Groomer to Groomer

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Working with First Time Pet Owners

to Create an Informed and loyal client

By Kathy Hosler

Most of us in the grooming world have grown up with pets and can’t imagine our lives without them. However, there are many people who have never had a pet of their own. Then it happens… They fall in love with a wee ball of fluff or are smitten by the soulful eyes of a dog at their local pet shelter — and they decide to join our ranks by becoming pet owners. Once they get their pet, their lives are changed forever. More often than not, their lives begin to revolve around this new family member.

We all know that pets don’t come with instruction books, so where does a new pet owner turn for help and information?

Everything is new to the first-time owner, including the grooming needs of the pet. Even giving their pet its first bath may be overwhelming... what products to use, worrying about getting soap and water in their eyes and ears, and even how to get their pet to hold still for the washing and drying. When a first-time owner contacts a professional groomer, it’s because they realize that their pet needs more care than they know how to provide.

That new owner is like a rough block of marble, and you are the one that can sculpt him or her into an educated pet owner who will become a loyal client for the life of their pet. Often your first contact with a pet owner is over the telephone. That is a prime opportunity to go over some basics with them and to set up an appointment to bring their pet in for grooming.

They may have many questions about the grooming needs of their pet. If they catch you at a busy time and you can’t stop to answer all their questions, tell them so. Get their telephone number and call them back when you have ample time to talk with them.

How you present yourself to the client on the telephone and when you meet them in person will set the tone for the relationship you will have with them. Give them your undivided attention and spend whatever time is necessary to put the new owner at ease. If you rush them or are “all business,” you might give the impression that their concerns and their pet’s needs are not all that important to you.

As groomers, we expect to spend extra time with puppies during their first few grooming appointments to familiarize them with all the new things, but we seldom think about the first-time owner. They want to take the best care of their pet, but where do they start? Someone who has become a pet parent for the first time often has no idea about the grooming needs of a pet. They need information about things like brushing and bathing, how often to do it, and what products they should use.

They may not know that toenails will need to be trimmed and sanded regularly or that the ears need to be cleaned. If new owners find that they have a pet that sheds, they may have no clue what to do about it.

When they arrive for their first grooming appointment, discuss what their pet will need and explain step-by-step what you will do while he is in your care. Let the owners know that the welfare of their pet is your main concern and that regular grooming is crucial for the pet’s well-being. This all-important meeting can provide a huge payout by creating a loyal long-time client for your business if you handle it properly.

At pet pick-up, you can instruct the owner about the at-home grooming they should do on their pet between visits to your salon. Sell them any brushes, combs, shampoo, and other grooming products they will need. Show the owner how to use the products and equipment. Even the best brush does no good unless it is used properly.

Showing them how to brush and comb their pet is one of the most important things you can do for a first-time pet owner. Remember, these folks are brand new to pet ownership and to everything that pertains to grooming.

Many groomers keep on hand a piece of matted hair that they can show to pet owners to demonstrate what improper brushing leads to. When a pet owner can see what really happens when a pet gets matted – fluffy hair on the top and a felted, matted mess against the pet’s skin – they can understand the importance of thorough brushing and combing.

Assure them that you will be available to answer any questions that they might have. Always encourage them to rebook their next appointment before they leave.

In essence, you are not only grooming the pet, but you are also grooming the owner — educating and molding them into a client who realizes how important regular grooming of their pet is. The end result for you can be a faithful client who books standing appointments for their pet and does at-home maintenance between professional groomings – not someone who brings their pet in for a grooming once a year (whether it needs it or not).

Give your clients instructional handouts like the Barkleigh Groom-O-Grams and Pet Care Brochures. Some groomers hold occasional classes to teach brushing and grooming basics to their clients.

If these new pet parents follow your suggestions, they will be able to maintain their pet between professional grooming appointments, and it will be a win-win situation for pet, owner, and groomer.

If they give it their best try and at-home grooming is not their cup of tea, they can bring the pet back to you weekly or bi-weekly or on whatever schedule you and the pet owner are comfortable with. Some owners just want to love their pet and leave all the grooming to someone else. Again, this can be a win-win outcome.

If you are wise enough to invest whatever time is necessary to get the first-time owner off on the right foot with their pet’s grooming needs, they will become a loyal friend and customer for many years (and possibly many pets) to come. ✂