Professionalism

How to Handle Tardy and No-Show Clients

July 13th, 2017 by Kara Adams

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy rule for solving the problems of tardy or no-show clients. The good news is that you have lots of options to help deal with it. Depending on how busy you are, cancellations can either be a blessing or a curse. In either case, if you have a client who is chronically dismissive or disrespectful of your time, you need to be proactive and correct the problem.

Our kennel, Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, experienced 68 reservation cancellations over the 4th of July holiday. During the summer months, Whiskers runs at over 100% occupancy rate with its 180 rooms. During peak holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Spring Break, Whiskers charges a $50 deposit for all reservations. This deposit is nonrefundable if the cancellation takes place two weeks prior to their check-in date. In the past, the deposit has not been charged for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day. That will be changing.

For years we’ve tracked grooming appointment cancellations at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming.  Despite our continual efforts to knock the rate down, its remains a persistent 10%.

In the pet grooming industry, time is money. Clients who are chronically tardy or don’t show up for their appointments create havoc for both your schedule and your pocketbook.

It’s frustrating.

It’s disrespectful.

It’s rude.

(However, if you are overbooked, it can also be a blessing.)

There is no perfect solution for this problem. Everyone has a slightly different take on this situation. Some salons run on a very tight schedule while others are more relaxed. And let’s face it, there are times when the client has a legitimate excuse. So, what do you do?

late8 Ways to deal with Tardy and No-show Clients.

  1. Call or text to confirm the day ahead. Sometimes clients just need is a gentle reminder to avoid a scheduling conflict.
  2. Breathe. For some pet stylists, having a cancellation is not a big deal. It doesn’t happen that often. The clients are well-trained and respectful of their appointments and time. In some cases, it might even be a relief.
  3. Overbook. Service businesses do this all the time to ensure they are full. The key here is to have a variety of pets on the books. If there are a few easy jobs sprinkled between the more difficult ones, you will get through your day, even if your cancellation rate is below the 10% mark.
  4. If they are 10 or 15 minutes late – call them. If they can make it into the salon within a few minutes, keep the appointment. It’s easier than trying to refill it – unless you don’t want to! If you opt not to honor their appointment, rebook them for another time. Don’t wait 30 or more minutes and then explode when they walk in the door expecting to keep their appointment. It’s better to make the call right away and know what your next step should be. This method offers you more control over the situation. With some clients, you need to personally point out why it’s important for you and/or your team to have set appointment times. This can be done in a friendly – yet firm – professional manner. This tactic also works well with non-chronic cancellations.
  5. Have a 3 Strike Rule. Some people are just forgetful. Others are just plain disrespectful. Others are downright rude. If the client will not respect your time, you don’t have to continue to put up with it. Occasionally, there are solid reasons why someone misses an appointment. Life happens. The 3 Strike Rule covers clients who are chronically late or don’t show up for their appointments. If you’re going to set up a 3 Strike Rule, what are the consequences? Do you refuse to groom the dog in the future? Charge a cancellation fee? Do you have a client prepay a nonrefundable amount for the scheduled next appointment? If you make a rule, there must be consequences. Make a policy, then consistently stick with it.
  6. If the client cancels, fails to show up, or is tardy beyond being able to groom them at their appointed time, reschedule them. Don’t do them a favor by squeezing them in the next day or two. Push them out at least two weeks. I’ve known many stylists that are so busy they have NO flexibility left in their schedules. If a client misses today’s appointment they can’t get another one until their next pre-scheduled appointment. This works exceptionally well for stylists that are booked out weeks, months, or even a year in advance. It can be a hard lesson for the client but it is generally very effective. Rarely do they miss another appointment.
  7. For clients who are chronically tardy or don’t show up, charge a late or no-show fee. You won’t always get it, but if they book another appointment, you can tack it on to their next grooming fee. You could also consider raising their base price to include an inconvenience fee.
  8. If you have a client who simply cannot adhere to a schedule or does not respect your time, have them prepay prior to their grooming appointment. This should be a nonrefundable amount. After all, your time is valuable and it’s worth money. If they cancel, you can’t get your time back nor the money you would have earned if they had kept their appointment.

late-payment-excusesAre there exceptions to your rules? Absolutely.

If you don’t already track how many cancellations you have each day and each week – start tracking it. Find out what your cancellation average is per day. Once you know the number, you can be proactive in correcting the problem.

Another way to look at it is from a dollar standpoint. At Paragon, our average cancellation rate is 10%. If you apply the 10% rate to your situation and you do 20 dogs a day at $50, that starts to add up! That translates into losing two dogs or $100 every day! Times that by five days a week and you’re at $500 of lost revenue. To me, it’s worth taking the time to simply call and remind people of their upcoming appointment the day before!

We are in the business of building positive relationships with our customers, both the two-legged and four-legged variety. Your personality and the type of relationship with your clients dictates how firmly you adhere to the demands on your time. Remember, these customers not only affect you and your time, they ultimately affect your schedule and your other clients. You need to be warm, caring, and maintain your professionalism.

Just because you are warm and caring does not mean you can’t set rules and boundaries. Remember, you can still provide great customer service and have a mutually respectful relationship that benefits both you and your client.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white How do you deal with this issue? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what works for you.


The Art of Giving Great Service – The Zingerman Way

May 25th, 2017 by Kara Adams

bookAbout 6 years ago I read a great book while sailing on my dad’s boat. It was Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: Building a Great Business.  At one point, my dad picked up the book. He read a few paragraphs I had highlighted when I went below. When I returned a few minutes later, he said, “Good book. They know what they are talking about.” Wow. Coming from my dad, that meant a lot.

Zingerman’s is an institution in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hailed by Inc. Magazine as The coolest small company in America,” the original business was founded in 1982 with Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Since then, Zingerman’s has expanded to 11 food-related business, 724 staff members, and sales of over $62 million.

Service is a cornerstone of Zingerman’s success. Zingerman’s has earned its reputation for great service by intentionally creating a culture that nurtures amazing service. They teach every one of their team members system “recipes” which are at the heart of their extraordinary service.

