Client Relations & Scheduling

Client Services Rating Systems

When you think of pet grooming don’t you get visions of dogs and cats in tubs, drying counters and grooming tables? We all do. Grooming is very physical and time consuming. In fact, groomers are selling their time. Yet grooming is not only the time spent grooming the animals, but their owners who pay for the services.

It can be very difficult for groomers working alone to always have enough time to spend with customers, especially first time customers. There is often another dog waiting to be groomed and a set time out coming up. Some customers want quick in and out, and then there are loyal clients that really love spending time talking with their groomer. Highly successful groomers with large businesses often credit client relations for their success, and not grooming salon. They often have client relations staff tending to the extra services they provide to customers. Here is a class example.

In the book that has sold more than 30,000 copies, From Problems to Profits in Pet Grooming, author Madeline Ogle wrote an entire chapter describing how her extensive client programs created more loyal clientele that returned time and again.

She interviewed hundreds of customers to ask what they desired besides grooming services. As a result she created a client rating system to help identify which services needed to be provided to each individual. She not only boosted profitability but also set a new standard for client service. It’s a simple system that takes only a few hours to learn and then apply. Her son, Stephen, has assisted hundreds of grooming business owners to implement it. His records indicate that most of them boosted their sales of grooming services 20% to 30% without price increases or growing their client bases.

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Whether you have 50 clients or 1,000 your first priority is to have a system to maximize sales from existing clientele, and then market new customers. The most important factor is to maximize sales is appointment frequency. Every client has an appointment frequency whether you measure it or not. The more frequently your clientele returns the greater your sales. Maddie developed a client rating system to encourage the highest possible appointment frequency from thousands of clients. She enrolled at least 85% of her clients into an appointment scheduling program. It became the driving force actualizing the sales potential of her clientele. The way she delivered this client service raised client satisfaction, and kept pets looking their best year round.

It was not uncommon for Maddie’s clients to say, “Since we started coming here our pets always look better.” Few realized the difference was not only quality grooming, but they were actually having their pets groomed more frequently. You can do the same. Passive attention to appointment frequency means passive growth of sales. In fact, you probably have thousands of dollars of potential sales not being actualized in your business.

In 2010 Stephen assisted a salon owner in Nevada to implement the Courtesy Appointment Scheduling Program, another name for the Preferred Client Program in From Problems to Profits using the “ABCD” client rating system. Now one year later the sales of services has increased 26% without raising prices (from the existing clientele at the time the program started).

In a nutshell, all customers are rated a type “A” or “B” program member, or “C” for  nonmembers. “D” ratings are inactive.

Option A Standing Appointment Clients. They leave every appointment with their next appointment prescheduled.

Option B are Courtesy Scheduling Call Clients. They leave every appointment expecting you to call them after a specified period of weeks in order to schedule their next appointment.

Option C Neither, they are nonmembers. They schedule their next appointment when ready.

A typical grooming business already has “A” and “C” clients. Magic happens with “B” clients who get their pets groomed as often as “A” clients, but they don’t want to be tied into the restrictions of standing appointments. “B” clients are just as lucrative as “A” members. However, don’t rely solely on sending them appointment reminder cards, email reminders or leaving messages on answering machines. You might additionally follow those procedures, but the proven path to success is maintaining personal connections with pet owners selecting the “B” option. Remember they joined and are willingly awaiting your calls. Use the scripts in From Problems to Profits and enhance them.

Making “B” scheduling calls also leads to more opportunities to impress. For example, you learn that a pet is ill. Send a get well card expressing your sincere concern the same day. Perhaps a misunderstanding unknown to you has kept a client from returning. Resolve it now, retain the client!  You may learn a pet has passed away. Send a pet sympathy card. They are likely to return when they acquire another pet. Services based on convenience and personal contact explains how Maddie built a huge client base with very little advertising.

Many groomers wait for “C” clients to call for appointments. Waiting drags down sales frequency. Set a reasonable amount of weeks to wait to make calls for “C” clients.

Years of field tests have shown that  approximately 50% of your present “C” Clients may be encouraged to join the Option “B” alternative to standing appointments. Obviously Option “C” Clients are not going to schedule standing appointments. However, Option “B” recognizes the noncommitment preferences of “C” Clients and offers them a better way to keep their pets looking their best with regular grooming. Option “B” gives them the same flexibility of Option “C” allowing them to schedule when they want, but adds your courteous reminder call at set intervals they chose. We also suggest you give both Option “A” and “B” clients first choice at priority holiday appointments as another “member perk.” We signed up thousands of Option “B” clients in this manner.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Nevada Pet Salon
BEFORE
Courtesy Appointment Scheduling Program
Nevada Pet Salon
AFTER
Courtesy Appointment Scheduling Program
Total Clients: 352

“A” Clients
“B” Clients
“C” Clients

Total:

140
Not Yet Available
212352 Clients
Total Clients: 352

“A” Clients
“B” Clients
“C” Clients

Total:

140
106
106352 Clients
Variables:
“A” Clients average 8 appts year, “B” Clients average 8 appts year, “C” Clients average 4 appts year
Average Service Fee: $40.00
Nevada Pet Salon
REVENUE COMPARISON – BEFORE
Courtesy Appointment Scheduling Program
Nevada Pet Salon
REVENUE COMPARISON – AFTER
Courtesy Appointment Scheduling Program
“A” Clients
“B” Clients
“C” ClientsTOTAL
$44,800
$0
$33,920$78,720
“A” Clients
“B” Clients
“C” ClientsTOTAL
$44,800
$33.920
$16,960$95,680
ANALYSIS

By adding the Client “B” scheduling option and getting 50% of “C” Clients to join this flexible option, Nevada Pet Salon boosted sales by $16,960 a year.

Nearly a $17,000 increase in gross sales of services without raising prices, adding more clients or spending more on advertising.

Refer to the table above. It shows the numbers experienced by Stephen working with a Nevada grooming business owner. Their goal was to implement the Madson Courtesy Appointment Scheduling Program, and maximize grooming income from existing clientele. At first, they rated them either “A” or “C” because the “B” option was not yet offered. They set a measurable goal, introduce the program and enroll 50% of the “C” clients (who avoided the restrictions of standing appointments) into the more appealing flexible scheduling “B” option. As a result 50% of the “C” clients  would instead use grooming services an average of 4 more times a year as “B” members. Follow the math. The result is an increase in sales of $16,960 a year without raising prices or adding more clientele. Without diligent use of the program this increase is instead potential sales income never actualized. We are certain thousands of groomers can do the same and tap the full financial potential of their present client base.

