By Malissa Conti-Diener
When was the last time you went into a store or used a service and were so impressed with the experience that you shared it with friends and family? Or even better, took to your social media pages and posted reviews about them?
The truth is, most groomers try to get away with just being average. The attitude of “This is how everyone does it, so this is how I am going to do it” must be banished. Mediocrity will always lead to more mediocrity, and an average grooming business produces mediocre results.
It’s the ones that put in a little extra effort to exceed their customer expectations that create raving fans who re–book more often, purchase retail and share their experience with others in person and on social media.
So, do you want to learn the importance of exceeding customer expectations to build a strong grooming business that breaks past mediocre and makes more money?
First, it’s relatively easy to do. How often do you shop somewhere and leave without any emotional feeling about the experience one way or another? Standing out isn’t all that difficult. It’s low hanging fruit for your business and one that has the ability to produce big results, with efforts that will not break the bank or your spirit.
Second, when you exceed the expectations of your customers, you create a positive association that further helps to build your brand and customer loyalty. This can significantly help with repeat visits and increasing your customer lifetime value (CLV), an important metric for any business. We may be, or know of, groomers that have groomed for families for the lifetime of their pets, and new pets and new family members, and so on and so on. This IS your bread and butter customer base.
In fact, in a nationally well–known pet business journal, it was found that the most successful businesses made the majority of their revenues from repeat customers past year three of operation. These interesting statistics are now proving that these businesses are not the average, run–of–the–mill pet grooming available to the public—no matter if you are a brick and mortar, home–based shop, house call or mobile unit. They have raised their vibrational frequency and manifested this idea to attract the customers they want and need to be above average. They make their customers feel special. They touch them on an emotional response level.
When this happens, a customer feels loyal to your business. They respond to that higher frequency of energy and want to share it with others. THIS is what you want each customer to do. They NEED to feel the urge to take to the web, their neighborhood, and others they know and rave about how amazing your grooming services are. A customer with a good solid grooming experience will tell others, helping you acquire new customers and lowering your overall marketing costs.
To sum it up, when you exceed customer expectations, you create customers that spend more money, purchase more frequently and help you acquire more customers by sharing their experience. In all three ways that a grooming business can make more revenue, over–delivering on expectations helps you achieve it.
So far, this has cost you nothing out of pocket. It is about your attitude, how you present yourself and your services, and most importantly, how you make that customer feel.
Now, granted, not everyone who steps through your door (or you through theirs, depending on your business model) will like you, your services or will be a repeat customer. Those transient bargain seekers are not your demographic anyway. You will give them all your razzle dazzle, and they just won’t be razzled or dazzled by you. They were never meant for you anyway, so let them pass, acknowledge their purpose in your business plan and then move on. You can’t and don’t want to retain them all.
You need to find your tribe; those customers that feel like friends or family when we work with them. Trust and Loyalty are two great business partners that will serve you well if you take care to serve them.
Customers don’t expect much, that’s why there are so many ordinary grooming businesses out there. Most of them are pretty reasonably priced and offer ho–hum services with not much else. One of the main reasons the customers don’t expect too much from these businesses is because very few pet groomers take the time to raise the bar and put these higher expectations in the heads of customers. Why should they expect more if everyone is offering the same thing, in the same way?
Now, let’s learn how to exceed every customer’s expectation, every time. We need to begin with understanding each of your customer touchpoints.
A touchpoint is a single interaction that a customer has with your business. These interactions can be anything from a visit to your website, a one–on–one phone conversation, a text message conversation, a visit to your salon….you get the idea. Every single touchpoint a potential customer has with you and your business has the opportunity to meet, exceed or fail customer expectations.
What is their first impression that they receive? Even if they don’t book an appointment, is there a follow–up email, phone call or text correspondence, or even a single social media message? How have you emotionally impacted that customer? What type of energy did you put forward when meeting with or just communicating with that human being?
To create a memorable experience, you first need to map out each touchpoint your potential (and established) customers typically have with your grooming business. The easiest way to start this process is to break down their experience into major categories, and then list all the touchpoints a person would typically go through for each category.
For example, you may decide to break out your major categories like this:
- Pre–Appointment: All the interactions a customer has with your grooming business prior to deciding to utilize your services and business.
- Purchasing Services: The communication a customer has with you after they have made the decision to employ your services/business.
- Deliver Services: All the wonderful attributes of your business you discussed with your customer now must be fulfilled in a timely manner.
- Post–Purchase: All the interactions a customer has with you after they have purchased grooming services from your business.
And you may choose to categorize your touchpoints such as:
- Social Media Communication: General posts to reach all customers/potential customers
- Direct Communication: Emails, text message and face–to–face
- Auto–responders: Email, newsletters, social media postings
- Informational: Service descriptions, website pages, social media pages/profiles
- Business Policies: Refunds, release forms, payment terms, terms of services
Of course, this is just a small example. You’ll want to consider every point of contact with your customers for each of your major categories, no matter how small. Breaking this down into the smallest points will help you to plan better for each interaction and also to pre–plan your reactions to customers who can be frustrating or uninformed about pet grooming or pet ownership.
You can’t be everything to everyone. Your best bet is to start by choosing one touchpoint to focus on and do the best you can with that, and then slowly add others to your plan as you raise the level of your interactions with customers.
Once you choose a touchpoint to focus on, ask yourself, “What does the average person expect from this?” Once you’ve determined an average customer expectation, you’ll want to brainstorm ways that you can exceed those expectations.
Something as simple as adding a signature to your text messages or emails that conveys your interest in them as a potential customer speaks volumes to the person reading it. Be excited to share your business with them; let them see, feel and hear that excitement through your interactions. I wouldn’t want a service person who was flat and uninspired when choosing where to bring my pet.
What are your checkouts like? Something as simple as giving them a small bag of wrapped treats at the end of each grooming with your business info on it can really impress a customer, and the cost is minimal.
Do you issue a receipt? Or do you give a rebooking reminder card, email or text? Add something to those such as a free spa facial or toothbrushing. Rewarding customer loyalty is huge to a person who is using your services. This builds loyalty, and it is an exchange of positive energy. Just the words “Thank You” can make a world of difference to your customers if they can feel the sincerity in it.
Once you’re happy with your newly–crafted customer experience, try testing it out yourself. Go through your entire purchase experience as if you were a brand new customer, or have someone you know role play these scenarios with you to perfect your customer experience. Don’t forget to put the negatives in also, like dealing with those that are unsatisfied with your services. How we handle the negative experience impacts how we deal in the positive realm as well. It is all about balance. You also need to re–evaluate every so often to make sure things don’t get stale or complacent.
Finally, you’ll want to ask your customers for feedback. If you’ve truly done a great job, you’ll likely see some of the fruits of your labor in the form of increased positive customer emails, as well as mentions on social media.
Don’t be shy, ask them to review your services on review sites, and you can even offer incentives like a percentage off their next groom, or a free upgraded service for positive reviews. Many also offer referral bonuses to their customers who bring in new business. Make it worth their while to do something for you. And to thank them, you need to open your bag of generosity (to a degree) and make them feel appreciated for spreading the good word about your great work.
Ultimately it comes down to the question, are you willing to do what it takes to become above average in a sea of average grooming businesses?
Raise your energy level and, with careful planning, you can attract more, better and more loyal customers who share your passion for the animals you groom. If you put your spirit into each interaction, customers who value your special energy and love for your craft will seek you out and lead others to you. It’s all about staying grounded and knowing that you are going above and beyond to make your business stand out.