I was so impressed with the book, I ordered copies for all my team leaders!

At Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, we really rolled up our sleeves. We took the summer to read the entire book together. Once a week we met to review, strategize, and implement what we learned from the pages.

When we started Zingerman’s training in 2011, we were earning about $655,000 in annual gross sales between overnight lodging, daycare, and grooming. Last year we grossed just short of $2.25 million. And the real kicker – we spent virtually nothing on advertising! Our growth has been fueled by stellar customer service from an amazing team of enthusiastic, pet-loving staff.

I know the Zingerman’s training isn’t totally responsible for the growth. However, I’d like to think it helped us formulate a positive culture for our Whiskers team.

Recently, we learned ZingTrain was coming to Grand Rapids for a half day of service training. We could not sign up fast enough. We had 13 team members there from all facets of my companies taking up two corporate tables. We all walked away pumped up and energized! Some of what we learned was a refresher for some of us – for others is was all new. Plus, it was refreshing to learn new service ideas the Zingerman team had formulated since we read the book. The concepts are all easy to implement, too.

I’d like to share a few of those with you.

zingermanZingerman’s 3 Steps to Great Service

#1. Figure out what the customer wants.

  • Ask questions. Listen to what they really want. Give choices. Repeat questions back to the customer for clarity and understanding.
  • 10/4 Rule. When you get within 10 feet of either a customer or a coworker– make eye contact and smile. Once you get within 4 feet of a customer or coworker, verbally exchange a positive comment. (I’m not talking about those that you work with side-by-side all day long – however a room full of smiles and positive interaction is energizing).
  • Spend as much time as necessary to positively impact the customer. For repeat customers, it might be a quick exchange. For new customers, it’s going to take longer to help build a relationship, form a bond, and build trust.

#2. Get it – or do it – for them…

  • Let people know realistic deadlines, cost estimates, and realistic outcomes. Be specific. Under promise and over deliver.
  • Always say please and thank you. Avoid industry jargon.
  • You want the customer to leave feeling like the interaction with you was the best part of their day.

#3. Go the extra mile.

  • Do something the client didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to be costly. Even simple things can delight and pleasantly surprise your customers.

Within this framework, employees use their own best judgment about how to serve each individual customer.

If you’ve never heard of Zingerman’s or ZingTrain, I encourage you to look it up. If you want to dig in deep, grab the book and apply its principles. If you need a quick pick me up, participate in one of the mini sessions like we did today. Their systems approach is applicable to businesses of varying industries, organizational structure, and size. They are committed to helping others succeed.

You can learn more about their training programs at www.zingtrain.com. You can get the book at the best price by ordering directly from Zingerman’s www.zingtrain.com/building-a-great-business

My entire team left energized and ready to implement many ideas immediately. We were all impacted by the training we received. Hats off to the Zingerman team of Elnian Gilbert and Tabatha Mason and to the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring the program!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat did you think about these ideas? What do you do that works great for your team? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.


Educational Events: Should You Send Your Team?

January 5th, 2017 by Kara Adams

I recently received a question about taking staff members to educational events. As most of you know, I am a huge advocate of continuing professional development. Getting out to trade shows and other events is a great way to learn as well as re-energize your team.

 “I have a question about taking my employees to trade shows and seminars. I have never taken an employee to a conference before. My business has grown. I am seeing the need and benefit of having my employees go to classes instead of just me going and me coming back, sharing all I learned. (Which is hardly possible!)

I am wondering:

  • What is reasonable, as far as compensation for my employees?
  • Do I pay them their hourly rate for giving up their time and “working” all weekend?
  • Do I pay for all expenses…3 meals, hotel, classes, etc.

This is new territory for me and I need some experienced advice.”

-Debbie L., North Carolina

professional-developmentWhen you have a team that values education and training, the possibilities are endless!  Their excitement, dedication, and passion can propel their careers to uncharted heights and help your business thrive.  Encouraging that eagerness to try new techniques and test new tools and products has fulfilling personal payoffs that are also great for your salon.  If you have a team like this, investing is their education is also a solid investment in your company.

As a business owner, you must always balance risk with reward.  You are the person who must look objectively at your team and decide if they have the right attitude and drive for this financial investment.

I have always encouraged my staff to continue their education by attending trade shows and other events. The staff members who participated were dedicated to their craft and did not need a lot of guidance.  This is not always going to be the case.

About 18 years ago, I had my first major setback with a team.  We had had an exceptional year.  As a reward, I flew almost my entire team from Michigan to Intergroom for an all-expenses-paid learning experience.

About half the team did exactly what I had hoped. They presented themselves in both dress and manner as true professionals in every sense. They focused on learning and came home with lots of new knowledge and skills.

Unfortunately, the others fell far short of my expectations.  Their appearance was terrible and many of them spent way too much time in the bar or on the dance floor.  A few members of this group were even too hung over to make it to any of the classes.

By the end of the show I was more than frustrated – I was embarrassed.

These employees did not represent themselves or my business the way I had hoped.  They embarrassed their team mates.  They squandered an amazing learning opportunity – and I lost a significant financial investment in their training.

I realized changes needed to be made. I needed strong guidelines. I developed new policies and put them into place so this type of disappointment would never happen again.

Over the years, we have applied several different techniques with great success. Hopefully, a few of the ideas below with help you avoid frustrations and wasted expense.

Continuing Education Benefits

Today, we have an Education Assistance Program in place. It’s a benefit to all full-time employees. Each year we set a budget and these funds can be requested for a wide range of learning formats.

Everyone’s situation is a little different. Some employers find a set amount to work well for their entire team. Others find a sliding scale works best. Lower level team members get one amount. Key staff members and/or managers get a higher amount.  Figure out what works best for your team – and your budget. Typical amounts would range anywhere from $100 to $1000 or maybe even more, depending on your situation.

professional-development-2Formal Education Assistance

Occasionally, a staff member goes back to college. If the class or program will enhance their job performance, they may qualify to have all or part of the tuition costs covered by us. All courses must be pre-approved prior to reimbursement. Upon successfully completion, the team member submits their transcript or certificate along with their receipts for expenses. We will compensate them for the pre-approved portion of classes.