We talked with the Nevada Pet Salon a year later and the owner reports 72% of the “C” clients are now enrolled as “B” members, and revenues are up $21,000 a year. You can do this magic using client service rating systems like Maddie’s.

Is Every New Customer Potentially Worth $25,000 in New Business?

by Madeline Bright Ogle, PhD & Stephen, Webmaster for PetGroomer.com
© Find A Groomer, Inc. 1997-2017 All Rights Reserved

Just how important are client relations services compared to quality pet care services? Is it possible that they are equally important? Yes, they are equally important. In fact, we believe it takes both superior pet care and superior client relations to earn the $25,000+ potential grooming fees income from each pet owner client.

Did you say to yourself, “Wait a minute, what do they mean $25,000+ in grooming fees income from one pet owner?”

It is not the $25 or $50 or more service fee that you are earning today that is of prime importance (we are using very conservative figures here). A new customer turned into a loyal pet owner client is likely to use your services an average of 6 to 9 times a year. If your average service fee is just $30, today’s new customer offers the potential for you to earn up to $270 in the next year. Multiply this by your average client service life expectancy (let’s assume it’s 8 years) and today’s new customer is now potentially worth $2,160. We’re not done yet. The majority of pet owner consumers are strongly affected by pet groomer referrals from pet professionals such as veterinarians, and friends and relatives using pet grooming services. It is not unusual to earn at least 5 to 10 referrals from any one pet owner over their service life with your place of business. If the new customer lives up to the goal to bring you 10 new customer referrals, that’s possibly another $2,160 for each of them over their average client service life expectancy period, or up to $21,600. No, it doesn’t stop here either. Each of these 10 referrals also will eventually could bring you 5 to 10 more referrals, and those referrals more referrals, etc.

The Logic That Built One of the World’s Largest Businesses with Superior Pet and People Services

Every new customer is conceivably the source for $25,000 to $50,000 worth of business for you in the next ten years. This is the essence of the Madson Client Relations Program (see the book, From Problems to Profits in Pet Grooming) now used in whole or part in a few thousand pet grooming salons. When you value the long term worth of each new customer and regular client, you will serve them with a wide array of client services and dedicated attention (trained manager and receptionists). You place an equal importance on both client services and pet care services because you know for every service you have two clients, the pet and their owner. You do this to gain the maximum number of potential referrals from your area and to maximize your client base. This is the mind set of a business person that grooms.

Ensure that you, and your staff, look at every client as a source of dozens of appointments in the years to come, and as a potential GOLDMINE of referrals in the years ahead also. At your next staff meeting, explain how one customer can mean up to $25,000 or more in potential income. We’ve done it, and it made a difference in our staff’s performance.

In the same manner, you and your staff should understand that a poor client relations disposition and poor pet care services can result in unresolved customer service problems leading to a “lost client”. The client that disappears is just as likely to spread their complaint as well as their compliments not resolved properly that leads to a lost client can turn into many lost clients.

It is not as likely for one “lost client” to result in $25,000+ in lost grooming fees income, but $2,000+ or thereabouts is very likely within a long term valuation.

Legendary pet grooming business owners share the attitude that clients relations is a priority. If your goal is not for some reason to develop such a business, you certainly want stability in order to ensure a stable source of income. Now that you know how much client relations impacts the finances of your business, perhaps you can ensure your stable income by going the extra mile for the pet owner as their pet.

Where there is attention given to customer service, there is a more pleasant work environment. Pet grooming involves the potential for great amounts of stress, and there’s nothing better than the pleasure of listening to satisfied clients and new customers to make the work day more pleasing and rewarding.

We are most proud of the Madson Client Program presented in From Problems to Profits. It is truly a benchmark strategy to excel at customer service in the pet care industry. It is of course one of the most important elements of The Madson Management System for Pet Grooming Businesses, and as that attribute implies, client relations is a priority for management. Your role as owner-manager or hired manager is to consistently supervise the content and execution of your client relations program. In this issue, we are adding enhancements to the Client Relations Program as published in From Problems to Profits and as such it’s time to further review the role of management for client relations.

In the years since we first published the original edition of From Problems to Profits we have worked with hundreds of pet grooming business owners. The most troubled business owner in terms of fulfilling management duties are the one-person operations. There are thousands of these type of pet grooming operations in the United States. Quite often their client relations suffers far more than their pet grooming which is almost always very good to excellent. However, if you are the owner -manager – groomer – receptionist all in one you probably know what it is like to be bathing a pet and have the phone ring. Fortunately many one-person operations use an answering machine to cover such instances. This remedy is only a patch. New customers are not as likely to wait for you to call back as your regular clients. To some degree, you are losing new business.

The one person operation has little time to deliver all of the potent client relations practices that we introduced in From Problems to Profits and that we adding to here. It can be difficult to find even 10 to 15 minutes to dedicate to the new customer, especially without the interruption of a telephone call or another pet owner coming in. It may not seem like you are losing money because thousands of businesses run just this way make the weekly earnings they need to survive. But there’s the key, they are in survival. Getting out of survival is to add client relations staff. Perhaps you will add a part-time receptionist in the morning, or one in the afternoon. Some high school students with training and guidance in a business like appearance make excellent afternoon receptionists.
When we suggest this first step the first response is “I can’t afford a receptionist.” That may be true for a few of the thousands of one-person pet grooming operations in serious financial hardship, but that’s it. The hired receptionist MAKES you money and easily pays their way when you have an organized system like Madson’s Client Relations Program. In fact, just one small feature of the Program alone will pay for a receptionist.

Today’s world is more harried than ever and pet owners not only want more customer services, they need them and at a point they start demanding them. Client relations staff is truly the foundation for the stability of your business as well as excellence in pet care services.

