I recently had an unhappy customer, and I didn't like it one bit. (Note, the above cat is not the one in question, just something to catch your eye. The cat in the story was a young, medium haired black cat.)
Here is the story. I groom a lot of cats. In fact, I am a certified Master Cat Groomer. I'm good at it, and have many happy clients who seem amazed by my cat handling skills. Last week I had a new client that needed to get her cat groomed. She told me on the phone that the cat had a lot of mats on its stomach and she was unable to brush or comb the cat in that area. She had a work schedule that made her unable to come in during my normal hours, so I agreed to open an hour early to accommodate her and make her poor kitty comfortable. Many of my customers stay while I groom, but she chose to leave the cat with me and run an errand. Her cat was small, and as she had described, had extensive matting from armpits to groin, and some lime-sized mats on the back of her thighs.
I asked the woman what it was she had in mind for the days grooming and she said, "Get those mats off, give her a bath, and you know, groom her." The cat was declawed in the front, and people who are familiar with feline behavior will tell you that many declawed cats are on the defensive, and are more apt to bite. This was true of this young cat. She tolerated having her belly and thighs clipped, but was anxious and on edge the entire time. I decided she was not a good candidate for a bath, sensing it would overstimulate an already unhappy animal. Her coat was quite clean, and I was able to comb out loose hair. I felt very happy and satisfied with my work. We had quickly and safely removed painful tangles, and though the cat was tense about the process we had managed to get her done safely and tuck her back into her carrier before she became overly stressed. To me this was a win.
Her owner picked her up, was fine with my decision not to bathe, commented on the pile of matted hair we had saved to show her, and left, promising to be back. Later that night I received an email that said, "when I got home today and took my cat out of the carrier I was HORRIFIED at the hack job you did on my cat's rear-end! and to then see that you did NOT groom my cat at all!!!!!!!, just shaved belly and ass.. I will never recommend you . I am totally disappointed! If I hadn't had to get directly to work, i would have returned for my money.. shameful"
Ouch. What we have here, folks, was a failure to communicate. I clearly did not question this lady enough to understand what it was she wanted. I assumed that I knew, and I was obviously mistaken. I replied to her email that I was distressed to learn she was not satisfied with the groom. I said that clearly I had misunderstood what she desired as an end result of the grooming. I told her I would be happy to re-groom that cat for no additional charge, and/or refund her money. She sent a terse note back with her mailing address and closed with, "I will never come back." I put a check in the mail that day, and have been pondering how to make sure this does not happen again ever since. Here is what I have come up with so far:
- Ask more questions. Especially in the case of a first time customer, I should have probed further than I did. What, exactly, did she mean when she said, "You know, groom her." In my mind, getting the mats off the cat was the primary importance. But she wanted more, and I will never know exactly what that "more" was. I suspect, in retrospect, that she wanted me to trim up and tidy the cats body coat.
- I should have asked if the cat had ever been groomed before, and if so, how that went. I also should have asked if she was pleased with the end result, and why or why not.
- I should have explained to her, before the groom, that when working with cats, sometimes just removing the mats and tangles is all we can do. She had forewarned me that she was unable to brush or comb that cat in the areas where the matting was, and I should have discussed this with her. In an ideal world I would have explained that if her cat had little tolerance for being handled for grooming at home, it probably would have even less when being handled by a stranger in an unfamiliar place.
- I should have taken the cat out of the carrier when the owner returned, and shown her what we had done. That would have given me an opportunity to change things she was not happy with.
Those are the things I did wrong. Here is what I think I did right:
- Removed the cats matting swiftly and painlessly.
- Took the cats tolerance and stress level into consideration when I opted not to give the request bath.
And after the customer communicated her displeasure I:
- Responded swiftly, apologized that I had not satisfied her, and offered to re-groom the cat and/or give a full refund.
- Sent a refund when requested.
I wish that things had gone differently. I don't like it when I have an unhappy customer, and luckily for me this a rare event. I wish that the owner would have been open to allowing me to have a second chance to find out what she really wanted from the process and deliver it for her. But I am going to take the whole unpleasant experience as an opportunity to learn and (hopefully!) grow. And I am sharing this with my fellow groomers in hopes that I can save you from such an unhappy outcome.
Most times any customer of any business is unhappy it is because the service did not meet their expectations. Taking time to make sure you understand the customers expectations before you groom their pet is of utmost importance. If you cannot fulfill their expectations, the time to explain that is before you provide the service.