In-House Educational Training

Occasionally, we arrange in-house training. These programs aid the overall knowledge of our pet service teams. At times, the training programs are offered to our employees for free or at a heavily discounted rate. Other times, the benefit is simply the convenience factor. They have access to leading educators right in their back yard. Attendance is highly encouraged at these events. If it is a mandatory event, the staff member will be paid to attend.

Seminars, Clinics, Trade Shows, and Grooming Competitions

teri-2Smaller seminars and clinics offer wonderful ways to learn. Typically, this type of educational event is much more intimate. It’s easy to get up close to see what the demonstrator is doing. Plus, it’s easy to ask questions throughout the entire program.

Larger trade shows are fabulous learning opportunities. At larger events, attending classes isn’t the only way to learn. Opportunities abound out on the trade room floor. There is a variety of products, services, tools, and equipment to learn about. Many of the larger vendors have platform demonstrations going on right at their booths. Sitting ringside watching the top stylist groom in the competition ring will yield plenty of educational opportunities too. Some of the best learning takes place in a more social setting while networking with fellow pet professionals.

To qualify for reimbursement, employees must seek approval before attending. The staff member needs to submit an outline of the program(s) they plan on attending and what they hope to learn from each.

Sitting down with them shortly after their return is a great way to let them share what they’ve learned. Show support and encouragement. You want to learn firsthand what they heard and saw. Ask them how they plan on applying the information. I personally give them brownie points for coming back with photos on their phones of their favorite speakers and personalities at the event.

Don’t forget, upon return of the educational event, they need to submit a written report outlining key takeaways from what they have learned at the program. If they have been pre-approved for travel expenses, they must submit a full expense report including receipts.

Keep in mind, whenever a staff member is at a work-related function, they must uphold your professional standards of conduct. If they fall short, they may not be reimbursed for the cost of the event. Having them sign an agreement outlining your expectations of professional conduct would a great idea.

Here are a few qualifying rules for our Education Assistance Program Benefit.

The Cost

There is more to it than just the upfront cost of the learning event. There are lots of hidden costs, too. Typically, there will be fees associated with:

  • travel
  • lodging
  • meals
  • wages (if the training is required)
  • lost revenue if the event takes place during a typical work day

Sometimes, it’s more cost-effective to seek out smaller events – especially when first getting a team excited about continued education. Personally, I like to test my team on smaller events closer to home. They are easier for my team to get to and less costly. FYI, some of the best educational events for my team are those I’ve hosted. (That’s another blog altogether!)

Staff members must:

  1. Advise the company prior to enrolling for any continuing educational event. Upon review of the training opportunity, the management team will decide if the course or programs qualify for the Education Assistance Program.
  2. The program must be job-oriented and offered by an approved institution, person, company, or organization.
  3. The staff member must be employed with the company for at least six (6) months (full-time).

Alternative Educational Opportunities

We offer additional funds towards approved learning opportunities. These opportunities include, but are not limited to; on-line training programs, membership based platforms, educational videos, and literature.

We encourage all staff members to stay current, informed, and self-educated as it relates to their job. Ultimately, it is their responsibility to manage and grow their career.

If a team member is seeking reimbursement for the cost of a learning opportunity, they must seek prior approval.

Depending upon the situation, either written or verbal reports will need to be submitted to the management team prior to reimbursement for the cost of the educational opportunity.

Certified Master Groomer Status

All our grooming staff members are eligible for voluntary certification testing through one of the approved programs: NDGAA, IPG, or ISCC. This is above and beyond their educational assistance program benefit. Upon successful completion of each phase, we will pay the cost associated with each level of the testing.  Membership dues are the responsibility of each employee.

What do I do if a team member shows their commitment to learning? I start looking at more involved programs for them. I’ve had a few staff members so committed to growing their careers, they blow through their allotment in one weekend. If they want to attend events beyond what I will pay for, we will always try to rearrange their work schedule to make it possible.

Continued education is at the heart of all successful grooming businesses. I love helping people grow their skills. If I have a team members committed to growing their careers, I will do what I can to point them in the right direction. Knowledge builds confidence, bolsters technical skills, and increases productivity. Win. Win. Win.

If you are building a team committed to quality and success, you have decisions to make. What is the best way to grow your team? It will be up to you to weigh out those costs and to determine how they will benefit your business.

Happy trimming!
~Melissa
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8 Ways to Turn Setbacks into Success

June 16th, 2016 by Kara Adams

I love setting goals. For me, goal setting leads to exciting challenges, personal development, and rewarding achievements. That is the fun part. Unfortunately, there is another side of the goal setting coin:

Setbacks.

What is a setback?

A setback is typically an event that hinders your forward progress. Maybe you had a staff member quit without notice. You lost a large account. A pet was injured in your care. Some type of government regulation has forced you to proceed differently. I have personally experienced every one of these setbacks – and then some!

Everyone responds to setbacks differently. If you are the leader, it’s easy to lead a team of people when everything is going well. A true test of leadership will be challenged when things are not going as well. Of course, setbacks pop up at the least opportune times. It’s the nature of the beast. If you are a business owner, this will happen on a regular basis to you and your team.

Over the years I have had my fair share of setbacks and adversity. Sometimes they were small. Sometimes they were massive. Sometimes even I did not believe we could overcome them.

As I work through each setback, I go through a series of emotions. It always starts out with disbelief. Anger. Despair. As I come to terms with the setback, the next stage of emotional triggers take place. Acceptance. Hope. Planning. And finally, a new positive path to follow.

I will not lie to you – it is not easy to deal with setbacks. They are emotionally draining, frustrating, and taxing. It is not uncommon to feel fear, experience doubt, or to feel hopeless. Here’s the good news: there are specific skills, mindsets, and actions that can help you turn a setback into success.

Facing setbacks can be a leadership building experience. Each time we have to deal with difficulties, we gain new knowledge and new skills to deal with a situation on a personal and professional level. Being tested in this manner is how inexperienced leaders become great leaders. It’s always an opportunity to realize leadership potential in yourself or your team.