People love to talk about their pets, and you can’t always do that and groom pets. Sure you can place your grooming table near the entry area, but you are losing productivity so there must be a limit. Your trained receptionist is there for those pet owners that want to share stories, address concerns, buy more products because the receptionist knew how to sell your products, or enroll in profit boosting programs that increase the number of appointments. Your client relations staff makes you look good too. It’s one thing to be an award-winning pet groomer and a business owner, but the addition of staff says you are also the successful business person that grooms. Now we’re on the road to the small business “mind set” that knows there are many roles to being a groomer and a business person, and finds a way in stages to fulfill the duties and responsibilities to each role.

It not unusual for our office to be contacted by pet grooming business owners that regret they never created a business with staff. Why? Well they grew to a point where they were working full-time and long hours, and couldn’t make any more money without increasing prices or cutting back. They had no staff working for them to increase their net income from the business. They also suffered more stress by having to own, groom, manage and customer serve. For some their bodies simply wore out, if not there well-being.

The time comes for every new pet grooming business to add staff, and pet grooming staff is not always the most logical addition. It makes sense to add a pet bather, and then another master trimmer or better yet, first an assistant pet trimmer. It also makes sense to first add a client relations staff to create a growing demand for these pet groomers under your management.

Pet owners want to be served as well as their pet. We’ve covered that topic in From Problems to Profits in 1990 and again here. Since then the industry has shown that pet owner consumers do want convenience and a good percentage are being attracted to grooming departments a part of one-stop convenience stores, or even in the veterinarian clinics. We foresee no turnaround in that trend either, and that is why you should carefully read the material in this issue pertaining to how your priority for pet owner client services can overcome the competition today and tomorrow. Many of our readers have done it, but there are thousands of operations still at risk today.
Actually, we have made it easy for you to fulfill your role in client relations. The Madson Management System has been proven for 36 years now, and you have its Client Relations Program organized and ready to go. As stated earlier, even adding the Option B appointment scheduling feature within the Preferred Client Program is likely to alone start paying for a part or full time receptionist almost immediately.

Your role as manager of your client relations program is to ensure that you first even offer client services (as opposed to pet care services), and to develop a complete menu of client services equal to your complete menu of pet care services. Really. If not, are you saying that the pet is more important than the pet owner? Ironically there are pet groomers out there that unintentionally infer by their words, actions and client services that they are doing a favor for pet owners. Instead of educating pet owners as a in how to better care for their pets as a client service, they instead scold and gossip about these pet owners behind their back. After 40 years in the industry we’ve surely know of pet owners that don’t take adequate care of their pets, but that was our opportunity to do what do best, see the potential to earn a loyal client who became such through our interest in helping them to better care for their pet. We never judged them for a moment, and instead judge the situation and let loose our superior client services through trained receptionist and manager staff. We exceed their expectations and instead of creating a human drama focused on the poor pet care heretofore provided by the pet owner, we carefully explained the options available that would resolve the pet’s condition and provide it with comfort and yet meet the pet owner’s demand for a pleasing appearance as well. We then almost surely enrolled them in the convenient Option B appointment scheduling plan and we had a budding responsible pet owner in terms of pet grooming needs.

Your role as manager in client relations is to win the business favor of everyone by knowing that your target market is an entire cross section of your community. With 60% of the households in the U.S. owning a cat or dog, what type of person wouldn’t possibly come through your door. The common ground is the pet and pet ownership. How does your business serve the common ground of the pet owning community besides grooming their pets?

Walk yourself mentally through your operation. Imagine if you were being given the full board of the Madson Client Relations Program. In stages, every pet grooming business can if they will take the first step to hire and train receptionists that can take grooming service orders as good as professional stylists. They can also inspect grooms before pets go home to make sure nothing was missed.

Go further than our Client Relations Program. Always look for ways you can improve and encourage and reward suggestions from your client relations staff. As you develop them put them in writing so future staff can come up-to-date with your system quickly. If you can’t think of a solution, brainstorm it with your staff of one or twenty. Perhaps you can ask your better clients for their opinions or another pet care professional associate. We’re here to help.   ♦

Revisiting the New Language for Pet Care Businesses: Client Relations Vocabulary

by Madeline Ogle, Author of From Problems to Profits in Pet Grooming Book

Seven years after writing From Problems to Profits: The Madson Management System for Pet Grooming Businesses, I wrote an extensive article for the Madson Pet Reporter titled, The New Language for Pet Care Businesses. In this article I would like readers to revisit my original article. The New Language for Pet Care Businesses impacted many of my consultation clients in the last  two decades. You can read some of their comments below. The New Language adds an air of professional sophistication without snobbery. Your clientele will notice the difference. Try using my word selections to market a more stable business, and avoid misunderstandings by eliminating counterproductive words unfortunately common to thousands of groomers. Enhance client confidence.

Today you can make a major difference in the perception of the public for your business. By simply using more effective words to describe your pet care and client services, and eliminating counterproductive words, you can capture far more public attention and set your business apart from the “competition.”

Using well chosen words for in a specialized context as a pet care professional will significantly assist you to build a stable, loyal clientele and attract new business. You don’t have to invest any money to achieve these benefits. It does require you to develop a strong awareness for the pet care language used by you and staff you may employ, as well as the words used in your marketing efforts.

Sometimes as pet care professionals we forget our use of questionable and even derogatory words common to many pet care operations. It is not wrong to use these words, but as professionals we should be more  aware of our making the best impression at all times.

Our choice of words is a major factor in bonding loyal clients. Do not strive for random customers. Bond loyal clients maximizing appointment frequency year in and year out. Clients are steady business income. Customers are first time visitors, but clients are stability and a significant source of valuable referrals which are more business without advertising expenses.

Since I first shared my New Language hundreds of groomers contacted me and shared their delight using it. Some added more words each time replacing  common groomer vocabulary with more caring, enlightened and interesting vocabulary. As employers they repeatedly had to remind their employees to switch words. After a few weeks they noticed customers were giving them more undivided attention. Some even commented with approval for the new vocabulary.

The New Language communicates your business offers a unique standard of pet care services. Powerful pet care words create feelings of assurance, of welcome accommodation and service excellence bonding pet owners to your business.

Greater financial potential awaits every pet grooming business even during economic downturns. One goal as an owner is to maximize the net worth of your business (small or large) relative to its market area by serving people with differences transcending the local market expectations.

