The holiday season was always a magical experience for me as a child. Seeing the decorations popping up in stores around town, homes strung with holiday lights and yards adorned with holiday inflatables were all part of the experience. The world through the eyes of a child is such a wondrous vision…and then you grow up to be a groomer and the holidays mean something completely different.
The holiday cheer is replaced by the sound of a seemingly endless ring of the phone and the warm wishes are replaced by a disgruntled customer who cannot understand why you can’t “squeeze in one more dog” during the week of a major holiday. Well, the holidays are upon us and the rush is setting in and the stress levels are building up.
But why is it so important to pace ourselves and what can we do to ease the stress?
In my 30 plus years of grooming, one thing I have learned for sure is that nobody is going to die if you can’t squeeze in that one late Lucy who neglected to book their holiday appointment in advance and now desperately needs to get in to see you. Well, nobody except you perhaps for pushing yourself to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion trying to please everyone else.
The holidays come every year. This is not a new concept and everyone is well aware that they’re coming. Truthfully, they’ve got 11 other months to remember this simple fact. Yet every year, we as groomers, face the same situation of a regular client who wants an extra grooming so Fluffy is fresh for the guests. Or a client who, in their own holiday craze, has forgotten to book their advance appointment. Or the not–so–rare, infrequent client that never sticks to their schedule but somehow expects there to magically be open spaces in your schedule during the holiday rush. However, amidst all the chaos, there are some ways to combat the holiday stress and fatigue so the holiday season can go smoothly without bringing out the Grinch in you.
The first thing to remember is that you are no good to your clients, your own family or yourself if you are completely burnt out and exhausted. While the holiday rush can mean working extended hours, it doesn’t mean that you are required to completely deprive yourself of rest. During busy times or periods of stress, the need to take some time for yourself to recharge both physically and mentally is an absolute must. Decide ahead of time how many extra hours you’re not only willing, but able, to add to your work week. Setting realistic holiday hours and sticking to those hours is crucial to avoid feeling overwhelmed and overworked.
Posting a sign in your salon or sending out a reminder to clients to book their holiday appointments early to guarantee getting an appointment and checking in with the clients to confirm that they see the sign or received the notice is a great way to gently nudge them to pre–book. I would recommend that you start to do this several months in advance so the client has to ability to plan ahead, but also so you have the ability to say, “I did try to encourage you to book early” when that appointment is no longer available.
I would also recommend prioritizing those spaces for your most frequent or most loyal clients. Being a good client goes a long way to becoming a preferred client during busy periods like the holidays. A good way to do this is to make a list of the clients that you would like to give “first dibs” to and see how many spaces you have left after you get through that list. Then move on to the next set of clients and work down the list from there. Sometimes life gets hectic and even the best clients who are always reliable and a joy to deal with can forget to book ahead due to their own busy schedule, so reaching out in advance is usually met with a big “thank you” for thinking of them.
I like to use language like “spaces are limited” or “once all appointment spaces are full we work off of a waitlist based on cancellations but there’s no guarantee you will get an appointment” which usually prompts them to book while they have the chance. If you give priority to those clients that have been good to you in the past, you will feel relieved that they are well taken care of and you can release yourself of feeling guilt that a good client isn’t going to be left with no options.
I remember a sign that was prominently displayed at the reception area of my childhood dentist’s office and the words were forever imprinted into my memory. It read, “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on ours.” I loved this wording and have used it several times throughout my life; thank you, Dr. Cohen. If you get calls from those not–so–good clients or those random clients that didn’t book ahead, you can feel at ease knowing that you did start offering early booking and the fault shifts to the client for poor planning.
Another interesting option I learned from a groomer friend of mine is letting clients know far in advance that the week or even two weeks leading up to a major holiday are going to be strictly bath only or bath and tidy appointments only. I really like this option and it allows you to fit more clients in so everyone has a clean pet for the holidays. The way this option works is, in the several weeks leading up to the holiday week(s), the clients are encouraged to schedule a regular grooming appointment for a full groom. Then during the holiday period, they can come in for a refresher appointment so they are fresh and clean but they don’t take nearly as long and you can accommodate more people during the busy holiday rush.
You may get a few clients who push for a perfect groom right before the holiday, but stick to your policies and remind them that they were given advance notice of the holiday policy. The client may not be happy at first, but they will learn the holiday schedule and your policies and will likely be one of the first to inquire about booking for the next major holiday.
The key is communication. Make sure your clients know your holiday policies in advance and give reminders. Stick to your preset hours and don’t break yourself by pushing your body or mind too far. Get plenty of rest, don’t forget to eat and refuel your body, and take a few minutes to yourself during high–stress days when you feel overwhelmed. Step outside or to a quieter area or even to a bathroom, close your eyes and breathe. No grooming is worth losing yourself or your sanity over.
With a little planning and communication you can make the holidays come and go with little stress and a lot of joy. Happy grooming! ✂️