Here are the steps that I follow whenever I am faced with a setback. I wish I could say I have only had to use these 8 tactics a few times. However, as a longtime business owner, I have gotten pretty experienced in using these skills to get through many challenging situations.

As business owners or team leaders, we have special responsibilities especially during difficult times. People will look to us to see how they should react to the situation. To find out what they should do. They’ll expect us to have some ideas and guide them through what might be a very frightening period.

If you have the ability to approach setbacks as opportunities for growth, you can stabilize your organization as well as moving forward. Even if you make mistakes, the experience can lead to a greater understanding of your situation and your work. It can advance your team or business to a new level. Remember, setbacks are a fabulous learning tool when handled effectively. It is important as you work through the solutions to always keep the big picture in mind and never give up.

Setbacks are generally a one-time occurrence. They may be serious, but they are not ongoing. When dealing with setbacks, keep an open mind. Know what your options are and act swiftly. If you stay focused, stay calm, and deliver your message with clarity, you can turn almost any setback – no matter how difficult – into a success.

We know setbacks happen to everyone. Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what happened and how you conquered YOUR setback!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

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The #1 Strategy to Build a Thriving Clientele

April 28th, 2016 by Kara Adams

Marketing has always been an interesting component to running any of my companies. After all, if I don’t have customers, I don’t have a business. And if my business isn’t flourishing, I do not earn a paycheck – and speedneither do any of my team members.

Here are a couple of questions I’m asked all the time:

  • What’s your secret to creating a thriving company?
  • How do you get repeat clients?

Do you know what’s at the heart of all businesses?

People.

I don’t care how much you love the animals, it’s the people who make companies thrive. And people are experts at knowing if they FEEL valued. That goes for both your staff and your clients. If you’re working with a team of people, it has a trickle-down effect. It’s important to treat your staff with respect. With dignity. With fairness. Bottom line, make them feel valued. If you can do that successfully with your team members, they will in turn treat the customers in the same manner.

When it comes to service-based businesses, you’re not selling the service of grooming dogs or cats. In professional services, you’re not really selling YOUR expertise. It’s taken for granted that you must know what you’re doing. What you are selling is a personal relationship. A relationship with the owner.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with all types of professional groomers and stylists. I have seen some of the most talented pet stylists struggle to maintain a healthy clientele. Even if they were passionate about their trade, maintaining a robust clientele and growing a business just wasn’t in the cards for them. At the same time, I have seen mediocre groomers grow an amazing repeat client base that keeps their appointment book overflowing.

What’s the difference?

It stems from the ability to interact positively with their staff and the clients. In the end, the most successful grooming salons are professionally run AND highly personable. They have the ability to win over the customers, building their trust with their precious four-legged babies. Simply put, it’s a personality contest – just like in high school!

Always remember, most clients of complex services cannot gauge knowledge.

They can’t tell…

  • If their tax return was done exceptionally well.
  • If they have had an insightful diagnosis on a complicated illness.
  • If they have a brilliant attorney that’s going to win their case.
  • If they are going to get a fabulous grooming job on their pet.

What a client or a perspective client can tell is if they were involved in a positive relationship.

They can tell…

  • If phone calls are returned.
  • If they are treated politely.
  • If the job was completed when it was promised.
  • If their pets are treated with compassion.

In a service-based business like pet grooming, having a highly personalized team of people handle your clientele is the key to a thriving business. Technical skills will only take you so far. Being able to win over the trust and hearts of your clientele is the real key to a successful grooming business.

Grooming salons and pet stylists who have captivated more than 60% retention rate of their clientele is going to succeed in any market. If your salon or stylist isn’t retaining over 40% of their appointments, you need to look deep within your level of service – dissected and fix it.

Make your clients feel special.

  1. Listen to their needs.
  2. Solve their problems.
  3. Treat them with dignity and respect.
  4. Handle their pets with kindness and compassion.
  5. Under-promise and over-deliver on everything you can do for them.
  6. Always be grateful and thankful they are giving you the opportunity to serve them.

 If your technical skills are not up to par – improve them.

  1. Become a more talented groomer/stylist by increasing your knowledge base.
  2. Continuously practice to improve your current technical skill base; bathing, drying, clipping, scissoring, thinning, and hand-stripping.
  3. Learn to be more efficient with your grooming time.
  4. Always work with safety, quality, and compassion worked into the equation.
  5. Constantly push yourself to a higher level in everything that you do.

If you focus on making people feel valued – while offering a solid service – people will follow you. It will seek out the services you offer. I’d love to say people will flock to you just because you are the best groomer in the area, but they won’t. You have to win their respect – and their trust. And you do that by being personable.

And the real beauty of this? Treating people with respect so that they feel valued doesn’t cost anything. It takes is a grateful attitude, a smile, and the willingness to serve with a heart.

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


How to Avoid Stress & Burnout

April 20th, 2016 by Kara Adams

Professional stress and burnout is the number one thing that stops a successful career in its tracks. So how do you keep it from happening? How do you keep your job fresh? Fun? Rewarding?

Here are a few of my top suggestions.

Difficult Dogs

Dealing with difficult dogs or cats is one of the biggest challenges we face every day. You know the feeling in your gut when you see them on your appointment book. Those feelings of dread, anger, and sometimes fear – those negative emotions that get associated with one pet or client. You begin fretting about them right away, don’t you?

I don’t know many people who enjoy dealing with an uncooperative pet. One of the easiest ways to minimize your stress level is to simply eliminate them from your schedule.

There are plenty of nice, well-behaved dogs in the world to groom. I strongly suggest not doing any more than you can handle confidently and safely. Your skill level should dictate how much you can comfortably take on. Typically, the more experience you have, the more challenging the pet you can safely handle. To stay safe, know your limits – and the limits of the pet entrusted to you.

Here is the rating scale I’ve used to rate a dog’s (or cat’s) personality.

#1: Perfect angel on the grooming table. We love these pets!

#2: Bouncy and wiggly. Does not respect rules and boundaries but is not mean or nasty. They are a bit of a handful to deal with on the grooming table.