Use carefully chosen words to offend no one, yet impress everyone. You will capture more clientele leading to your good fortune. Your words really can set you apart from others offering grooming services in your area.

HOW IT WORKS

When you listen to another do you not see an image in your mind constructed by their words? Yes. That is a great purpose for language in our world. It is the same for your business. Your words create images in the minds of your clientele. What are your words describing to your clientele about your services? They are making decisions to use or not use your services, so this is a critical question for business owners.

Words can be pleasant and uplifting, or create discomfort and even sully a business image. Words can confirm and create confidence, or they can stimulate customer doubt, fear and skepticism. Your choice of words can even cost you revenue.

Words can build, fortify and expand a business, or they can limit its potential. They can provoke differences between people, or maintain neutrality and unify people. Words do indeed affect a business. Advertising agencies charge thousands even hundreds of thousands of dollars to carefully select advertising words in order to achieve the marketing goals of advertisers. (2014 Update: One word can make or break a commercial operation, especially slang such as the incident where TV celebrity Paula Deen expressed racial slang resulting in her enterprise losing millions of dollars in lost sales and brand reputation).

Selective wording has created great leaders in business. We as pet care professionals can similarly benefit by adopting a similar concern. Pet owners are already innately scrutinizing our words because they are intent on finding businesses that will best care for their beloved pets. Confirm their wise decision in coming to your business. There are many ways to do that and then you are on your way to adding more loyal clients, and earning more free referrals. By developing a mastery of the New Language you will confirm to the public you are among the best and most caring and accommodating pet care businesses.

Become an expert at listening to everything said in your business. Remember, the public is forming images in their minds from words heard by everyone in your premises. Ask yourself, “What images were created by what I just heard in my business?” Replace common pet care words with those suggested here as part of the New Language, and ask yourself if they are portraying more effective images for professionalism.

If you have staff, implementing the New Language can spark a team effort for Continued from page 46

where everyone becomes more aware of how their words construct images for a  more professional operation. The opportunity to gain more pride is significant. It can be fun too! The positive response from new customers and clients may be immediate. Some will love to tell you out right that they appreciate the courtesy, warmth and professional concern you and your team create using the New Language.

Training the New Language is a significant management task. Of course, don’t order your staff by saying, “Use these words now, and no longer use these words.” Your staff must understand why. Share what you have learned in this article about the nature of words creating mental images. Introduce the New Language at a staff meeting. Ask them for their opinions of each word I suggest you begin to use, and each word I suggest you eliminate. Your goal is for staff to have a clear understanding that effective “positive” words support the growth and stability of a business, and that ineffective “negative” words limit professional recognition.

Could your clients be hearing words that create images of uneasiness or anxiety? Are they thinking subliminally, “I may not go back there.” Surveys of pet owners by (PetGroomer.com) indicated 60% of them did not approve of some of the language used in grooming businesses they had previously patronized. That’s huge!

Seventy-four percent of the time they said the offending language was not directed to them but instead something said directly to another client or overheard in the background. It only takes one employee’s words to create a detriment. For this reason managing the language used by staff is clearly a management task. Employee handbooks should provide verbal guidelines in writing as well.

Whether you have staff or not, persist in recognizing that words can direct, heal, bring peace, inform, guide and satisfy your clientele. The list of benefits is lengthy. Ask yourself, are my worlds communicating desirable images? Do they encourage pet owners to say to themselves, “I feel good about leaving my pet here, and I will come back.” It is of course important for clients to appreciate your fine grooming services, but it’s just as important that you serve them, and not only their pets, with client service excellence.

Accommodate pet owners and pets. There is a powerful word not commonly used in grooming businesses, “accommodate.” It is not limited boarding type accommodations but also the actions related to accommodating people with your client relations services. You even accommodate pets by the specific nature of your grooming services and the care of pets while in your temporary care.

People love to know their pets are being accommodated. Followers of The Madson Management System’s Client Relations Program already know this guideline. They also appreciate the absence of words that may create misunderstandings, and disturb the pleasant ambiance of a professional pet care environment.

I am sure that your customers and clients believe that you are doing a fine job of grooming their pets. What else bonds them to your business? Adept business owners are always looking for ways to better accommodate loyal clients, and to make every new customer into a client. Now you know that your business language is actually another important accommodation.

As a groomer you know that most of your clients consider pets as family members. Parents love to hear others say how “adorable,” “beautiful,” “smart,” “good,” “handsome” or “pretty” their children are. Many would be uncomfortable with casual references to race, color or creed. Logically, if pets are family members, pet owners will react similarly to comments about their pets. Let’s take a closer look at an example of how words can affect customers. The goal in this example is to make a new customer into a loyal client.

A new customer arrives at your business. If the customer has scheduled an appointment in advance, they should be greeted as if they were an expected, welcome guest. “Your last name please? Following their response, “Hello (________), we have been looking forward to meeting you and your pet, Pierre. Welcome to (your business’ name).” You have relaxed the new customer and made them to feel welcome at a business now less strange to them. By obtaining the pet names when scheduling advance appointments for new customers, your personal greetings will communicate more sincere accommodation. You are  also on your way to making the customer feel expected as if they were a regular client. Everyone likes to feel expected when visiting family or friends, and in business

Now, what can go wrong? Based on my 50 plus years of experience in the pet care industry, I can say that I have heard customers, or been one of them, greeted with, “Oh, what a cute mutt,” or “What kind of dog is that, he’s kind of funny-looking,” or “He’s so ugly he’s cute,” or “Oh no! Who groomed your pet? (ed. note: hopefully it wasn’t the pet owner). This humor may be acceptable to some pet owners, but not for most. Why take risks in client relations?

Odd references to size, breed, or  conditions as well as negative comments about grooming by other groomers have no place in a professional grooming business. Never say anything that could place a client at odds with your business, and on the offensive. Avoid the opportunities for misunderstandings by using these odd references or comments.

Your clients are conditioned to expect clearly positive statements about their pets as if they were family members. Just as parents love to hear, “What a darling child”, pet owners should hear, “What a darling dog (or cat).” If they do not see their pet in that light they may give the real nature of the pet, but the point is, they did it, not you.

Build a rapport with every client. Display your emotional sensitivity to every one of them. Leave it to the customer to remark on the character of their pets and such things that don’t affect your reputation. Let the pet owner say, “She’s just a mutt, but we love her.” Of course they do, and now you can express that you too love all pets. Show them you are sensitive to their feelings, and sensibilities. It’s imperative in a service business.

