By Michell Evans
“Dear Michell, it has been suggested to me by a groomer friend that I do something nice for my customers at Christmas. I am on a tight budget and I am slightly uncomfortable with the idea. Do you have any suggestions?” –Tom
Hi Tom. It is a nice idea to offer your customers a gift. Most likely, not all your customers celebrate Christmas. If you openly celebrate the holiday and you feel like sharing with your clients regardless of their beliefs—then go for it! If you choose to openly celebrate, you will probably develop and maintain a clientele who either shares your beliefs, are tolerant of your beliefs, or are indifferent. There could be a few folks that strongly disagree with your beliefs and they may look for grooming services elsewhere.
Christmas has a whole commercial aspect that can be far removed from the religious beliefs of Christians, so it is likely that most customers will tolerate the festivities regardless of your beliefs or theirs.
If you are slightly uncomfortable because you don’t want to openly share your religious beliefs with your clients, then consider a mid–year customer appreciation gift instead. Even if you choose not to give a gift, consider that there is a reason why stores start putting up Christmas displays before Thanksgiving. The reason is revenue! Starting the holiday music and decorations on Black Friday might increase tips for you and your employees during this time.
Greeting cards are probably the most common holiday gift. There are several companies, including Barkleigh Productions, who sell holiday cards with a dog grooming theme. Consider choosing a holiday theme rather than a Christmas theme to cover a wider range of religious beliefs. Some companies will print the signatures and message inside and print the return address on the envelopes for you, including your logo. All you need to do is scan and email the image of the signatures and your message and they will print them in the card for you. You still need to address them as well as purchase and apply stamps. If you are talking about sending several hundred cards, these printing services save you a lot of time.
You may want to go the printed–message route for the majority of your clients but consider hand writing and signing your top 25 clients or so. A temporary labor agency or maybe your teenaged niece are good resources for addressing and applying stamps. I suggest budgeting for and ordering these cards in October each year.
In the category of free or inexpensive, adding festive bows and/or a bandanna can be nice and easy. It takes just minutes to cut enough bandannas for a week! There are several companies that do lovely and inexpensive bows and bow ties these days. Free spa services are always a hit and don’t cost the salon much at all. Maybe as a customer appreciation or holiday gift to your clients, you offer a free aromatherapy spa treatment (shampoo). You are going to bathe the dog anyway, so it is of relatively no added expense to the salon. Most of these shampoos come with a matching perfume to enhance the fragrance.
Some salon owners go all out and order up a Santa Clause and a photographer for a bonified shopping mall inspired photo shoot. Some have ornaments hand painted with each pet’s name or even portrait. Some offer discounts and coupons for free grooming. Some people miraculously find the time to bake dog biscuits for their clients. The possibilities are endless.
If you are an employer, you need to decide if you are going to give gifts to all of the salon’s customers or just your own personal clients. Will you allow your employees to give gifts to their clients? If so, what? Should you only give gifts to the top 25 clients, based on revenue? If you are an employee, is it ok with your employer that you give gifts?
These are all policies that need to be addressed. Be sure to put some thought into not only this Christmas, but all to come. Once you start giving gifts, it can become expected.
Enjoy your holiday!