#3: Will bite when provoked (tugging on mats, cleaning ears, and trimming nails). With the exception of these trigger points, the pet can tolerate the rest of the grooming process.

#4: Will bite – even the smallest thing sets this personality type off. They cannot be trusted. A well-fitted muzzle can be helpful – and many times, necessary. They require a seasoned and experienced handler/groomer to keep both the pet and the person safe.

#5: Dangerous and unpredictable. Eyes will typically glow red or green. Good candidate for veterinarian-supervised grooming with a sedative.

You should consider charging extra for handling difficult pets. They take more time to groom – and time is money. Let your fee reflect it.

Difficult owners

This one can be a little tricky. If they are just mildly annoying, deal with it professionally but don’t put any more effort into the client than needed to keep them at bay. If they are rude and nasty, most likely they are just that way all the time – that’s how they go through life. I would do a great job for them, just like with any other client, but I would not go out of my way to do anything “special.”

If they are difficult to deal with AND neglect their pooch or do not respect my time, I would charge extra for that.

Just as we rate our dogs, at times we will rate difficult owners.

I have no problem referring #4 or #5 rated pets and/or owners to another groomer who might be more successful in meeting their needs (i.e. – always fire them professionally and politely).

Lateness

Nothing is more frustrating than a client who does not respect our time! We give them a 15-minute window to arrive, either to  arrive to their scheduled appointment or to pick up their pet. If they do not arrive within that window, it counts as a strike against them. For arrivals, we have a three strike rule…

  • Strike one: we let them off with a mild warning.
  • Strike two: we remind them how much we value our time. If they can’t value it as well, they will need to look for another stylist.
  • Strike three: we fire them.

If they do not pick up their pet prior to our posted closing times, we give a few extra minutes. As soon as we know they are running late, we try to get in touch with the owner. If the owner calls and can give us a reasonable estimated pick-up time, my staff has the option of waiting for them if it’s beyond closing time. I will post a hefty late pick-up fee (in 5-minute intervals) but leave it up to the employee to charge it. If they waited, they get to keep the entire late pick up fee as long as they collect it. If we can’t reach them or have not heard from them, we’ll bed the pet down for the night. We leave a pleasant note on the door for the client. We simply state our hours and let them know we look forward to seeing them in the morning. I have heard many salons charge an overnight fee, too.

5 More Quick Suggestions

Each one of these could be a blog topic on its own. However, for right now, I’ll just toss these out there for you to ponder.

  1. Keep learning to make your career interesting while allowing you to expand your career opportunities.
  2. Take time for yourself and your family.
  3. Maintain physical health and wellness through diet and exercise.
  4. Learn to say NO when your schedule becomes overwhelming.
  5. Charge enough for your services. Avoiding living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Don’t forget the little things that made this career attractive to you in the first place – never forget WHY you followed this career path. This is a career with UNLIMITED potential for those willing to stay focused. Work hard – and never stop learning. How cool is that?

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


Am I a Good Boss?

November 19th, 2015 by Kara Adams

Welcome to my blog!  For the next few weeks, my marketing expert, Joelle Asmondy, will be filling in for me while I work on a large project.  Joelle is a whiz with marketing.  I can’t wait to see which helpful tidbits she shares with you!  Enjoy!

Let’s take a little poll:

  • How many of you own or run a salon?
  • Which of you have a degree in business or have taken any business classes?
  • Has anyone taken any management classes?

That sounds about right.

One of the best things about going to trade shows is meeting people. I get to talk to people from all over the country and I love it when they tell me their stories. We talk about dogs (of course), dog books (um, yeah!), and working with dogs (why not?). It’s a great way for me to stay in touch with our clients’ needs and find out what people are really thinking about.

Let me share a conversation that I have all the time…

“I became a groomer because I love dogs. At first, I just had a few clients. It started with friends and family, then their friends heard about me, and I got even busier. I got to the point where I had to hire someone just to keep up! Now I groom, book appointments, answer phones, run my own business, AND I have (one, two, three…) groomer(s) working for me!”

Sound familiar?

I love that so many dog grooming businesses have grown in such an organic way. It starts with a passion, grows because we’re needed, and thrives because we’re good at what we do. Our clients keep coming back because they know we love their pets and care about their health and safety.

The flip side to this is that very few people who own or manage these businesses have any formal training in supervising employees. We suddenly find ourselves in the role of “boss” simply because we needed help. For many, it’s a natural fit and the transition is painless. For others, the change is more challenging.

The question of the day is, “Are You a Good Boss?” The answer may surprise you.

I reached out to folks from the industry and asked them about the best qualities of their managers. Many of the answers were similar. Let’s look at the answers together and see if we can understand what it really means to be a good boss.

“I’ve grown a lot by working here.”

Do you take the time to offer praise as well as constructive criticism? In busy salons, it can become easy to fall into the habit of communicating like our furry customers – we bark at each other instead of talking. Don’t let a hectic schedule become an excuse for bad manners or meanness. Remember, you’re not just running a business, you’re building a culture. Do you want yours to be team-oriented or hostile and withdrawn? Things don’t get done any faster or better with rudeness than with courtesy.

“She’s willing to try new ideas.”

If you want employees who step up and really help out, you have to be open to trying new things. “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” will quickly kill initiative. Employees who feel like they have input into bettering the process tend to stick around longer and contribute more to the overall business. After all, isn’t that what you need?

“He’s organized.”

If you are constantly running late, running out of stock, and running out of patience, you could be running yourself right out of business. Let your team help you get things in order. Delegate duties that are well-suited to them. It empowers them and also takes a few things off your plate.

“She encourages me.”

I once worked for an amazing supervisor who motivated me just by being encouraging. I tried a new sales approach once, and it went so well that she had me present it to others in our district. Knowing that she believed in me did more than compliment me, it made me want to work even harder!

“He tells me how I can improve in a positive way.”

Two words: constructive criticism. It’s easy to tell someone when they do something wrong. If you want change that sticks, it takes a little more work.