All too often it is what a customer or client overhears that does the most damage to your reputation. You may never know the root cause. Most customers are either too polite or shy to share something that has offended them with the source. We previously mentioned our surveys that proved this point. I’m sure that you are aware that clients are regularly making judgments about your grooming services, prices, cleanliness and many other service factors. The role of pet owner as a consumer requires them to make such judgments, similar to those made by a parent seeking child care services. Extend your managerial awareness by listening to everything that a client might hear in your business, and consider what images are being communicated.

When you believe, or know, that a client has heard something impolite, rash, or something that might be misconstrued, like a staff member saying, “Put Sammy in a ‘noose,’” you must come forward immediately and turn off the alarm bells ringing aloud in listeners. We may know nooses are grooming loops, but pet owners do not. They are likely to imagine a pet hanging. A  simple explanation to listeners corrects the incident. Review the incident in private with the employee(s) so that it does not happen again. You cannot passively expect that pet owners will know that a “noose” is a safe grooming device, when used properly. Otherwise, the client will leave thinking, “I may not (or will never) go back there again”, and you will be left wondering why they became a missing client.

Pet owners we surveyed had no idea a grooming loop was also called a “noose.” Over half thought it was a slanderous joke. Thirty percent thought it was a potentially harmful training tools being used without their authority.  The manager in you should always wonder why any new customer or client fails to return. Slang, buzzwords, and other offensive remarks, especially those that characterize people and pets are often the culprit. Certainly it is not always a displeasure with your grooming services or prices that explains the missing client.

New customers retreated from other groomers in our area because of their off color or scary language. A new customer might ask me, “You won’t put my dog in a noose, will you?” These type of clients have little problem in expressing caution to a new stranger, like me, whereas they find it more difficult to ask the previous groomer, simply because they want to get away, and not consider what may have happened in the past. They don’t want to think that they made a mistake in the past by using the services of a groomer that uses a noose! Most people want to quickly forget unpleasant imagery. Some human parents that have had problems with human daycare centers don’t like to discuss the situation with people because they are embarrassed to admit they chose to patronize problematic daycare centers in the first place. They simply leave and never go back. Well, the same logic may apply to many offended and alarmed pet owners. Groomers often say missing clients did not like their grooming services. While possible our surveys showed that it is often because of something they heard that aroused skepticism about the professionalism of the groomer.

Pet owners want to know that they are now, and they always have been, providing the best care for their pets. The New Language asserts their right action to patronize your business. It communicates your concern for standards of operation, and it eliminates their alarm. Every pet grooming business using the New Language can eliminate the risk, and revenue drain, created by the dread alarm factor. Consider everything said, or possibly overheard, in your business for its potential to set off alarm bells.

There are other words commonly used in some pet care businesses that can damage a business reputation, and I group them together for their demeaning nature. These words carry a detrimental sound with them. Their source is usually from untrained staff.  Their employers must open staff  awareness for the offensiveness of their words, and most of all, to be aware that they are actually offending themselves as well as other people and pets.

In the background of too many pet grooming salons you may hear words like “shi_”, “piss”, “crap”, “damn”, “hell” or “barf.” These demeaning words carry shocking and violent connotations unworthy of pets and caring pet owners.

Have you ever heard a professional publically state a dog or cat is “stupid” or “bad?” Are they really ‘stupid’ or ‘bad’, or do they simply require special attention? Even if owners should use these terms, ask yourself who is the professional? Hearing such words demeans everyone and everything, including people, pets and your business. They lower self-esteem.

Here are more examples, and several of these come from surveys of pet owners stating things they heard in grooming businesses that offended them .

  • “Put him in a noose so he can’t jump.”
  • “The dog just shi_ all over.”
  • “The spoiled brat is trying to bite me.”
  • “I hate working on that dog.”
  • “He’s going to hang himself.”
  • “Show him who is boss.”

Shi_ is not only rude and demeaning, but it expresses anger and perhaps the possibility of cruelty. Jump means risk. Under these circumstances, a biting pet may only be trying to protect itself from an angry or cruel employee. Why else would someone else’s pet be biting in the first place? Perhaps it is the nature of the pet, but is it always the pet, and never the employee? In fact, wouldn’t a pet bite a groomer that hates working on a pet?

You must account for the many possibilities of language based misunderstandings when your business serves a wide cross section of the consumer public. You must correct very abrasive tones too. They are often associated with demeaning words, and that accentuates their effect.

I would like to share an actual incident I experienced with two trainees. I was shocked to say the least. A new customer arrives, and they overhear this conversation. The receptionist- trainee raises her voice to the pet bather trainee saying, “Mrs. Smith is on the phone and wants to know if Freddie is ready.” The bather trainee raises his voice saying, “No, I just threw her in the tub; it will be another hour.”

Needless, to say, the new customer raised her eyebrows. I immediately resolved the situation knowing well that the new customer had indeed experienced negative imagery. I also resolved the situation with Mrs. Smith on the telephone who thankfully hadn’t fainted on the other end after hearing that her pet was thrown into the tub. She could have already been driving madly to the salon ready to rescue her pet. Words are powerful indeed, especially when the words relate to a family member.

Your target is to eliminate the negative imagery created by problematic words used anywhere and at anytime in your business. The New Language provided in this article is an excellent start in achieving a mastery of an effective service business language. Using it, you can gain so much, and reduce the opportunity for risk, so it is more than my subtle recommendation that you adopt the New Language. Experiment with it now.

In the example above, if I hadn’t taken action to correct any misunderstandings by Mrs. Smith, or my new customer, I could have lost as much as $800.00 a year from that one incident. How? If both pet owners visit my business an average of 10 times a year and their average fee is $40.00, that’s $800.00 over the period of one year. If one such incident took place once every working day, a business could lose tens of thousands of dollars in a year. But wait, I haven’t yet accounted for thousands of dollars in lost referrals, the life blood of a pet grooming business. The New Language not only saves you from the burdens of revenue loss, but just the opposite, it makes money and protects it.

