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April 26, 2023

Ep183 The Customer Service Angle

This week we're talking about how to make owners happy. How do we make a living working on dogs with difficulty with grooming? Now, this is very much for the groomers, but this is also for owners to understand where groomers are coming from and for...

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This week we're talking about how to make owners happy. How do we make a living working on dogs with difficulty with grooming? Now, this is very much for the groomers, but this is also for owners to understand where groomers are coming from and for the trainers and for anybody else because our customer service angle in the grooming industry needs to be tweaked and needs to be changed.

My example of a Safety Policy. 

"To provide the highest level of care for your pet, we have a safety policy. If at any time your pet gets nervous, anxious, scared, aggressive, or even overly silly, we slow down and help your pet to be comfortable and calm. It’s very important to us that the pets in our care are kept safe and stress-free. We use sharp tools and need to prevent injuries. We will work with your pet to help them feel comfortable. This will build a great experience for successful groomings for your pet’s lifetime. Your pet may not be groomed to perfection today. We will charge for the time that we spend working with your pet."





[00:00:00] Chrissy: Episode 180 3. This week we're talking about how to make owners happy. How do we make a living working on dogs with difficulty with grooming? Now, this is very much for the groomers, but this is also for owners to understand where groomers are coming from and for the trainers and for anybody else because our customer service angle.

[00:00:19] In the grooming industry needs to be tweaked, needs to be changed. This is the Creating Great Grooming Dog Show. I'm Chrissy Neumyer Smith. I'm a master groomer behavior specialist. I'm a certified professional dog trainer, a certified behavior consultant for canines, a certified professional groomer. I am an instructor at Whole Pet Grooming Academy and I own Happy Critters in Nashua, New Hampshire.

[00:00:40] And this my friends and colleagues is the show. We're grooming and training Meet. Start off with the common story that I hear from groomers. Okay. Because a lot of groomers reach out to me. My Facebook group and my Facebook page haven't been very active because I think that, um, most of the time people just reach out to me directly.

[00:00:58] And that's awesome. That's great guys. If you feel like we're friends, we are. So just go ahead and reach out and I will contact you. But what happens is, this is when I hear a lot is, , he was so bad that by the end he was being really aggressive. What should I do next time? How do I work on a dog like that?

[00:01:15] Now my question is, did you complete the groom? And they're like, well, yes. But by the end he was really getting so much worse. But that is because you keep trying to get the grooming finished. Okay. So I wanna talk about how we can help our owners be happy and understand what we're doing while also helping the dog, because there's a customer service angle that needs to be tweaked just a little bit.

[00:01:44] We are allowing our customers to think, I want this haircut. I'm buying a haircut. Like it's an object on a shelf. You know, you sold that. Guy a haircut, and that's the haircut I want for my dog. So that customer got one and my dog can't, you know, like as if it's [00:02:00] available for purchase. It's just an object.

[00:02:02] Okay? The things that we do are not objects on a shelf. We are selling services. Services are different than an item. Now when we think about it that way, we know as groomers, some dogs are a lot more work than other dogs. Every dog's gonna be a little bit different. Every BK is gonna be a little bit different.

[00:02:23] Maybe those owners brush every day and are very, very good about keeping that dog maintained and others are not. We understand when it's coat issues, but we need to take that into behavior issues. We need to take that information and pull it back. To behavior issues too. The dog, that's a lot more effort to groom because the dog is having trouble being groomed, and unfortunately, if we get stuck in the mindset that we have to get this trim done, we need to get this haircut done, we need this dog to look a certain way.

[00:02:58] That's what our owners are buying, and that's what we are selling. What happens is the behavior ends up getting ignored. Or just worked over. So in the case of he was so bad by the end, you know, like, what do I do next time? By the end, he was being really aggressive. I mean, he was bad from the beginning, but wow.

[00:03:17] By the end, right? That's predictable. He, this dog is literally trying to tell you, I am not comfortable with this. This makes me very, very uncomfortable. And we're saying, uh, sorry dude, your daddy wants a haircut and, okay. I hear you. I've been there. You know, you're like, I, I've gotta get this trim finished.

[00:03:37] I didn't suspect that you were gonna act like this, and your coat is in good shape. And that's what I told your owners when you were in our office, and that's what I thought we were gonna sell you. So we need to step back and go, wait a minute, wait a minute. This dog is not handling this process very well, and this is the customer service angle for us to talk to our owners.

[00:03:59] . Your dog [00:04:00] is not handling this very well. Your dog is not well prepared for our services. Now, grimmer, I want you to make this distinction. We say that when a coat isn't well prepared for our services, right? The dog that's totally, totally matted, and they're like, we just want a bath and a little bit of trimming.

[00:04:18] Can we come back in an hour? And we're like, oh, I'm very, very sorry. That cannot happen because the coat, what's going on with your dog's coat is not gonna allow us to do this in an hour. Even if maybe another dog could have a quick bath and brush out and dry in an hour, your dog cannot because your dog's coat condition.