  • Use the sandwich technique: tell them what you liked, tell them what needs to change, then offer positive feedback.
  • Be specific: saying something is done wrong is not helpful. WHAT was wrong about it? HOW should it be done next time? WHY is it important that it be done right?
  • Don’t attack the person, attack the problem: telling someone they’re terrible at trimming nails hasn’t solved anything. Look at the problem – in this case, quicking too many nails – and look at technique. If a person isn’t trained properly, they can’t be blamed for doing something wrong.
  • Don’t assume they know what you mean: it may sound simple to you, but it may not seem that obvious to them. It’s impossible to over-communicate.

“We never stop trying to get better.”

Complacency is the enemy of good business. Successful businesses are always trying to become better, more efficient, and less wasteful.

“She says, “thank you.”

Those are magic words, aren’t they? Thank you for staying late. Thank you for helping me carry in the supplies. Thank you for helping that elderly client to her car. Recognizing effort boosts morale and encourages them to keep giving their best.

“He tells me what is needed and doesn’t expect me to read his mind.”

“I shouldn’t have to tell them…”

“It’s just plain old common sense!”

Work on removing these phrases from your vocabulary. Just because you’ve done something a thousand times doesn’t mean other people understand it as thoroughly as you do. Take a minute, take a breath, and give them the benefit of the doubt.

“She recognizes effort even if we fall short of a goal.”

All success is success. It’s ok to be excited about progress even if you didn’t get quite all the way there. Learn from the experience and try again. Sometimes shared enthusiasm or experience is what’s needed to really make things happen.

Whether you became a manager by choice or by coincidence, it’s important to know how to be a good boss. Building a team and a business takes work – and you don’t have to do it alone. By developing a positive culture, you’re helping to make a better work environment that will attract better employees, will help keep your best staff, and will make your days a lot better.

What topics would you like us to cover?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us.

Click here for a complete video list to make searching Learn2GroomDogs.com even easier! 

Make it a great day!

~Joelle Asmondy


5 Phone Calls That Can Build Your Business

November 12th, 2015 by Kara Adams

Welcome to my blog!  For the next few weeks, my marketing expert, Joelle Asmondy, will be filling in for me while I work on a large project.  Joelle is a whiz with marketing.  I can’t wait to see which helpful tidbits she shares with you!  Enjoy!

phoneI recently spoke with a new salon owner who is struggling to fill her days with pets to groom. She has a good client base, a website, and a Facebook page but she still has lots of time to fill.

“What am I doing wrong?”

We all know that you can spend a lot of money on big-ticket ways to build your business. Few of us use our most common tool – the phone – to its best advantage. Let’s discuss these simple and effective methods to boost your client list. The best part is that you get immediate results – and they won’t break the bank.

It’s time you learned the 5 phone calls that can build your business.

THE RINGER

This is the client that calls YOU. When phones are ringing off the hook, it’s music to my ears! They are the time savers – you didn’t have to go searching for them… they found you! Make the most of it!

One mistake people make with these calls is that they treat them like an interruption. Even if you are grooming another dog, have another call on hold, and are trying to eat your lunch at the same time, you still need to treat that caller feel like s/he is the only thing on your mind.

Here are a few simple tips to make the most of that call:

  • Answer the phone in 3 rings or less.
  • If the call needs to go to voicemail, make sure you call back as soon as possible. (Make sure your voicemail message is clear, friendly, to the point. After all, they’re busy, too!)
  • Put a smile in your voice. People can hear it over the phone. (You know what else they can hear? When you’re eating. Don’t chew while you’re on the phone.)
  • If you have another client in your salon while you are on the phone, don’t roll your eyes or in any other way demean the caller in front of someone else. You may think you’re being friendly with the client in the waiting room, but what you’re really doing is showing them how they’re treated while you’re on the phone with them. Be professional with everyone, in what you say and do, regardless of whether or not they can see you doing it.
  • If you have to check on something, use the HOLD or MUTE button. No one wants to hear you rummaging around for things – it makes you sound disorganized. Putting people on hold allows you to get your thoughts in order, as well. When you get back after a brief hold, thank them for waiting.

The thing to remember is that you invited them to call, so treat them like the valued guests they are.

THE REMINDER

Another way you might be losing opportunities is not making the most of the client base you already have. Many clients are like us – juggling work and family needs – and we tend to forget things. If you are setting appointments for your clients, do yourself a favor and give them a reminder call the day before the scheduled appointment. (Texting works well, too. Find out what your client prefers and stick to it.) Many clients come to rely on it, so don’t forget. Make it a part of your morning routine.

THE ROOKIE

New clients aren’t used to you, yet. That means that don’t know how special you are and that you treat new clients like royalty. Give new clients the royal treatment with a follow-up phone call after their first visit. The day after their first appointment, give them a call to ask how their pet felt after the groom. Ask if they like the trim. Ask for feedback. And most importantly (if they didn’t rebook at check out), set up the next appointment.

THE RECLUSE

This is the client who doesn’t have an appointment on the books for 6 weeks or more. If you have gaps in your day, it’s might be because these clients do not have recurring appointments. Another way to make the most of your client base is to get everyone on a recurring schedule. If you have 50-75 valued customers, your books should be pretty full – if you take the time to rebook people and get them on a regular grooming schedule. When you look ahead and see gaps, look back 6 weeks and see who’s missing in the days ahead. Give those folks a call and welcome them back. Chances are they don’t even realize how long it’s been since their last visit and will be glad you reminded them to drop by.

THE WRECK

Ok, it’s not a wreck. Most likely it’s nothing more than a minor scratch, but we’re talking injuries, here. Brush burn, nicks, cuts, clipper irritation, quicked nails… any injury. The important thing is that you communicate with your clients. If an injury has occurred, talk about it openly before they leave your salon. Admit any mistakes. Apologize. Most importantly, call them the next day to follow up. Ask how the pet is doing. Ask if they have any questions. It’s crucial to your relationship that you can talk despite any accidental injuries that might happen. If you aren’t comfortable talking to people after an incident, you’re in the wrong business. Pretending it didn’t happen and “hoping they’re ok with it” is not going to retain clients. You need to talk it out.