When I decided to grow a large grooming business, among my allies was the New Language and The Madson Management System. Every day my goal was bond new customers into loyal clients generating maximum appointment frequency. For each new client made you should figure at least 7 more appointments in the next year. Eight additional grooms for the same client at $40.00 each is an annual of total $320.00. If the pet lives for another ten years that is $3,200 from the new customer turned loyal client.

When I view a new customer I did not see $40.00 today, I saw $3,200 at my reception counter. This attitude explains how I built one of the world’s largest businesses and yet maintained superior, artistic and humane pet care.

In this light of potential revenue, and not just immediate gratification of today’s service fee, can you do more to secure and actualize that potential? I did, I got it. I didn’t know this when I started a grooming business. It was learned at a time when seminars and workshops were rare in our industry. With this motivation I looked for anyway to improve my client relations, including as you now know, the New Language.

There is another category of words to consider here, Environment. The words in this category are fortunately not as brash as those in the examples above, yet these words are not effective in conveying to pet owners your concern for the warmth and comfort of their pets. The best example of such a word is “cage.” You are probably saying, “You are kidding. Maddie is saying I should not use the word “cage?” Well, guess what. It is one of my top suggestions in the New Language. My use of alternate words for cage brought many positive comments from my clientele. In fact, since 1996 “cage-free” has become a keyword for some groomers realizing their clientele chooses not to have their pet in one at any time while at groomers. We were not cage-free, but at the time sensed the negative connotations of the word, cage, for at least some of our clientele.

How many times a day is the word “cage” spoken in a grooming business? Plenty! Webster’s Desk Dictionary uses the words confining, and wires to define the meaning of a cage. The Family Word Finder uses the words “coop up,” “restrict,” “shut in,” “restrain” and “barred cell” to describe a cage. None of those sound “accommodating.” It may be accurate to call a cage a cage, but you can soften the mental imagery of a cage by replacing it with lodging space. The image you are creating in a pet owner’s mind is much more favorable and suited to a caring pet care service business.

“Lodging” or “lodging space” implies the comfort of accommodation. You may already be adding a touch of warmth to your cages by providing a cotton towel, so why not invite your clients openly to bring their pet’s favorite blanket and toy to warm their pet’s lodging space. Adopting the New Language is like a wave of change yet you cannot touch it. It’s an air of difference, intriguing. If your customers go elsewhere they may notice the change in vocabulary very quickly at their new groomers.

A dictionary is an important tool for a business manager, and I recommend you refer to one often whenever you hear a word that seems to have the power to affect people, whether positive or negative. Make the dictionary available to your staff so that they can check the meaning of words too.

If you have staff, post a small blackboard where new words, or problematic words, can be posted to increase awareness their awareness for them. Edit and supplement the New Language glossary supplied here. The invitation to use the blackboard will create interesting conversation and team action. With your approval, let your staff experiment using new words in communications with your clientele.

Using the New Language regularly will give you more insight into the many natures of different people. Your communications will become more effective, and clearly understood. It will certainly assist you in developing the skills of your staff. For example, Mary, an employee of mine, wasn’t cutting pets’ nails properly. I could have taken her aside and said, “You must cut nails properly, the way you’ve been trained to.” The statement may be true, but it also creates negative, fearful imagery. Instead I asked, “Mary, what is standing in your way of cutting pet nails properly?” The question format defuses opportunities for negative imagery, and the words “standing in your way”  conveyed that I understood she wanted to do the task properly, but conceivably she was facing a challenge preventing her from performing her duties in a proper manner. Mary didn’t feel overly threatened by me. Instead she was facing her limitations with a supervisor providing reinforcement training.

Mary’s answer was, “I’m afraid of hurting the pet.” She was suffering from her own fearful images of bleeding nails. In response I could provide reinforcement training and resolve the situation. Or I could communicate that she was helping the pet, and the pet owner and how long nails can cause a pet discomfort or worse. The root of the problem was exposed by words of neutral inquiry that did not augment her existing fears. In this case, Mary succeeded in overcoming her fears, but in others even the extreme may be true.

You may actually discover a new bather is not appropriate to handle pets as an  eventual pet groomer regardless of the training you offer. As employers we must know what is standing in their way of fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of their position, and it is not likely going to be resolved in fear or admonishment. Fear may already be the problem stopping them being a successful groomer.

I acknowledge the language we each use is a “touchy subject.” I have tried not to sound as if I am preaching, or being too critical. It is my desire to share with my valued readers  something I practiced for over 50 years  making people feel comfortable, welcome and better served. My initial management training never taught me the value of clear and polite selective wording. It was a discovery for me, and a valuable one for my business that flourished with little advertising.

Clarity and courtesy expressed by using the New Language keeps businesses moving forward to achieve their goals with a greater sense of peace. I know implementing the New Language can expand your business or keep demand steady as it did mine. Certainly it will further polish your professional reputation and set you apart from your competition.

Give it a try. You are not alone in this endeavor. Hundreds of my readers have proven it works since 1996.   ♦

CAGE

Webster’s: an enclosure having wires; confining.

Reader’s: pen in; coop up; impound; stall; restrict; an enclosure having wires; confine; shut in, barred cell.

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It is practical to call a cage a cage. It is what you bought, right? Consider the definitions above. All of them are associated with negative imagery. We are not suggesting cage-free operations. Instead try substituting “cage” with words more accommodating of the feelings of pet owners and generating pleasant mental imagery for beloved pets.

LODGING

Webster’s: temporary quarters, space, a stay, safekeeping, to rest, room.

Reader’s: temporary stay, sojourn.

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Compare the definitions above for “cage” and “lodging.” Is it not remarkable how different two interchangeable words can be? The mental imagery generated by either is opposite the other. “Lodging” is a lovely, caring word. It conveys to pet owners your concern for the comfort of their pets. Of the many word replacements I practiced in my business, replacing “cage” with “lodge” or “lodging” brought the most positive comments from pet owners. They loved it and so did I. It convinced my staff that I was on to something with the New Language for Pet Care Businesses.

NOOSE

Webster’s: a loop with a running knot that tightens, as in a snare; death by hanging.

red_sad_faceAlarm bells go off with this word. Here is one word to eliminate entirely from your business to prevent misunderstandings. Even “secure the pet safely in a noose” generates negative imagery remains.

