By Mary Oquendo
I polled several pet owner Facebook groups. I was looking to get a good cross-reference between high and lower maintenance breed pet owners. And this was my question: How do you view professional pet groomers?
Their choices were: Skilled Professionals, Skilled Laborers, Unskilled Laborers, and Depends on the Place.
My very unscientific poll had some good news. Approximately half of the respondents looked to us as skilled professionals, while the other half said it depended on the place. And yes, there were a couple of rude options added. But all in all, it seems most people think highly of their groomer.
But what about the other half that thought it could go either way? How do you change that perception?
1. The first step is to look professional. Greet the client, including the pet, with neat hair and clean, appropriate clothing. Be aware of your body language. Stand straight with no leaning in any direction and offer your hand, along with eye contact and smile. It’s perfectly fine to greet long–term clients with a hug. Attention is always on the client in front of me. The purpose of looking professional is for clients to have confidence in you.
Observe other professionals and how they interact with you when you are in their place of business. How do they make you feel? Looking professional doesn’t stop with the groomer. Take a good look at your facility. Is it clean and does it smell fresh? What are your cleaning protocols? Sometimes we get so used to smells, that it’s hard to tell. Ask a friend or significant other to do the sniff test periodically. Is it organized? Clutter feels constraining.
2. Act professionally. It is your job to ensure the client is aware of your policies and procedures. You are responsible for providing clear communication. It is not the job of the owner to interpret what you mean. Any written instructions should be legible to prevent miscommunication between groomers. Set boundaries. Allowing the client to tell you what you will do, when the pet is ready, how much they’ll pay, being chronically late or a no show and consistently rescheduling, to name a few, erodes confidence in businesses.
This is where written policies and procedures need implementation and are consistently enforced. Don’t over promise and under deliver. It is not feasible to take a severely matted dog and turn him into a fluff ball. Use the word “naked” to describe what the matted pet is going to look like. Never agree to “try my best” because when an owner hears that they are now envisioning a fluffy pet and will be disappointed over your perceived promise. You over promised and under delivered. However, if they expect naked and you were able to wet shave and finish with a 5—you are a hero. In this scenario, you under promised and over delivered. Huge difference.
Don’t judge your clients. I am not privy to other people’s personal life. Maybe they are uncaring owners, but what if they are dealing with a sick child, or loss of job, or any number of other personal issues? None of which is my business. People like options because it gives them a sense of control. A matted dog always gets three options:
1. We can shave it naked and start over.
2. Show them how to brush and comb and reschedule so they have an opportunity to de–mat their own dog. I have this to be a frequently chosen option. They try and are unable. They come back with a newfound understanding and respect for what we do. This pet usually ends up on a more frequent grooming schedule as well.
3. Quote them an hourly de–matting price and the approximate time it will take.
Keep lines of communications open. There are times when we make a promise to a client in good faith, only to realize that it is not possible. This usually involves a shave down. If the style has significantly changed, I do not proceed without client approval. My preferred method is by text, as I will have a written authorization to do so. Phone approval can lead to a he said–she said type of situation.
3. Be the professional. While looking and acting the part offers visual cues to the client, being the professional is a mindset. This is confidence in your skills and in yourself, so that when you inform your clients what needs to be done, it is accepted rather than questioned. Embrace continuing education. There are many avenues to accomplish this from trade shows, to local classes, to online options.
There are clients that, no matter how professional you are, will never be happy and are often vocal about it. Clients that are encouraged to go elsewhere include those that use abusive or foul language, and exhibit inappropriate behavior. Professional behavior includes social media reactions. There is a segment of the population that believes if they threaten to leave a bad review or begin a social media campaign against your business, you will cave and give them what they want. Installing video cameras, along with clear, signed documentation regarding matting, can circumvent part of this problem. Setting and sticking to your written policies and procedures leads to better–behaved clients that are more respectful of this profession. Never respond out of anger to such reviews. If it gets out of hand, contact your insurance company and business attorney.
There will always be people who think less of any service professional, but let’s keep them in the minority and focus on how to improve our image with those who love us or want to love us. ✂