BONUS TIP – THE RINGTONE

If you are using your personal phone for your business, make sure that your hold music is appropriate for a business. Your friends will think certain songs are hilarious as they wait for you to pick up, but your clients will lose respect for you if your music is inappropriate. It’s your phone – but it’s also your business lifeline. Treat it with care.

There are plenty of big-ticket items that are a part of being in business. You can do so much to build your clientele by making the most out of every customer relationship. Simply pick up the phone. It’s effective – and – inexpensive! These tips are just the start, but used consistently, you can start filling your books fast without draining your bank account!

What topics would you like us to cover?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us.

Click here for a complete video list to make searching Learn2GroomDogs.com even easier! 

Make it a great day!

~Joelle Asmondy


Building Buzz – Getting the kind of attention that builds your business

October 15th, 2015 by Kara Adams
One of the fastest ways to build a clientele is to get people talking. You want positive attention, the kind that fosters business. It’s good to keep in mind that people never talk about:
  • boring people
  • boring products
  • boring services
  • boring companies

You want to be unique. To stand out. Be interesting.

I’ve used this technique in many of my companies. When I/we focused on this method, our growth rate has been amazing.

There are many ways to build positive buzz. Many of these strategies are super easy to do. As a bonus, many are also cost-effective. Others take a little bit more planning and a financial investment to get the ball rolling. Choose what works best for your situation and budget. It doesn’t matter if you are quiet and shy or vivacious and outgoing. There are tactics that work for all personality types.

The key to making this work is…

Know.
Your.
Customers.
  • Know what they like.
  • Know what makes them smile.
  • Know what gets them excited.
  • Know what triggers them in a positive way.

Be unique. Stand out. Knowing your clientele can help you make a positive impact. Done well, clients will seek out your services. Mismanage it and they will run in the opposite direction.

Most grooming business owners focus on the rational parts of running their business: price, scheduling, pet handling, and the finished groom. They totally ignore the emotional rewards for the human client. This is important, because although we love the dogs, they don’t have the ability to pay the bill.

People don’t get excited about ordinary services, an acceptable haircut, or a fair price. They talk about things that surprised them and made them feel great about their pets. When you make things special, you make them memorable – while at the same time removing the feeling of risk they might have had about doing business with you.

It’s not enough to have a good grooming business. You need to stand out from the crowd. The unique business has fabulous solutions wrapped in a shiny package that delights, excites, or surprises the customer.

So what makes up a “unique shiny package?” Here are four areas to get your ideas flowing.

YOUR SALON

How does it look? It doesn’t matter if it’s home business, a corporation, a small storefront, or a large facility. Your presentation will make an impression.

What does it look like when the client first drives up? What makes it stand out in a positive way? What makes it unique? Is it your signage? Your exterior decor? Some clever way to lead clients to your front door? Your front display window? Something needs to pop out at them.

Moving indoors, what do your clients see as soon as they step through the door? Is it clean and tidy? Is it bright and cheery? Is it easy to maintain and organize? How is your indoor signage? Is your reception desk inviting? Are your brochures and business cards readily available?

Think about not only what they see – what do they hear and smell? Is there appropriate music? Are the dogs relatively quiet? Is the louder equipment muffled behind closed doors? Do a sniff test – or have someone else do it for you who isn’t “nose blind” to smells in the salon. The salon should smell clean and fresh. If it can’t pass the sound and smell test – fix it.

Clients have loads of choices and ways to compare you to other service-based businesses. Even if you are the only grooming salon in town, you still have competition. Clients and prospective customers are comparing you to plenty of other service businesses such as their vet clinic, their hair salon, or their dry cleaners. How do you stack up against the other professionals in the area?

PERSONAL PRESENTATION

Clients gravitate to businesses where they feel comfortable. Making them feel comfortable means mirroring how they present themselves. Whoever has direct interaction with clients should positively impact the customer. Clients are your guests – welcome them as such. If you had invited them as guests into your home, wouldn’t you try to make them feel as comfortable as possible?

Regardless of whether you are in a conservative or a trendy area, presenting a well pulled-together look goes a long way. Pay attention to the details. Make sure you are groomed as well as the dogs leaving your salon.

If you don’t want to take the time to put together a polished outfit every day – opt for uniforms. Nothing pulls a look together like outfits designed for the work at hand. If you have staff, discuss what you wear so you all match. Once uniforms look dull and old – toss them.

You are going to be washing and styling dogs all day, so make sure your own hair gets the same amount of attention. It doesn’t matter if your hair is short or long, natural or brightly colored. Your own hair needs to be clean and styled in a manner appropriate for your workplace.

Accessories can bring a smile to a customer’s face and make an impression. Makeup can be an accessory. Let’s not forget jewelry – earrings or a fun bracelet that can hold up to the abuse of professional grooming. Even funky shoes that can take hours of standing and still be comfortable.

Your personal presentation can be as unique as you are. Just remember to present yourself in a manner appropriate to the clientele you wish to attract. Never lose sight of the fact that you need to make your clients feel comfortable and welcome if you want to build your business.

WORK QUALITY

Pick a breed. Pick a technique. Pick a personality. Pick a trim. Specialize in something. Do it better than anybody else.

Establishing a reputation for specializing in your area of choice will make you stand out. People will begin to talk. Because you do such an amazing job in your specialty, new customers will seek you out.

Maybe you love Terriers and hand stripping techniques. You might be a Poodle fanatic who loves to hand scissor. Love kitties? Enjoy challenging pets? Whatever it is, lock into it. You will thrill people when you walk out with a well-groomed pet from your specialized field of expertise. It’s a great feeling. Both you and your customer will be smiling.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

What do you do that makes your clients grin from ear to ear and say, “Wow, I can’t believe they just did that!” Customer service skills come into play over the phone and in person.

All service-based businesses are problem solvers. If you can solve the problem triggers for your customer, you are way ahead of the game. Once you figure out the problem, offer a viable solution with a kind heart and a big smile.

In some cases, the client doesn’t even realize they have a problem. Not only do you need to be a problem solver, you need to be a tactful educator.

