By Khris Berry
How has technology impacted your business? To answer this question, let’s first take a journey into the halls of history of Pet Grooming Business and see how our industry has changed over time.
As our customers have become more reliant on technology, we have also become more reliant on it in our daily work. It’s safe to say that technology touches every aspect of the modern pet professional today. Take a walk with me back in time:
1990: Your clients will either drive by your location or find you in the yellow pages of your local phone book.
Your primary advertising sources are word of mouth, referral from other professionals (vets, most likely), and yellow pages advertising (which you probably pay hundreds of dollars for each month).
You keep paper card files of your client histories, schedule appointments by writing them into a calendar, and don’t take credit cards as a payment form for your services.
Your co–worker learned to groom from you, and you learned to groom from an older co–worker, and she learned to groom from her mother.
You keep your own checkbook, receipts, and expenses in a ledger and deliver them all to your accountant in a large box to balance once a year (Ok, that was me in 1990, maybe not you.)
You answer the phone calls that you can but otherwise play voicemails on your answering machine at the beginning and end of each day.
Your clients just return at a prescheduled time for their pets because they can’t be reached during the day.
2000: Your clients are still finding you by driving by your location but, increasingly, they are talking about their pets, and word of mouth about your services is growing.
They may discuss your services over coffee with a friend or in the school carpool line.
You now have a website proudly displaying your skills, hours, and vaccine requirements – and you can track the growing number of clients seeking directions to your business each week.
You have a digital answering system and you now check your phone messages several times each day.
Your shop phone is cordless and you answer it when you can while grooming a pet.
You attend your first industry trade show, which you saw discussed on a great new website called Facebook.
You and your co–workers learn some new techniques, purchase new equipment, and are excited to share your new skills with your clients.
You have begun accepting credit card payments and are wrestling with new accounting software at the suggestion of your accountant to become more organized and up to date. (Ok, that accounting one is me again.)
2010: Your appointment calendar is bursting at the seams.
You have added a desktop computer to your office and are running accounting software alongside a new client tracker program.
You still love your paper card files, but they often disappear or are not kept up to date with client service data.
In addition to your digital answering service, you have a cell phone for your business.
Besides your accounting software, client software and business website, you are spending time learning to market your business in a digital world with keywords and tags.
You have just started a business page on Facebook so that customers can find and interact with your business more easily.
You regularly attend trade shows—at least 1 or 2 every year—so that you can follow the newest trends.
Your favorite industry magazine now has a digital version, and you have begun ordering the majority of your grooming supplies from online catalogs rather than the paper catalogs you receive in the mail.
Your business has a sterling reputation except for that naggy little bad review on a website called Yelp from a customer who was clearly unreasonable.
2019: Your appointment calendar is now ensconced on the computer work station at your reception desk, as well as the computer work station in the grooming room and on your smartphone.
You can access your appointments, your client database and the camera watching your dogs at home from your own personal device with two flicks of a finger.
The majority of your clients interface with your business electronically for at least a portion of their service; scheduling, payment, posting photos of their (#)cute groom or texting/emailing reminders for follow up visits.
Your business spans the internet from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram to Google Business Pages.
You belong to over forty grooming specific groups and there is a constant influx of information barraging your news feed.
You still enjoy visiting industry trade shows and the personal aspect of the education you receive (as well shopping for new shears), but you have participated in two webinars recently and just found a great new YouTube channel with grooming tips and tricks.
Your clients primarily pay for your services with credit cards, which are electronically deposited into your account from which your own paycheck is electronically debited.
Your personal interactions with your clients have become shorter while your digital interactions have increased.
Your customers are less tolerant of the time your service takes and expect to be contacted immediately when their pet is finished.
You spend time every week looking at your reviews and managing your online reputation due to unreasonable expectations from your ever–growing client base.
You change your voicemail message to indicate that you aren’t answering the phone so that your time and attention can remain on the pets in your care, yet clients continue to be irritable if you don’t return their phone messages immediately.
At the end of a physically, socially and emotionally exhausting day, you find solace in seeing that other groomers post memes portraying exactly how you feel in that moment.
In fact, you order your dinner from the comfort of your bathrobe and scroll through the messages you have received during the day while you await your dinner to arrive at your door – again, accomplished with two flicks of your fingers.
While you are waiting, you decide to check tomorrow’s appointment schedule, answer a few emails and catch a quick grooming tutorial from an online source.
Did you find yourself in the history above? As technology has become more readily available, we find more ways to ease our daily tasks and incorporate it into our daily lives. Our clients are doing the same, and the cycle persists.
As groomers, many of us have a voracious appetite for new and improved – we’ve done our work for so many years without the aid of modern conveniences. Now, as a modern and desirable personal service, our clients expect to interface with us the way they do their other valued services. As society and culture shift into a technologically driven age, our social interactions as well as our business interactions with our clients are also rapidly shifting. Progress, innovation and advancement are wonderful things, but it’s up to each of us to ensure that we keep the pet in pet grooming and the personal in personal service.
I wonder what this article will look like in 2030. Will we still know our client pets on a personal level? Will we know our client preferences and form personal relationships with them that define the groomer/pet bond? As technology creeps into our pet grooming businesses, how do we, as pet professionals, alter our own perspective to keep up with our clients?
As groomers, we can’t really answer those questions. We can look ahead with a mix of apprehension and excitement about the future of our industry. The technological wheel keeps turning. And so it goes. Despite all the changes in how we interface with our clients and peers in the industry, there is one defining factor that has not changed in any of the decades or history reflected above. No matter the technology which we introduce into our workplace, when it comes time to groom the dog – it’s still just you and the dog.
We may use technology to interface with our clients; we may use technology to connect with our peers; we may use technology to improve or share our own skill sets. But we still use our hands, artistry and our minds to create the perfect style for each pet. And that piece of our job will likely never change.