GROOMING LOOP

green_happy_faceIt is easy to replace “noose.” “Loop” is neutral and means a ribbon doubled back on itself to form an open eye. Now there is no cause for alarm.

 ACCOMMODATE

 Webster’s: do a kindness; help, aid; provide a service, oblige.

green_happy_faceThis word carries the essence of your desire to serve both pets and clientele. There is noble virtue in the businessperson that seeks to accommodate its clientele. Use this word in your promotional materials too. “It is our pleasure to accommodate your pet grooming needs.” “If there is anything we can do to accommodate you better please let us know.” How many groomers speak like this? Few. Your business language can “separate you from the pack,” and at no cost.

SEPARATION ANXIETY

Webster’s: to part; estranged from a parent or person; existing by one’s self; fearful; apprehensive; uneasiness; concern worry; earnestly wishing.

green_happy_faceSince 1996 when I first wrote the New Language the use of the term “separation anxiety” has been adopted rather well. It describes what a pet endures within minutes of being separated from their owners. The effects may be accentuated with blind, deaf and disabled pets. Some pets that frequently urinate, or defecate or display a nervous itch or chew may be displaying signs of separation anxiety. Every pet owner desires to be free of worry and concern for their pets left in the care of another without their having. You can ask of them to ensure they return on time to retrieve their pets and thereby reduce the chances of their pet enduring separation anxiety. It sounds professional and not yet not scary. Your concern sounds compassionate too.

EMPATHY

Webster’s: identification with; or experiencing the feelings of another.

green_happy_faceIf your clients sense your empathy for their concerns and their pets, you are on the right track to bonding more loyalty to your business. You might find a great use of this word in your promotional materials.

DEROGATORY

Webster’s:  lessen the merit or reputations of a person or thing.

Reader’s:  uncomplimentary; belittling; unfavorable. 

red_sad_faceDerogatory words affect both people and pets. Use the term as needed to explain to an employee that what they have said is offensive, and therefore derogatory. By knowing their misspoken words are derogatory, and “lessen the merit” of the business, they usually respond quickly to adopt the New Language. The challenge to eliminate derogatory words builds self-esteem.

SLANG

Webster’s:  words not considered part of the standard vocabulary. 

red_sad_faceSlang is somewhat common in grooming businesses. The worst slang has a demeaning factor like spoiled brat. When overheard by pet owners it can damage the reputation of the business. I have faith that all readers of this article know that most slang is inappropriate in business, but I will list examples. Consider the following: crap; shi_; poop; pee; piss; wee-wee; hell; damn; ass; horny and balls. You have likely heard groomers use them. Anguished groomers working on behavioral pets might passionately say, “I hate you!” Offensive slang explains why shy pet owners say nothing and never return. Eliminating slang takes time but you must persist. It never promotes a professional reputation. Apologize if clients hear it from staff.

COMPANIONSHIP

Reader’s: friendly; comradeship; sociability; company; pals; chum.

green_happy_facePut pet owners at ease with their choice of you as their groomer by simply communicating that your business encourages and provides companionship for visiting pets. Pet sitters know the marketing value of this word. Is it not your intent to be friendly with pets and to treat them as temporary company? Companionship communicates positive imagery. “We provide regular companionship and supervision during your pet’s stay.”

OBSERVE

Webster’s: paying strict attention to; mindful; recognizing and noting fact.

green_happy_faceObservation plays a crucial role in providing professional pet care services. The word creates positive imagery too. It is appropriate for groomers to observe pet conditions and record them. By doing so, are you not “paying strict attention” and being “mindful” and “recognizing and noting” facts? By sharing written observations with your clientele you help them take better care of their pets. We used a Pet Groomer’s Report and Health Alert form shown in the From Problems to Profits book. Do not diagnose. Instead, describe observations. “Mrs. Smith we observed sores on Eddie’s right leg. Please provide our written report of observations to your vet.” What pet owner won’t appreciate you and your observations?

DIAGNOSE

Webster’s:  the process of determining by examination and analysis the nature and circumstance of a diseased condition.

red_sad_faceProfessional groomers make keen observations of the pets they groom. They share their observations with pet owners and advise them when veterinary care should be considered. This process is best in writing too and that allows the veterinarian to learn how much of a professional you are. As a result you may earn vet referrals; we got thousands over the years. Vets clearly saw that our descriptive words of pet conditions never included a single diagnosis which is the responsibility of a licensed medical professional only.

URINATE

Webster’s:  to discharge urine; to discharge waste matter.

green_happy_faceUrinate is an acceptable replacement for undesirable slang words that describe such as: peeing, pissing and pee-pee. “Urine” replaces “pee and piss” too. All too often the slang terms for urine are spoken with angry or offensive tone too. It is only natural in a pet care environment that pet waste will be mentioned in conversation but it doesn’t have to seem rude, crude or offensive to shy pet owners. “Urine” and “urinate” sound “medicinal” perhaps, but they have the virtue of little negative imagery and no prejudice.

DEFECATE

Webster’s:  expel feces through the anus.

green_happy_faceSome of the most offensive slang used in pet grooming relates to feces, and defecating. Pet owners do not want to hear four-letter words for feces, even “crap” offends some. It is more socially correct to say defecated or “bowel movement.” The best you can do when having to communicate about this subject is to keep negative imagery at minimum by using “defecate” and “feces,” and perhaps bowel movement.

DIARRHEA

Webster’s:  abnormally frequent stools.

red_sad_faceIt is not improper to use this word. Certainly there is a great deal of negative imagery derived from this word, and bad jokes. For these reasons we looked for a replacement. A far more neutral term is “loose stools” and that is descriptive and does not attempt to diagnose.

VOMIT

Webster’s:  spew, eject violently, gush.

red_sad_faceMuch like “diarrhea,” the word “vomit” attracts negative attention. We switched to “spew” instead. It is not critical to switch spew for vomit compared to poor slang but give it a try. You may say “vomit” once in a conversation and then switch to “spew.”

HATE

Webster’s:  spew, eject violently, gush.

red_sad_faceSimilar to “diarrhea,” the word “vomit” attracts negative attention. We switched to “spew” instead. It is not critical to switch spew for vomit compared to poor slang but give it a try. You may say “vomit” once in a conversation and then switch to “spew.”

