“Hi Michell. I am struggling to get my clients to let me groom their dogs in a longer style. They all want them shaved. I am mostly speaking of Doodles, Havanese, Shih-Tzus, Poodles, and mix breeds. No one wants to pay for de-matting. They don’t bring them often enough. I am bored with my work.  From what I learned at the Northwest Grooming Show, I am doing things all wrong. How do I take a clientele that I have trained to want their dogs shaved every three or four months and convince them to want longer styles more often?” Submitted by Bill M.

This is easier than it seems Bill. Many groomers find themselves making this turn at some point in their careers. As we grow in grooming we can teach our clients to be better clients. It is scary to make changes but don’t get trapped by fear. Your clients respect your expertise and will follow you in a new direction.

Start by sending a letter to all of your clients explaining all that you have learned and the direction you plan to take. Email is a good way to reach them but you can also snail-mail them and/or offer a hand-out at the salon.

Here is an example of how to communicate the changes that you would like to make:

Tell them that you are much better able to help them with their dog’s health and well-being if you see them on a more regular basis. This tells them that you are planning to book them more frequently. Inform them that this is the only way you will be able to safely, comfortably, and happily care for their pets in the future. This tells them that you are not willing to negotiate.

Tell them that you are more focused than ever on the health, safety, and style of their dog. This tells them that the changes you are making are in the best interest of their dog.  Let them know that you have attended the Northwest Grooming Show, (or dog show, or certification, or workshop, or subscribed to streaming educational source, or purchased a set of educational DVDs) and that you have discovered new and better ways to care for their furry family members. This explains the reason for the changes and why you are making them now. Inform them that you plan to continue to learn and improve your grooming skills for the rest of your career and that you plan to use your increasing knowledge in the care of their pet for many years to come. This tells them that they can expect more changes and price increases in the future and that you hope they will respect and appreciate your growth.

Let them know that it will cost them more but it will be worth every penny because their dog’s coat, skin, and nails will be maintained rather than salvaged. This tells them that their pet will benefit more from the new policies than the old.  Tell them that their eyes, mouths, ears, anuses, genitalia, armpits, toes, and tails will get twice or three times as much attention with the new grooming schedule. This reminds them of how important your services are in monitoring their pet’s health.

Recommend monthly grooming and tell them that about 1 inch of coat, depending on the breed, is a healthy, stylish length for their dog. One inch of coat protects and insulates their dog in the cold as well as hot months/climates. Well maintained coat keeps them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Keep in mind that even though 1 inch is a provable measurement, it serves as an average and may not be technically an inch. The coat may be shorter than an inch in some places and longer than an inch in others but to the layman/client it all just looks like “about an inch”. Very short coat offers no protection from the elements what so ever. Suggest that they let you try a more appropriate style on their dog and if they don’t love it you can change to something simpler next time. This means their dog gets all of the benefits listed above plus it looks more beautiful than ever! Once the client gets used to their dog being washed and trimmed regularly, it is hard for them to go back to a smelly unkempt bed mate.

Learning to maintain coat and de-matt efficiently takes a little time and practice so start out with a little less coat and work up to more stylized trims. This is also easier for the clients to accept at first. Be sure to charge for de-matting. Although the idea behind having them come monthly is that they will not be matted, some will have matts. It should not take quite as long to trim a well maintained monthly client as it did the three month shave, so in theory, a little bit of time for de-matting is built in.

Most importantly, Bill, if you lose a few clients you will fill those spots with the customers that are willing to come in more frequently. For example, if you have a full clientele that currently come in every three months and you convince one-third of them to come every month, you no longer need the two-thirds of your clients, whom could not be convinced, to fill your schedule. ✂

I am a multi-Best-In-Show and Best-All-Around groomer. I am the recipient of many Barkleigh Honors Awards. I am a Silver and Gold medalist for GroomTeam USA. I am the winner of Show Dog Groomer of the Year. I am an educator for Andis Clipper Company. I have been teaching as The Grooming Tutor since 2000. And I groom to make a living, just like you. Please send questions to [email protected]