Most clients benefit by using the trifecta principle of communication: tell – show – read. As professionals, we deal with dirty, messy dogs all the time. We can groom dog in our sleep. It’s a totally new experience for the client. Most people cannot remember all the information you are going to give them when they first come to your salon. Use the trifecta principle to help get your messages across. Tell them. Show them. Give them something to read that locks in what you just told and showed them.

In order to be successful, we need plenty of clients that keep coming back. Salons that get positive buzz in the community will attract new clients and help retain old ones.

When done well, there a great sense of pride. But even more than that, there’s also a great sense of security. Security comes from knowing clients like what you do and continue to seek out your grooming services.

So stand out from the crowd. Be the positive buzz of YOUR town. If you want a busy business, you need to get people talking. Finding creative ways to make your clients feel special is one of the best marketing strategies you can develop for your business.

Did we miss anything? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us.

Happy trimming,

~Melissa


Tricks to Keep Your Appointment Book Full – Great Ideas to Stay Busy All Year Long

October 8th, 2015 by Kara Adams

When your appointment book is totally full, how does that make you feel? For most of us, it’s a sense of security. It’s a source of pride. It’s a guarantee that you are satisfying your customers’ needs. You are doing a good job.

But how do you feel when that appointment book has empty slots? Maybe you are just starting out on your own and have an open book. Maybe you are new to the salon and need to build a fresh clientele. Or maybe you have been at your salon for a while, yet you’re just not getting traction with repeat customers.

Long-time pet stylists know this unspoken rule: a full appointment book offers job security.

So if your appointment book is lighter than what you would like, how are you going to fix it?

Here are a few ideas to help you boost your number of daily grooming appointments.

SERVICE MENU

If you went to a restaurant and the server did not hand you a menu, how would you know what to order? Pet grooming is very similar. Owners know they’re coming to you to get their dog cleaned up, but they probably don’t know all the services that you offer. Services that could help them keep their pet looking and feeling great.

A well-organized service menu makes it easy for the client to select a service. As a bonus, it also makes it very easy for you discuss optional services such as de-shedding treatments, shampoo upgrades, skin conditioning treatments, tooth brushing, nail filing, or other add-on services.

A service menu allows you to quickly summarize maintenance grooming services. Use it to  highlight the benefits of regular professional grooming appointments. This is a great place to outline the suggested frequency of appointments. Depending on a number of factors, most pets benefit from being groomed every 3 to 6 weeks.  Others may benefit from weekly or biweekly appointments. Having a comprehensive service menu makes it easy to rebook clients on a regular basis.

DEVELOP A RESCHEDULE FILE

Actively encouraging clients to reschedule on a regular basis ensures that a salon will have a steady stream of clients. Plus, the pets will be in the best possible condition.<

Rebooking and rescheduling is all about helping your clients keep their pet looking and feeling its best. It’s about helping them understand the hygienic needs of their dog or cat, such as why it’s important to properly brush and bathe their pet between visits. Those are the goals. You are a problem solver. If they do not want to do the tasks necessary to maintain their pets at home, they will turn to you to do the job for them. Education is the key.

There are number of ways to rebook that next appointment:

  • on the spot.
  • reminder calls.
  • wake-up calls.
  • e-mail blasts.

Rebooking on the Spot

Offering to schedule an appointment at checkout is the best way to get a client to rebook. Develop a couple different scripts and use the one that best fits the needs of that client. For best results, use the tips below.

Referral card example.
  • Ask every time. Think of fast food chains. They ask you every time if you would like something else with your order – every time. When the client checks out, offer to rebook their next appointment to ensure their pet continues to look amazing.
  • For the busy or in demand pet stylist, reschedule a number of appointments at once or book the entire year. This will guarantee the client will get the premiere dates they are looking for.
  • In areas that are price sensitive, offer incentives. Maybe it’s $5 off their next grooming if they book within six weeks or less. Or maybe you offer them free upsells like tooth brushing or a spa package upgrade.

Reminder Calls – If the Client Does Not Rebook on the Spot

Ask the client if they’d like a Reminder Call a week before “Buffy” would be due for his next appointment. This could be done via phone, e-mail, or text message.

Discount card example.

Wake-Up Calls

Actively call clients that have not returned to the salon in 8-12 weeks.

E-mail Blasts

This is a great way to market to existing clients. If you are going into a slow day or week, offer an incentive to get clients in the door for those days.

IMPLEMENTATION

Rebooking is something you must do regularly – the same way – every time. Make it a habit to ask if they want to rebook at check-out. If they don’t, make sure to call and remind them one week prior to the preferred grooming time for their pet and don’t forget to do the Wake-Up calls once a month for any client you haven’t seen in 8-12 weeks.

Referrals

People are physiologically wired to make referrals. Many businesses can grow and flourish just by tapping into this business building strategy.

Referrals come from a number of different sources:

Incentive coupon example.
  • existing clients.
  • other service providers.
  • pet professionals.

Existing Clients

  • Encourage them to pass out your business cards. Let them know you are looking for more great clients like them. Always keep a supply within easy reach and generously hand them out to clients.
  • Use an incentive-based referral program. Offer a discount for first time clients PLUS give the same discount to the client that referred them. You give them even more reason to pass your name around – plus – it’s a great way to thank them for the referral!
Welcome flyer example.

Other Service Providers

  • hairdresser
  • local pizza joint
  • coffee shop
  • anywhere people gather and talk

Leave a stack of Discount Incentive cards with the owner or someone that is happy to pass them out. Code the back so you know where they came from – that way you don’t have to ask the customer when they turn them in. You do want to track where the cards are coming from so you can thank the service provider in an appropriate fashion.

Pet Professionals

  • vets
  • pet supply businesses
  • rescue organizations
  • trainers
  • pet sitters

Leave them with a basic welcome package they can hand out to clients that would benefit from your service. Participate in and support their events. They are more like to refer and support you in return. Offer a thoughtful thank you gift to those that refer you on a regular basis. Food or flowers never go out of style but there are many options.

Did we miss anything? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us. You can even see a video on Learn2GroomDogs.com on this topic!

Happy trimming,

~Melissa


 
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