them packing. If the answer is sad, maybe you should try imposing some particular policies on that person to make them more tolerable to the business. 

All in all this is a good place to be in business. It is a luxury to have the power to mold your clientele into the most lucrative and ideal clientele possible. Good luck! ✂️

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