By Kathy Hosler
I had driven more than 100 miles when I pulled up in front of the Crile building in the enormous Cleveland Clinic complex.
“This is our first time here,” I said to the parking attendant who met our car. “This place is huge; it’s overwhelming.”
He greeted us with a warm smile and said, “Don’t worry. We will take good care of you here.”
We entered the building and a concierge in a red blazer welcomed us and asked how he could assist us. He quickly directed us to the surgeon’s office and even showed us where we could get some much needed coffee.
Every person we met with that day—from the receptionists to the surgeon—all gave us their undivided attention. They did not rush us, and answered all of our questions and concerns. As we were leaving, the gentleman who returned our car asked if we needed directions or if there was anything else he could assist us with. I was so impressed.
So, what does my Cleveland Clinic experience have to do with pet grooming? Just this: no matter what industry you are in, customer service is a vital part of your business. Grooming is definitely a service industry, making your customer service skills every bit as important as your grooming skills.
You may be the most talented groomer around, but if you are abrasive, aloof or condescending when you interact with people, they will soon find someone else. Besides, if you are not warm and caring towards the owners, why would they trust you with their pets?
That goes for every member of your staff as well. From the moment a person makes an appointment, until they walk out the door with their freshly groomed pet, it’s everyone’s job to make them feel valued and appreciated.
I once went into a facility that had this sign posted on the wall, “Our customer service manager is Helen Waite. If you have a complaint, go to Helen Waite”. The owners may have thought that the sign was funny or cute, but I won’t be able to ask them. They are no longer in business.
First impressions often set the tone for a lasting relationship. Being greeted with a smile and a reassuring, “We’ll take good care of you here,” really helped calm the anxiety and uncertainty I felt in an unfamiliar place.
It’s important to greet every customer promptly with a warm welcome and a genuine smile. Address the people and pets by their names. (I always speak to the pet first.) While you are interacting with each pet and owner, they should feel like they are the most important client (and pet) that you have…because at that moment, they are.
Effective client communication and problem–solving are crucial customer service skills. If a customer comes to you with a problem, give them your full attention. Actively listen to them. Focus on making it a positive interaction. If they have a valid concern, find a workable solution. Go the extra mile to be understanding, but if the client is unreasonable, do not allow yourself to be drawn into an argument. Keep your cool. Arguing never leads to anything good. But, successfully resolving a problem helps create a loyal client.
Providing good customer service doesn’t mean that you become a doormat who allows people to walk all over you. Learning how to diplomatically handle difficult situations such as missed appointments, chronic cancellations and late pickups can make a world of difference. Move from reactive to proactive customer service. Head off problems before they start.
To help eliminate no–shows and last minute cancellations, do what doctors, dentists and other professionals do. Remind the client of their appointment. Contact them by phone call, text, email or a reminder card. Many salons send out multiple reminders; first a week before the appointment, then three days before and again the day before. Make sure to include your policies on every reminder. For example: “50% of the grooming fee will be charged for missed appointments or any appointment that is cancelled without 24 hour notice.”
An example of another frequent problem we encounter is the matted pet. At check–in, you place the pet on your table and determine that it should have a #10 all over, but the owner insists that they want a fluffy puppy cut. Show them the matting and explain how tight the mats are to the skin and how painful it would be to even try to brush them out. Hand the owner the comb and let them try. Tell them that their pet’s wellbeing and comfort are your top priority. Do not let them bully you into de–matting a pet when you know it’s not in the pet’s best interest. Have them read and sign a matted pet release. If they refuse, you can simply decline to groom the pet.
Some customers are difficult and others are great, but we have to deal with them all. Great customer service doesn’t happen by accident. It takes dedication, work and great people skills, but the payoff can be huge. In customer service, you get out what you put in. ✂️