What do customers really think when they drop their dog off at the groomers? Some may think we have a magic wand that we wave over their overweight, shedding, matted, struggling, elderly pooch that hasn’t seen shampoo or a hairbrush in six months. Poof! It’s no big deal to groom Fluffy to perfection in one hour, for pennies on the dollar, without any wear and tear on the groomer or the dog. It’s obvious to us, as professionals that this is not going to happen. Every groomer knows what it’s like to wrestle with an unhappy, uncooperative dog, covered in hair, praying they don’t poop on the table or take a bite out of us.
I can relate to this scenario because when I got my standard poodle seven years ago, I was one of those customers. I did not know a thing about dog grooming. How would I know? I would drop Jesse off at the groomer and a few hours later, out he would come, clean face and feet, fluffy and smelling delicious. It seemed so easy and uncomplicated. I would wonder to myself, “Why did it cost so much?”
Yesterday when I arrived to groom a young standard schnauzer the owner was home. He asked if he could watch me groom the dog in the van. I said yes, explaining a few ground rules. The owner and I had emailed back and forth because his puppy had some issues from day one. He had a fearful personality and would try to bite the hose when being rinsed off and the nozzle while being dried. I wondered if this was a dog I would be able to keep as a customer. I thought I could give it a real try, pulling out all the handling and grooming skills and techniques I had ever learned. My gut feeling was if I put the time and effort into this dog, the payoff would be big. In addition, the owner wanted to work with me to help make grooming a positive experience for his puppy. I like that.
I find that it’s always an educational experience for the owner when they watch me groom their dog in the van. It’s a powerful feeling. It’s amazing what you can get a dog to accept when you are a calm assertive groomer. I got through the bathing and drying process with this dog, using a muzzle, ignoring the bad behavior and praising the good. When I plucked and clippered the schnauzer’s ears inside and out, the owner’s eyes were open wide. The dog was very well behaved and we worked as a team. By the time I was done, all the owner could say was, “Wow!” We brought the dog into the house, she looked great and was as happy as a clam! I charged my hourly rate and we scheduled the next appointment.
I’ve read online that groomers often undercharge because estimating in our profession is so difficult. And it is. How could we possibly know how long it going to take to groom a dog? Sometimes, I can groom a dog in one hour. Sometimes, it takes an hour and a half. When new owners call and ask for a price, it’s even more difficult to give an estimate. Often times, they don’t know what breed of dog they have, how much they weigh, their true coat condition, or their grooming temperament.
Starting out in my mobile business, fresh from grooming school, I made plenty of mistakes but my plan was to learn from them. I’ve undercharged many times because of my lack of confidence, knowledge and experience. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to price fairly is by charging an hourly rate and by educating my clients because all dogs are not created equal. Owners know they are always invited to watch me groom their dog in the van. If they do, they appreciate me so much more when they see what it really takes to get the job done. They need to know we are not magicians, we don’t have a crystal ball and the dog we are grooming is not a statue. I don’t keep any secrets from my customers. I explain what needs to be done, what I did and why, and educate my clients, so that they understand what the grooming process is all about. My goal is to develop a long-term relationship with the pet owner and a teamwork approach. This was always an important part of helping my mobile business grow and succeed.
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