By Deborah Hansen
When a pelted cat is presented at a first appointment, we are sad, but hopeful. Three years later, however, when it has become clear the owner expects this cat to be an annual shave–down, it is easy to become frustrated and discouraged.
Converting these clients into regular clients is never easy, yet still possible.
In my grooming business, I do a few things to help convert these clients into regular clients. The key to changing an owner’s behavior and expectations when it comes to a cat that has a tendency to mat and pelt often comes down to a “tough love” strategy.
At check–in, I always assess each cat. When I discover the cat is pelted, I do a quick overview with the owner explaining why pelting is painful to the kitty and let them know the charges for today. I then give owner two options and tell them that they do not need to make a decision until pick–up, and I send them off with printed material to explain the options I have verbally presented to them.
The first option is to pay the bill in full at pick–up. That would be the lion cut and pelt removal price, plus any additional fees. My lion cut price includes the lion cut, bath, face, ears, nails and drying. The pelt removal fee is specifically for the extra time the lion cut takes due to the clippers not being able to slide under the mats.
Additional pelt removal fees that my business may include would be for elderly and/or special needs cats, skin in the pelt and fecal removal. My elderly fee is for cats who have extra delicate skin and are significantly underweight. The fee for the special needs cats is applied to the cats that have medical issues which require them to be handled in a unique way. Most of my special needs cats have asthma or arthritis. Many of the pelt removals my business performs are for both elderly and special needs. For the cats that have the armpit skin pulled up into the matting, I charge an extra fee due to the amount of time it takes to position the cat to safely release the fur that is pulling the skin into those mats. Cats with caked–on fecal matter are also charged an extra fee and are usually recommended for a veterinarian visit.
The second option is to purchase a package of six grooms, which includes the pelt removal and five bath–and–brush visits, with the payments spread out over eight months. At drop–off I give the client a printed brochure to take with them that gives them all the information they need to know about this option. What allures clients into this choice is that they do not have the expected huge grooming bill today. When clients choose to purchase a package, I do not add any extra charges, such as interest, plus I give a frequency discount, making it well worth the price. My goal is to get the client used to a fresh and clean cat with less shedding. This is what truly converts an annual pelt–removal cat into a regular four– to six–week client.
When the cat owner does not want to purchase a set of grooms at the first visit, I offer a complimentary nail trim at six to eight weeks. I always schedule it before the client leaves their first appointment. When I am able to get my hands on the cat again at six to eight weeks, I am able to better understand that cat’s specific needs.
As we know, diet, environment, nutrition and genetics all play a part in coat condition. When we can see the cat again in six to eight weeks, we know the cat started out clean and we can make accurate predictions as to the cat’s future grooming needs by assessing the current skin and coat condition.
One thing my grooming business does to encourage the cat owner to keep this free appointment is to send the cat owner a personalized thank you card after the first visit. That way, by reaching out to the owner with an appointment confirmation, they know how excited we are to see their kitty in the coming weeks.
With all these things in place, some clients still will not follow through with regular grooming for their cat. At the cat’s second annual visit (year two), I directly tell the clients I knew their cat was going to pelt. I explain to them that pelting hurts and briefly mention the medical complications that can arise due to this degree of matting. I explain to the owner that this is why I offer a package of grooms and a free consultation to pelted kitties because I worry these cats will be in discomfort if I do not see them for a year. I then offer the cat owner the same choices I gave them last year. I make it clear I will not do another pelt removal on their cat. If they do not take my advice, this is the last time I will groom their cat. Chances are, they will not yet commit to another groom.
The next time this cat owner calls my business (it may be year three, but sometimes it is year four or five), I tell them I will remove the pelt if—and only if—they agree to the package of grooms. I am very blunt and tell them it is too heartbreaking for me to see their cat in this condition when I know how to prevent their cat’s discomfort. This is the point at which these tough clients either become lifelong regulars or I never hear from them again.
Converting an annual shave–down client into a regular client is not easy; however, it is possible. Many times I have seen it happen in my business. These types of clients take a lot of work on the front end, but once they have committed to regular grooming, they truly become your most loyal clients.✂️