I was having a conversation with my friend Daryl Conner several years ago and we were discussing how groomers had changed over the years. She made a comment that has stayed with me to this day.
"When did groomers go from being doormats to being tyrants?" she asked.
I have thought about this many times over the years. I am active on many online forums and several FaceBook groups and I hear things all the time that make this statement pop back into my head.
I have made up these definitions of doormat groomers and tyrant groomers.
Doormat groomers allow clients to decide when they are coming in and what time they are picking up even if it doesn’t work well for the groomer. They allow clients to dictate what type of haircut the dog will get, even to the point of dematting dogs that should be shaved. They take every dog that calls or walks in even if it means they are working late every day or not getting a lunch break because they are afraid to say NO to anyone. They really allow clients to walk over them and never explain why it is an issue. Usually a doormat groomer will burn out in a few years and leave the industry. Sad really but it happens all the time. The clients of a doormat groomer continue to do these things because they are allowed to and are never educated as to why what they are doing is a problem.
Tyrant groomers have rules for everything and have no flexibility. Set appointment times with no room for wiggle, and often have extra charges for every little thing. Rules about everything from when to come in and pick up to how the dogs will be groomed (YES some groomers dictate what the haircut will be on client dogs based on what they will and will not do). Groomers who fall into this category think they are more important than the client and have quite often lost sight of the fact that we are in a service industry. It is their way or the highway and while they may still be successful they are often struggling to keep slots filled and have a hard time adding new clients, especially if there are more flexible shops around.
I have to tell you that I was a bad client for my groomer before I became a groomer. I didn't understand that I was a bad client. I did not understand how this business works, and as a result I find NOW that I was rude, a PITA client and was demanding. I didn't mean to be all of those things but I was.
My groomer was a doormat in retrospect. He let me get away with things that caused him problems.
I called last minute, mostly because my job didn't allow me to know what my schedule was until the day of usually, and if he couldn't get her in I would go elsewhere.
I often would book appointments and then fail to show up. Not intentionally. I was a single mom, worked two jobs and sometimes I just couldn't work the dog's haircut into my schedule. Often I wouldn’t remember until I got home and she was still stinky. It never once occurred to me to call Stephen and tell him I wasn’t going to make it. I bet I was on his "I will believe she’s coming when I see her walk in the door" list. (I have one of those and I bet most groomers do.)
I sometimes forgot to pick up my dog! I worked for Hershey Chocolate and I was on the road. I might be 100 miles away from home when it was time for him to close. Nothing I could do, so I paid a lot of boarding fees let me tell you!
I would talk and talk at drop off or pick up. There was a person sitting at the desk and it never once occurred to me that it was a problem. I meant he wasn't doing anything but sitting there. Other people were working in the back. I didn’t know he needed to be back there working too and he never said anything.
WHY did it not occur to me that this was a problem? Because my groomer never made it clear to me it was a problem! Instead, when I apologized, he would say "It's FINE" and then we repeated the cycle the next groom. I have apologized to him since I became a groomer. I called him and he remembered me (not a good sign fifteen years later). I asked him why he didn't tell me imy behavior was an issue he said "That's just not the kind of groomer I am".
I think that his attitude has affected my policies at work and my attitude towards my clients is much different than many other groomer's attitudes because I was a client for years before I became a groomer.
I understand what clients don't understand because I didn't understand as a client.
Many people get upset when clients call last minute, walk in without appointments, cancel at the last minute, don't call to cancel, leave dogs after they are done or show up early to pick up their pets. The groomers in some cases truly believe that the client is doing it deliberately, with no care in the world that it is an issue for the groomer. Tyrant groomers will not allow these things to continue. They will fire a client the first or second time it happens and the client is left standing there saying to themselves, "I didn't know it was a problem!" and looking for a new groomer where they will likely repeat the same behavior. A doormat groomer will allow things to happen and then complain later, and it will happen again and again. Both types of groomers usually think it is being done deliberatley.
I am here to tell you that clients do the things they do because they DO NOT KNOW that what they are doing is a problem. They have no idea that you lose money if they don't show up for an appointment. Many times they think that you get paid by the hour, like most of them do. They honestly don't think in those terms. They are so enveloped in their own lives and daily activities that it never occurs to them that there are not others waiting to take their spot. The fact that you don't get paid if you don't groom never crosses their minds.
Pet owners are unaware of how the daily schedule is set up and they do not understand how long it takes to groom or bathe a dog either. They just know that you do that for them and they pay you to do it. That is why they do the things they do. It's not because they are trying to be difficult. They simply do not know any better!
But what I have decided based on my experience in life is that I want to be a WELCOME MAT groomer! I want to serve my client’s needs but not let them walk all over me. I have a policy letter that all new clients are given and I have it on my webpage as well (the link is above). I have a range of drop off times and will work with a client to make a time that works for them. We have a 2.5 hour window for drop offs and we try our best to have dogs done when it is convenient for the client without stressing ourselves. I do not force clients to come in and pick up immediately upon completion unless it's a dog that stresses and the owner is available.
I take on puppies. I groom old dogs. I deal with a lot of elderly clients, picking up and delivering for those that need it but charging for it. I demat within reason but if it's not possible I educate as to WHY it's not something that can be done. I do not do a lot of add-ons. If it needs doing it gets done.
Does that mean I don't have rules? NO! I do. But they are easy to follow and consistent. They do not change. I have them in writing and I make sure that my clients have a copy.
By being clear with clients and setting boundaries I have been able to build a busy, successful business that is generally busy year round and we are growing every year.
By identifying what type of groomer you are and educating your clients as to what you expect from them, you can eliminate a lot of the problems that clients unwittingly cause, and change your reaction to it. You will be happier when most of the anger and frustration caused by pet owners not following rules is out of your day to day life. I still get frustrated sometimes when clients are later than we agreed or change their appointments numerous times, but it's less at this time in my career than at any other time I have ever experienced.
By working with my clients instead of against them I have made my life (and theirs) easier and I love grooming!