You have only one opportunity to make a first impression. Your Reception Area and how you welcome the client is it.
The size of the space doesn’t matter so much - it can range from having its very own room to the cabin of your mobile grooming truck- but presentation is key. Good presentation includes not only lack of clutter and good sanitation, but professional behavior as well. Your clients will notice upon arrival whether your facility is fresh, clean and the staff professionally attired.
Does your phone have an answering machine? Repeated distractions by any phone give the clients the impression you’re disorganized or inattentive to their needs. Your attention is always on the client in your presence. Include on your outgoing message a time all calls are returned.
Do the exterior doors close securely and all pets under control? You do not want any unplanned escapes of the pets in your care.
A clearly posted sign stating your shop policies will save time during the check-in. It could cover anything from drop-off to pickup times, late or missed appointments, payment, right of refusal and so on.
The check-in process is the time for clear communication with the pet owner. Neither you nor the client wants to spend 20-30 minutes checking in. Well, thought out, organized forms ready to go will streamline the process while showing professionalism.
Let’s start with the Client Information Card. You, not the owner, fill out a card for each pet because your own handwriting is easier to read. Allow for five means of contact: address, email, phone number, cell number and work number. Important pet information on the card includes vaccination history-Getting bit is not time to find out the status of rabies protection!-and any personality or medical issues. If the owner states no medical issues, offer a few possible suggestions. It may jar their memory. The back of the Client Information Card details the grooming. What products did you use? This is very important should an allergic reaction occur. Did you note which blades you used and the type of haircut received clearly printed on the card? The client signs and dates the card at each visit and notified of any changes to shop polices. You can add a client agent line for drop-offs by friends, children etc.
Another form is the Veterinarian Consent Form. If an emergency arises, it allows you to bring the pet to a veterinarian for treatment. It would include the name of the vet, under what circumstances you would bring a pet in, who pays for what and credit card information with an authorized amount.
In my opinion, the Snout to Tail Assessment is the most important part of the check-in. You are going from snout to tail with deliberate intent and purpose to determine the overall health of the pet. You want all preexisting conditions noted before the groom with the owner present. As a bonus, the time spent on this activity presents a good opportunity to educate your client on proper pet care. An educated client is a good client. This investment of time will reduce “misunderstandings” and give your clients the tools they need to make educated choices for their pets. Before you begin the assessment, have a muzzle ready. Always remember, “Any pet in pain or moved into pain, can and will bite.” This is part of my greeting with every pet. As I am saying hello to them, I move my hands over their bodies and check their eyes, ears and mouth. It takes but a moment.
Thom Somes of Pet Tech at www.pettech.net has graciously allowed use of his copyrighted form. To request yours, send Thom an email at ThomCindy@pettech.net. The assessment should include the following:
Teeth in poor shape will cause mouth pain, and smaller dogs tend to have more problems than larger dogs. Mouth pain is one explanation on why a dog will be snappy when grooming the face-It hurts! Educate your clients on proper dental care.
Hardened discharge may have irritated and raw skin under the scabs.
Foul odor, redness and/or discharge can be an indicator of ear infections. Very thick ears may be a hematoma or contain severe matting.
Arthritis or a prior injury will cause pain when touched or moved.
Pain in the area may be arthritic or neurological in origin. It may also be a prior injury.
6.Nails and Pads
The area should be checked for injuries and overgrown nails.
If there is distension or hardness, you should refer immediately to the vet.
8. Anal area
Is there a foul discharge or any cysts apparent?
9. Skin and Coat
Look for lumps, bumps and warts and note their location. Are there any injuries that need immediate attention? Can you even see the skin? The coat may be matted and you don’t know what you will uncover.
This is a good time to assess the pets’ reaction to being handled.
Encourage your clients to continue this assessment at home to track their pet’s overall health. Problems found early stand a better chance of successful treatment. Recommend any concerns found during the assessment checked by a veterinarian and make sure any changes are noted at future grooming appointments.
If you find any significant matting, then The Matted Pet Release comes out. It details the risks associated with the stripping process and any additional costs.
Before they leave, have your clients initial an estimate of the groom on the Client Information Card. For any reason if the style or cost needs to change, notify your clients first. Remember, you have five means of contact on the Client Information Card.
Your Reception Area is the heart of your business, where you get to know your two and four-legged clients. More importantly, it’s where they get to know you.