SPOILED

Webster’s:  to overindulge; to damage; to harm; to plunder; indulgent.

Reader’s:  ruin, botch; mess up; foul; mar; impair; destroy; mutilate; coddle.

red_sad_faceHave you or your employee called a pet “spoiled” or “spoiled brat?” Certainly a pet’s behavior might provoke such a response from the impatience of the groomer, but it is to be avoided. Actually the pet’s behavior may have nothing to do with the coddling of its owner, it may be fear. “Spoiled” is a very derogatory word and judgmental. Labeling a pet as spoiled implies that its owner has damaged it even if we consider Webster’s definition. Groomers do not mean to be so derogatory, but it is a harmful sign of impatience not desired when working with living creatures. In our surveys of pet owners using the services of pet groomers some were quite offended when told they spoil their pets, and some heard that term in the background of the business with another pet. It is all very negative and not appreciative of consumers buying our services. Avoid the word “spoiled.”

PERSONAL

Webster’s:  exclusive; special; individual; particular; privy.

green_happy_face“Personal” and “personalize” are exceptional words for regular use. Personalized services for both pets and their owners is a plus when building a steady clientele. They defy comparison with other groomers. Find ways for pet owners to personalize their pets’ lodging spaces with favorite toys or blankets, perhaps something you sell as retail too. Train staff to describe your client and pet services as personalized. Solicit their personal opinions of your business with a client questionnaire. Large businesses can still be personal, in fact they usually have the grooming demand necessary to hire receptionists. Your receptionists should be experts in the New Language. In conversing with pet owners they can learn more about the individual personal services needed by your clients and note that in your records.

COMPASSIONATE

Webster’s:  humane; kind; tenderhearted; sympathetic.

green_happy_faceThis word is excellent for job descriptions. You require this quality for hired staff, and it is something you as the owner always want to convey. Without this attribute a job candidate would not be eligible to work in my business. In your promotional materials mention that you strive to meet the compassionate needs of pets when separated from their owners. “Pet parents” love that quality!

PET

Webster’s:  household animal; favored, cherished, beloved, comradeship.

green_happy_faceWe include the word “pet” here for its wonderful simplicity, and its beautiful definition. Ask job candidates to define the word. Once they understand the nature of dogs and cats as pets. A professional staff in mindful every moment of every working day that they are caring for creatures, household animals, favored, cherished and beloved by people that have placed their faith and trust in you, their groomers. This may seem a silly thing to ask you to do, but try it! Ask others to define “pet” and compare their answers to this definition. As groomers you have deep responsibilities often taken for granted and seen as shallow. Caring for pets demands our best every day.

CONTROL

Webster’s:  command; govern; direction; manage, in charge of; supervise; plan.

green_happy_faceOperating a pet care service business may be your charge. Every workday is not only your demonstration of your grooming skills, but perhaps your management skills, and management is problematic in this artistic field. If you are to be in control in an environment with living pets do so, carry the hats well and balanced of both groomer and manager. The use of the New Language is but one matter for you to exert positive control. Positive control encourages teamwork, and acts without  admonishment-based management.

SERVICE

Webster’s:  assistance given to someone; render assistance; to treat in your specified manner; answer purpose.

green_happy_faceWe have DOUBLE service responsibilities. We serve the needs of pets as well as their owners. Most groomers focus on the pet needs but I forgot the least expensive way to grow a one person business, or large staff operation, is client services. Advertising brings you customers but clients stay for years and years. I served an entire generation and then their children before I sold my business. We only used a road sign and yellow pages advertising at that time. REFERRALS launched and maintained my business. Our commitment to equally serve BOTH client and pets grew the business many times larger than we dreamed. We saved tens of thousands of dollars in advertising expenses with this proven system discussed in my From Problems to Profits. Service excellence consistently delivered gives pet owners and veterinarians the confidence to send you hundreds or even thousands of FREE referrals. Never forget grooming is a client service industry as well as pet care. One of the biggest obstacles in grooming are not hiring at least a part-time receptionist well-trained to handle the paperwork, records, telephone and classic intake and outtake service using the New Language. Eliminate burnout by hiring at least a part-time receptionist allowing groomers more time to groom uninterrupted.. What a stress reducer! In my book I showed you how receptionists “can pay their way.” You can afford one!

PACK ANIMAL

Webster’s:  a group of domesticated animals; often family.

green_happy_facePack animal is a useful term when describing aspects of dog behavior. Dogs are pack animals now living with humans as a result of domestication. Just as we consider them family members dogs may consider humans as part of their “pack.” For this reason dogs often become anxious when left alone and unattended for extended periods of time. They innately desire regular periods of quality human interaction. A great use of this term applies to staff training. Make them more aware and understanding of dog behavior related to their origin as pack animals.

FLOURISH

Webster’s:  to grow vigorously; excellence; successful; to influence; to be at the height of fame; occurring fresh.

green_happy_faceEven a one-person business would love to grow vigorously (flourish) when starting out. In fact every business needs to grow to replace missing customers and pets that pass without replacement. Is it not your goal to flourish as a businessperson that grooms? We can afford to keep up shops or mobile units better. We can maintain the best equipment and tools. We always have something left over for us too! I do not want to be “rich” in the overused sense of that term. I do want my business and myself to feel the joy of flourishing by being a pet care professional. What a better word, and a feeling to cherish.

HUMANE

Webster’s:  characterized by kindness, mercy and compassion.

green_happy_faceIf your goals include 1) catapulting your business reputation ahead of the competition, 2) attracting major attention from pet owners for your services and 3) promoting your ethical business and professional management, then humane is one of the words that hits the bulls eye target.

What pet owner doesn’t want to think that their groomer is kind, merciful and has compassion for pets? Yet many groomers take pause understandably before using humane in addressing their business. It does sound like a word that requires specific proof or evidence before using it. We used the word, and we chose to document why to back our claim. You can do the same.

The Humane Bath Procedure (you can update it too) in From Problems to Profits is but one example of documenting your humane procedures. More than lip service you back your claims with documentation and other support and even endorsements by qualified professionals.

Can you imagine the positive imagery of humane in your promotional materials? If you are delivering it, promote it for it will interest the market you serve. Share your documentation to back your claim. Our employee handbook contained our humane procedures expected of employees leaving us to supervise it.  ♦