Retaining Regular Clients (Post-Pandemic)
By Deborah Hansen
After spending many years educating cat owners on the importance of regular feline grooming, numerous grooming businesses were forced to temporarily close due to stay–at–home orders earlier this year.
Now that many governments have allowed grooming businesses to reopen, some regular clients are afraid to restart maintenance grooming. So when we approach our once regular clients with returning to a maintenance grooming schedule, our strategy must be different than the approach we use to obtain new regular cat grooming clients.
When converting a new client into a regular client, we need to focus on education. New clients do not understand that matting hurts, or that we can control the amount of dead coat in their household, or how delightful a fresh–smelling cat is to live with. Time needs to be taken with these clients to help them understand the benefit to the feline and to the household which maintenance grooming provides.
However, our maintenance grooming clients fully understand all the benefits that feline grooming provides, yet are hesitant to schedule an appointment or commit to a schedule due to a change in income or fear of being exposed to COVID–19. We must change our business strategies to help these clients feel safe while encouraging them to return to regular grooming. Overcoming these obstacles will take new and innovative strategies that may have never been previously considered.
These clients may have felt guilty during lockdown because they were not able to provide the same level of care that they knew their kitty needed. They have watched the coat condition deteriorate with each passing week of the stay–at–home orders. Longer nails tore at the family’s hearts as they began getting stuck in the carpet. But when the matting began, they probably reached out to you. These families knew their beloved feline needed professional grooming and they felt helpless in obtaining and providing that care.
Now that our businesses have reopened, how do we reconnect with these clients? We know these families already understand and believe in maintenance grooming for their feline family members. So, as business owners, we have to focus on the reason our once regular clients are hesitant to restart their grooming schedules. Our businesses will need to take new approaches while offering comfort and understanding to this group of valuable clients.
Record high unemployment rates accompanied by many people having their hours and salaries cut has made families tighten up their budgets. A family that used to be able to comfortably afford monthly grooming may now be worried about how they will be paying their basic bills.
After many years of instituting an annual price increase, many grooming businesses may find it appropriate to offer our previously regular maintenance grooming clients a special rate on routine grooming. I understand your overhead costs have gone up, and now you may be facing interest rates from carrying your business during the closure, so the natural tendency is to raise your prices. Yet, when estimating how much time these grooming clients take compared to a new client, you will see that a small discount will not only help you maintain these valuable clients, but will also allow you to groom more cats in a day.
When you look at the amount of time a previous client needs, you will find that it is significantly less than that of a new client. These families already know what needs to be done between grooming appointments, they take less time at check–in, check–out and with communication. You also have an established relationship with this cat, making the grooming process more predictable. Overall, keeping a previously regular client is easier and less time–consuming than adding a new cat grooming client. So, in the aftermath of a COVID closure, it may be time to reward your long–time, faithful clients with a price reduction.
Other families may fear the safety of grooming. If you are a salon–based business, they are afraid of COVID exposure during drop–off and pick–up. If you are a house–call service, these families are concerned with letting you into their homes. These owners need reassurance that you are doing everything possible to minimize the risk of exposing their family to the COVID–19 virus.
Many local authorities are now requiring new signage and posted procedures that address your business’s policy on COVID prevention. However, that may not be enough to get these families back in for regular grooming. The families that truly have a fear of COVID–19 exposure simply need more. They need personalized emails, verbal reassurance, and recognition that their fears are valid and understood. Calling to see how they are doing, if they have any questions or concerns you can address, and to see how their kitty is doing goes a long way to reestablishing your relationship with these families.
Running social media campaigns can be effective in reassuring your clients who are fearful, as well as in attracting new clients. Scheduling catchy captions that explain the extra precautions you are taking with each client to ensure the prevention of cross–contamination will go even further in today’s world. As we enter this new stage, it will be the little things that will keep our long–time clients faithful to our businesses.
Finding strategies to help our previously regular clients keep a maintenance grooming schedule will not only benefit the feline and reduce the amount of stress in their human families’ lives, but will also be an asset to your grooming business. ✂️