[00:04:37] We need to do that with behavior. Groomers we're used to saying no. We're used to telling people that they can't get what they wanted today and how to get them on the right track. So if we think about it that way, now we can say your dog's behavior, he is not ready for this. If your dog panics when the dryer is on, your dog cannot be fluff dried.

[00:04:59] Yet. Yet there is training we can do, and that's why we need to talk about this. As an industry, we need to talk about this, but also we need to talk about this with our owners. I would like very much for your dog to go home in a beautiful trim, but your dog's not well prepared for our services today. Your dog doesn't understand what's happening.

[00:05:21] Your dog finds this difficult. Your dog finds this scary. Your dog finds everything we're doing, very threatening, and I think that a lot of the time we think aggression. A dog who's being very forward, very direct with us and hard eye and air snaps and stuff. , we think of that as a dog who's very, very brave.

[00:05:39] But that's a dog who, while they might be being brave, is being brave because they feel they're being threatened, they are uncomfortable with what is happening. So at its core, it is still fear. We need to teach these dogs to trust us and to feel comfortable so that we can continue to work with them throughout their whole life.

[00:05:58] So if we talk to our owners saying, [00:06:00] your dog is finding this really difficult, have you done anything at home to prepare him? , have you worked on anything? Let's talk about what's happening at home, or how are things going at home? And I'm gonna say here, Non-G groomers don't understand what groomers do.

[00:06:14] Everybody in the world thinks they know what groomers do, but if you're not a groomer, probably have some gaps in your knowledge, even if you have groomed your own dogs for years, all five dogs in your lifetime, you have gaps in your knowledge. But the same is true for dog trainers. Non dog trainers have no idea what dog trainers do.

[00:06:33] So when we meet in the middle, we have to think about how we can help this dog. Be comfortable with the things that are going to have to happen. And I'll tell you, like I said, non trainers, like every Tom, Dick and Harry, who's taught a dog to sit, thinks they're a dog trainer. And I'm sorry you're not .

[00:06:53] You're not. , but the thing is, is that trainers, if they don't know what a dog needs to know how to do, They might be preparing them for things that really don't apply to the grooming setting. And so groomers get frustrated with trainers. Now trainers, trainers are thinking, well, if the groomer's just gonna force this dog through the whole grooming, Then this dog is going to get worse because yes, that's often what happens.

[00:07:20] It is. But they don't know that groomers are trying to get a trim done because groomers feel pressured to sell haircuts and pretty looking dog grooming. And I need groomers to think about that for a minute. Like, okay, wait a minute. This dog is literally telling me, please stop back off. I'm not comfortable with this.

[00:07:41] This makes me really, really scared. , I'm gonna have to keep air snapping or twirling or screaming or whatever it is they're doing, and it's going to accelerate. We should not be surprised when by the end that dog is much, much worse. That's not a surprise. That is. Exactly what we should be expecting [00:08:00] and to think that this dog is going to be worse than next time.

[00:08:04] Okay? Pushing dogs past what they can handle does not help them be better the next time. We have to think not just about today's grooming, but we have to think about next time. Now, the other part about that is what should I do next time and , when groomers ask me that, what do I do next time?

[00:08:23] What I tell them is we have to go back. We have to circle back to the beginning. We have to help this dog feel calm, comfortable, and cooperative. We're gonna have to set up some sessions that do not focus in on how beautiful this trim is, and we need to talk to our owners about it. I would love for him to look perfect, but frankly, if he's trying to bite at me, I cannot get his face beautiful.

[00:08:49] We need to teach him to trust us and to let us put our tools on him. Owners do not understand the safety part. Think about that for a minute. I think a lot of non groomers do not understand the safety part. I've had people say, how could a dog get nicked during grooming? I'm like, you work with dogs for a living?

[00:09:09] Have you ever tried putting something sharp? Next to an ear or a toe while they're wiggling around, of course accidents happen. We're using sharp things, and they all say, why would you use something sharp? Wow, guys, if you're not a groomer, let me, let me tell you right now, if it's not sharp, it won't cut hair.

[00:09:33] It doesn't trim nails, right? I mean, a grinder, grinds nails, but a nail trimmer needs to be sharp. Scissors need to be sharp. Clippers are sharp. Pretty much everything we put on your dog could injure your dog. If your dog bites down hard on a comb, that metal comb is gonna do some damage bites down hard on a brush.

[00:09:50] Yep. They can rip their tongue open. There are a lot of ways that a dog who is not handling this well. Can hurt themselves. And as groomers, we need to [00:10:00] remember that there's a safety portion to this for us to tell owners, I want your dog to get a beautiful trim. Oh, I love beautiful trims, but your dog is not well prepared for that.

