Time to move away from a punished based relationship with our clients ?
We have had many positive changes in the grooming industry lately, especially regarding handling dogs. More and more groomers are working towards a positive reinforcement way of working, less force, and more teamwork with the dog. Some are even taking it further and base their handling purely on a consent-based way.
I love this change and I hope it works its way down to the training providers so that new groomers start with less force and punishment embedded into their minds.
But I feel that our relationships with the clients are sadly going in the opposite direction. Looking at discussions in online groups, all interactions are now based on punishment…..
As much as we try to make the dog do the right choices by rewarding them, we create a toxic environment when it comes to our relationship with the owners.
And that toxic relationship affects our wellbeing, even if you don’t notice it.
It turns into a vicious circle, you are annoyed at the client, the dog can sense that and acts up, you get stressed by it and get more annoyed, your relationship with the client declines and your work with the dog gets harder as it acts up even more……and it just spirals down to a disaster.
The discussion is now all based on how to make the owners obey our rules, and the way to implement the rules is by applying a punishment if they don’t do it…..
Matting fee, late pick up fee, cancelling fee, No show fee, soiling fee – the list is endless over the different punishments.
But do you remember why we are moving away from punishment when handling dogs? And can you see what’s happening in our client relationship?
Science has shown that it takes much longer for the dog to learn if we punish the unwanted behaviour. The dog learns everything much faster if we instead reward the desired behaviour.
And it’s no different when it comes to client relations.
The minute you add a punishment, the response will be negative. Your actions will have a mirrored response from the client.
We need to stop being so angry and acknowledge that our clients are just like us.
Put yourself in this situation:
Your car needs to be serviced. You call around to a couple of garages to get a quote for the job.
One garage tells you it’s 150 for the job, which sounds good, so you make the appointment.
You drop the car off in the morning and when you come to pick it up, they ask for 200…. You get a bit puzzled and annoyed as you were quoted 150 and you question the charge.
The garage guy tells you it’s an extra 50 in “extra work “fee as they couldn’t remove the oil filter due to rust. So, it took them longer to do the job, hence the fee.
You had budgeted for that 150 as you also need to buy new tires for the car, so the stress is building up inside you now when you realise that you won’t be able to sort out the new tires. You need the new tires to do the annual roadworthy test, you can’t drive the car without a valid test.
Just take a moment now and feel the feelings that would build up inside you…..
Yep, stress… and that will manifest itself as annoyance…. You will be annoyed at the person telling you that it’s more than you had anticipated.
The conversation will be heated, as the person on the other side of the counter has the same feelings…. The garage guy has spent an extra 30 mins on your car, which has set back his workday and he wants to get paid for his time. So he is annoyed that you question his charge..
And we have a war……
Or if you had made an appointment for the car and you get a letter from the hospital the day before the appointment. The letter is telling you that they have a cancellation for a procedure that you have been waiting on for over 12 months. So, you will of course take that slot.
When you call the garage, they tell you that they have a 48-hour cancellation policy, so you will be charged the full amount for the appointment.
What would go through your mind at that point?
Can’t they see that this hospital appointment is important?? And why should I pay for something in full that I can’t use ??
Be honest now…. 😉
And again… the anger is there. Both on your side and from the garage guy that is fed up with people cancelling left side and centre….. so, you get off the phone being angry and so is he.
Changing the wording can change the outcome
If we instead change the wording and the approach, we can change the mindset of the people in this relationship and the day will be much nicer for both parties.
When you called around for a quote for the car service, if the garage had estimated an extra 30 mins work to start with, as that is usually what happens anyway with old cars, then the quote would have been more exact and you would have been prepared for the cost. And if the oil filter hadn’t been stuck by rust, then your end price had been cheaper …and you got a reward for keeping your car in a good nick…..
How would that have made you feel at pick up? 150 instead of 200….. Happy days! I can spend that on a pair of new scissors now 🙂
You might even tip the garage guy because you are happy….
