By Michellle Knowles
We all have them. That client who comes in with demands, or a picture of a dog that looks nothing like the pet you are to groom, haggles over price or insists on a service you are not comfortable with.
Grooming, no matter your demographic, is extremely rewarding at the best of times—but those worst of times can really impact your confidence, your bank account and your health.
Dealing with an extremely difficult client can make us question our life choices, and I have even heard of groomers that have stopped grooming all together because of a brutal run–in with a client. At the end of the day, it is a business, and how you react to the situation can have consequences on doing business with future clients that may hear rumors through the community. Having guidelines in place can help you get through these tough situations and make sure you are prepared in case of litigation or other consequences of the interaction. It is sometimes extremely hard to think clearly when you feel you are being personally attacked, but having some sort of protocol in place can minimize the interaction and get your day rolling again.
All of us that maintain a client list, own a storefront or mobile unit, have a house–call grooming service or accept clients at our home dream of a full appointment book of lovely pets and grateful clients that tip us and appreciate what we do. Then a glitch in the matrix happens.
You do not have to serve these owners. You do not have to do what they say. You do not have to groom their dogs. We are the professionals that have the experience, knowledge and, most importantly, the liability if something goes wrong. We deserve respect, a professional business relationship and a mutual understanding that each of us will do our part to make the relationship a success.
Know your worth. You are worth full price, not at a discount, and the client does not get to choose what price they pay. Clients choose the services, which should be agreed upon at check–in, along with the price of the groom. If that should change because of circumstances, it is best to call the client immediately and give them options on how to proceed.
Clients that reject your price and go to the next groomer in the same shop or another salon to ask for a cheaper price should be allowed to explore their options. Clients that call post–groom and browbeat or threaten to give a bad review unless their demands are met are not worth the stress they create for the individual stylist or for the culture of the salon. This also goes for clients that ask you to do things that you are not comfortable with. These clients are the reason grooming releases were made. If you truly did something wrong, absolutely make it right, but if the issue is ongoing, a hair here, a bow there, $5 too much or too little, prepare a list of alternative salons in your area at which they might find a better fit.
Communication is particularly important. Being clear in what your expectations are, what is possible with the coat that you are presented with, and minimizing the time that the client needs to be in your lobby will all reduce the likelihood of a confrontation and keep contact to a minimum.
Practicing scenarios involving roleplay will help acclimate the staff to handling and deescalating frantic or angry clients. When it does happen, everyone will have some experience in responding to a hostile client. With a little bit of practice, you should be able to diffuse the situation and make some decisions about whether you want to serve a particular client or not.
When these things happen, remember that you should not take it personally. It is so easy to feel personally attacked by someone who may be yelling at you, abusing your talent or knowledge, or otherwise not placing value on your hard work. There is a lesson in every encounter, especially the ones that upset you the most. This kind of self–assessment can help lead to new ways of interacting with your clients that can minimize anger and misunderstandings in the future. ✂️