Waiting List Woes

Ask the Grooming Tutor

By Michell Evans

“Hello Michell. We are so busy that we have a waiting list. If our customers don’t want to wait until we have an available appointment, we require them to book the earliest available appointment that works for them and then put them on the waiting list.”

“We tell them that we will call them if anything opens up at an earlier date. It takes a lot of time to manage the schedule. We are all working in extra dogs when we can. The salon is chaotic. My groomers are burned out. I hate to complain because I know what it’s like to wish we had more dogs on the schedule. Do you have any suggestions on how to better manage the work load?
Thank you.” — Jennifer

Hi Jennifer. Our natural inclination when we are booked too heavy is to expand. The typical progression of this comes in the order of expand in hours, expand in number of employees, impose customer restrictions, expand square footage and increase prices.

If you are considering expanding in hours, be sure that each member of your current staff is not expected to work more than forty hours per week. Even if they know they should only work forty hours, they might find themselves adding just one more dog per day and going over a reasonable work load without even realizing it. Consider being open six or even seven days per week. Or consider evening or early morning hours. The property is being paid for even when it sits empty. More hours generally means more employees.

If you are planning to hire additional employees, be sure that they are qualified and that they fit the salon’s culture. It can be very difficult to find qualified groomers. They almost always need additional training which can be a burden to existing employees.

I was talking to a friend in the nursing home business the other day. He was telling me that my dilemma of not being able to find qualified groomers is a problem in all industries. “It’s hard to find good help in any industry” he says.

Yes, but when he puts an ad on a hiring site, he gets thirty applicants for nurse’s aides. When I put an ad out for a Certified Master Dog Groomer, I might get one if I am lucky. And who knows if they will fit into my salon’s culture. People just don’t get it. There is a huge shortage of quality dog groomers out there in the hiring pool. There seems to be a lot of groomers who have gotten their feet wet in grooming. They know some of the basics but need two more years of training to even consider certification exams.

Focus on hiring support staff if you are unable to find the right qualified groomer for your salon. Receptionist, bathers, cleaners and assistants can all alleviate some of the work load without the necessity of already being a fabulous groomer.

Restricting your customers is often a good way to reduce the work load. This is also a great way to limit any further growth of the clientele. Consider limiting by breed, weight, disposition (of the dog and/or owner), species and form of payment. One example of a policy that can be helpful is to require all large, double coated breeds to come in at least every 3 months. If they don’t pre–book and show up for their appointments every 12 weeks, then refuse to keep them as clients. This eliminates the once or twice a year, whether they need it or not, bath and blow out dogs.

Try limiting the weight of all future new clients. It is not uncommon for salons to stop taking large dogs at some point in the growth of the clientele. They simply take more time, labor and resources than small dogs. It is OK to turn away dangerous dogs. It is OK to turn away disrespectful customers.

You may want to stick to one species. Mixing cats and dogs can be a challenge. Consider having separate hours for cats so that the salon is quiet and free from dogs while grooming cats.

Stop accepting credit card payments. Restructuring your salon’s payment policies can be a nice boost in income for the salon while reducing your clientele. They can pay cash and they do know how to write a check.

Moving into a larger space is an expensive option but if your salon is consistently bottlenecked and your current space is preventing you from being able to service your clients and restricting your income, it may be a good option. Luckily grooming clients tend to move with a salon.

Location, location, location is not the most important aspect to a grooming salon. Grooming is a destination business. Clients only need to find you once to know where you are. They don’t need to drive by your salon everyday to be reminded of your service. The dog’s filthy hair does that for you. Consider your next move to be a larger square footage with a lesser location. This is a benefit that a new salon starting a new clientele does not have.

Increasing prices is often the last place groomers expand. But this should be one of the first things that you consider. When your business is spilling over for a period of six months or more, it is time for a price increase. Unless you have an annual price increase of one dollar or more, make it worth it. Meaning, do not bother agitating your customers with a one or two dollar increase. Keep in mind that many of them spend three to eight dollars per day on coffee drinks. Make it five or even ten dollars across the board.

Also take a look at your current pricing and make sure that your large and/or difficult dogs are priced accordingly. Many Goldendoodles should cost at least twice as much as a Shih–Tzu, if not three times. Remember that you are losing money by doing more work on the Goldendoodle for less pay than you could earn on two or three Shih–Tzus.

I hope some of the suggestions help you. Good luck! ✂

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