You are happy as you “saved” 50, the garage guy is happy as he got paid for his time and got tipped.
No anger and no war.
Same with the hospital appointment scenario-
If the garage guy had said – sure no problems, these things happen. I am glad you finally got that appointment. My next available appointment for the service would be on X date…..
You will still book with him and probably tip him a bit because he accommodated your change, and he will be happy that you called and changed instead of not just doing a No Show.
He can now plan his day according to this and get someone else in on your slot or finish early and do some errands instead.
You are happy and he is happy- No anger and no war.
Can you see where I am getting at?
We need to treat our clients in the same way as we would like to be treated ourselves, by doing that, we create a much healthier relationship that will make our workdays much nicer.
Make love, not war ❤
We can’t have one set of rules for us and another for our clients
At the end of the day, we must apply the same rules to both ends. If I want to be able to change my client’s appointments around to facilitate my needs, then I must be open to doing the same for them.
The same goes to bookings. I see so many groomers almost bragging about how they forget to put their clients appointments into the diary on a regular basis. Resulting in being overbooked time after time and having to rush their grooms due to that.
But if a client forgets about their appointment,then they should die……
If a client must cancel the same day during Christmas week due to a sick dog, you can’t be angry at them for that…. Do you really want to have that sick dog in the salon? And we cant hold the client responsible for the dog getting sick.
Image if you had to cancel on your clients on Christmas week because your dog is sick and you must bring it to the vet….
When the anger starts to creep up inside you – try to put yourself on the receiving end and see if your anger makes sense 😉
But I am fed up with people No Showing on me or cancelling last minute – I am losing money !!
I can completely understand that feeling, but you can achieve the same result without war.
Instead of charging No Show fees that always cause anger and are hard to chase down, implement a deposit to book the appointment. Have a 50% deposit for new clients. That will weed out the time wasters. If they don’t want to pay it, they are not planning to honour the booking anyway, so then it’s not a loss if they don’t want to book.
If something happens and they still don’t show up, despite the deposit, don’t chase them. Let the client get back to you in their own time. If it’s a genuine reason for the No Show, they will get in touch and apologise.
If they don’t get back to you, then don’t book them again. Mark them as No Show on your phone so you know.
It’s no use in chasing No Shows and offering them a new chance to mess you around. Why would you like to do that? It’s like rewarding a dog that chews on your new shoes…..You tell them it’s okay to mess you around.
I will waive the charge if they apologise, life happens to us all.
I need to have alarms set on my phone for everything *LOL*. I can wake up in the morning and know that I have a dentist appointment in the afternoon, but as the day goes on, I can be caught up in something and completely forget about it…. Only to remember it again in the evening…
So I can 100% relate to good clients that are like me.
But if it turns into a habit, then they need to take responsibility for their actions.
I have a couple of clients to whom I send a text message 2 hours before their appointment, just as a reminder, as we have concluded that their brains are a bit messy *- that is my service to them. That service makes me happier as they will show up on time, and it makes them appreciate you more as you are not punishing them, and you are making their life easier. This is what creates loyalty, a positive relationship. This is a much stronger relationship than the one created by punishment or even discounts.
When it comes to cancellations, can you honestly say that you have never cancelled your clients with less than 48 hours’ notice?
We need to have the same rules for ourselves as we have for the clients…. You can’t tell the client that they are not allowed to cancel due to sick kids, and then cancel their appointment because your kid is sick…..
Again, it’s a relationship and we must give and take.
On the other hand, if it’s someone that is a repeat offender and constantly cancels, book that person at the end of the day and implement your 50% deposit, and in this case, I would be implementing a 24 hours’ notice to not lose the deposit. Also, investigate why that person is cancelling, is it ill health or just nonsense reasons? Can you work something out together? Or would a shop that staggers their appointments in another way work better for this client? Don’t be afraid to suggest a change to clients. Remember that if something annoys you, it creates a toxic environment and that will negatively affect you and the client.
I am tired of dematting dogs and not getting paid for it.
YES, we must get paid for our time, but if you factor in the dematting into your base price, then you don’t have to punish the client with an extra fee and you avoid a war.
When you set your prices, look at your average client. In my case, they come every 8 weeks. So how much time will that dog take me to groom?
I calculate 1.5 hours of work. They will always have a bit of matting in the tail and ears. And probably a bit on the legs if it’s not a short shave.
So, my price will reflect that. I charge for 1.5 hours instead of 1.15 or whatever, it would be without mats.
If the client decides to bring the dog in every 6 weeks instead, they get a small discount that reflects the time I save by not having to dematt the ears/tail/legs.
I still get paid for my time, but the client is happy as they get a reward 😊
Again – reward based training works much better than punishment.
If they bring in a matted dog that is beyond the average 8 weeks of matting, then quote them a price that covers the time you estimate it will take you to do the dog.
Give them that quote when they drop off the dog – don’t hit them with a high price at pick up as that will, again, cause a war…..
Always discuss the price at drop off so that the client is prepared for the price.
The same applies to shave downs due to matting.
Always go over the dog together with the client at drop off. And if the dog is matted, be realistic.
Don’t tell the client, I see what I can do….. That is a promise of a positive outcome and when they arrive and see the naked rat, you will have the “ I am going to post on Facebook “ drama….
Prepare them at drop off that the dog will be shaved, and show them a picture of how it will look.
Ask them to sign a paper where they approve of the shave.
If they refuse, show them how to brush the dog, send them home to do that, and then come back once that is done and you can do the desired trim.
Or if you feel that you can dematt the dog, but it will take a long time, offer to dematt but make sure that the price reflects the extra time- not just an extra tenner. Multiply your hourly charge with the estimated time. And quote them the price and charge a 50% pre-payment before you start. Nine times out of ten, they won’t pay the new price and opt for the shave down option instead.
You have now given them an option to decide on what price they are going to pay, the client is not hit with punishment, they are given a choice to affect the price.
Getting into the right mindset
I could go on with more examples, but I think you see where I am getting at.
Look at the things that annoy you and see how you can change your wording and actions to create a more positive feeling in your relationship with the client.
I am very easy going with my clients and that has given me a great relationship with them.
I don’t have any No Shows and they are all happy to work with me if I need to change them around for some reason as they know I would do the same for them. They are loyal and don’t argue with me over prices.
I know it can be harder if you have a certain type of clientele. Some groups of people have a very self-entitled attitude. But by applying the same way of working as I have described; you will still be able to achieve a better environment. Because what they are objecting at is the punishment, so by removing the punishment and replace it with something else, you are removing the cause of the drama.
You know yourself when you have ordered something online and the wrong item arrives or its broken. You are already annoyed when you call the customer support and you are ready for a fight. Thats the mood those people spend their days in 😉
So we need to find a way of communicating that doesn’t trigger the war.
If the person at the costumer support acknowledge your feelings of disappointment with the wrong/broken item, your mindset instantly change. And when he/she offers a way of solving the problem in a easy way,you will be thankful for the help instead of screaming ” you are an idiot” ( even if you know somewhere deep down that it’s not that person’s fault it’s broken)
Use the same approach for the self entitled when you communicate.
Acknowledge that they want a fluffy dog, offer to help them to achieve that,but inform them that it will come at a cost. It’s not a fee…..it’s just your hourly charge for the work you perform.
Or set your base price higher if the majority of your clients consists of this group.
Tell her/him that you are happy to keep the price down by clipping the dog short this time and then put the dog on a VIP schedule ( every 4-6 weeks ) that allows them to keep the dog long and fluffy at a lower price. ( we all know that its going to be easier to do the dog if they come more often,hence the lower price.But it sounds great that you offer them a lower price *LOL*)
What’s your tips/thoughts on the subject? The art of communication is ever evolving, so share your experience as a comment 😊
I end with a song that will put us in a happy mood ❤