[00:10:12] And we need to help them prepare for that. We need to help them trust us and use our tools, and use our tools in the way that will help them have a beautiful trim, if that's what that dog needs. But even the, the regular bath and brush out. A lot of our dogs, if you think about like the labs, okay, as an example, labs don't get a whole lot of trimming, but they get a lot of de shedding and so much of that is done with our high velocity dryer, which is noisy.

[00:10:40] A lot of dogs have some issues with the high velocity dryer. There's a learning curve before they feel comfortable with letting us de shed them with a big dryer. So there are lots of things that dogs need better preparing. To be able to do so if we get away from this idea that we're selling a haircut.

[00:10:58] If you think you're selling a haircut, please send one to me. I would like to have two border collies groomed. You can ship that to Nashua and New Hampshire. I will give you my information. If you can ship it , we'll talk that's the difference between a service and an item, and we need to help our owners understand that.

[00:11:18] This isn't a catalog sale where they can like point and say, that's the haircut I want and I want this style head and this style tail on this dog. No matter what. This is exactly what I'm going to get. We as groomers know that it's more complicated than that, but people who are not groomers do not know.

[00:11:37] We need to really spell it out. If you're enjoying this show, please remember to follow or subscribe, tell all your grooming friends and , reach out and let me know. I would love to get some reviews. Hey, if you don't ask, they won't do it. I would love some reviews. Make 'em five stars, if you will. Thank you.

[00:11:54] So how do we talk to our owners , about this issue? So really I [00:12:00] want you to think about every owner is gonna be a little bit different, and when we talk to an owner, that's our opportunity to say, you know, Hey, before we book anything, I wanna talk to you about safety. About safety. When we explain that this is about safety, this is about keeping their dogs safe.

[00:12:20] This is about treating their dog gently, keeping their dog safe, helping their dog learn to be good for their 15 years of grooming. And at any age, a dog can learn to be better for it. In fact, , I'm gonna be so bold here as to say, I know it's very, very bold, but in my opinion and in my experience, this is true over and over and over again, a healthy dog can be taught to be a safe dog.

[00:12:44] Maybe they will never enjoy grooming and they will never like grooming. I'm, I mean, my dentist is wonderful, but I don't like to go, you know, my doctor's wonderful. I don't like doctor's appointments. If you think about dog grooming, is this like, oh man, I have to, but we can teach them to be safe.

[00:13:02] We can teach them to trust us. We can teach them to be safe with all of our tools, and that will last a lifetime. Teaching a dog to trust us and that this is safe will last their lifetime. Later on, when they start having hip problems and shoulder problems, or , arthritis in their toes, they do not go back to trying to bite us.

[00:13:24] If we do the homework now, if we see the problem we have today, today, and address it now, not at the end of a screaming, flailing two hour groom. . It's not okay. It's not okay. And I'm not saying that to be mean. I've been there, I have done that. I have forced dogs through a trim because I just didn't know.

[00:13:48] I didn't know. But here's the thing, if we can teach them to be good, doesn't it make a lot of sense to spend the time teaching them to be good, to calm them down, [00:14:00] calm, comfortable, cooperative, Izzy, calm. Then how can I return him to calm before I move on? , does he seem uncomfortable? Okay. Is it uncomfortable 

[00:14:09] with the tool? Is it uncomfortable with the noise? , is he physically uncomfortable? Is he having trouble standing? , does he have, problems with his teeth? , are my tools causing discomfort because of an injury that this dog has or a health problem that this dog has? How can I help this dog be more comfortable?

[00:14:27] When faced with a behavior problem or something that we don't want, I want you to think, can I make this dog calmer? Can I help this dog be comfortable? And is this dog being cooperative? And cooperative takes two. It's not calm, comfortable, and obedient. It's calm, comfortable, and cooperative. Will this dog work with me and can I work with this dog and helping them have a better experience?

[00:14:54] And if that means. I do some modified trims that maybe don't look beautiful. That's okay. Everybody take a deep breath. What? But my trims need to be gorgeous. Somebody's gonna call, someone's gonna get upset, or their neighbors are gonna see the dog. Or a dog's gonna leave my shop and he is gonna be a little bit lopsided.

[00:15:12] Or take a deep breath. Take a deep breath. That dog isn't well prepared for our services. That dog is very likely to get hurt, behavior problems are when dogs get hurt. People get hurt, and equipment gets broken. You lose money forcing trims on behavior problems. You will lose money. Maybe you haven't yet, but you will.

[00:15:35] Okay? The day after an injury is the day you're gonna be like, why did I push that dog through that trim? It was never ever worth it. It was never worth it. if you have to bring a customer's dog to the vet, all right, that could be a couple hundred dollars. Now I have business insurance, but I believe my deductible is 500.

[00:15:59] So out of [00:16:00] pocket I could be paying a lot more than that. Groom was out of pocket paying vet bills with an owner who is furious. Okay, let's also talk about that. If owners don't know that there's a safety portion to this, they will be incredibly upset that their dog got hurt, especially oh, especially if you've been giving them a handling fee.

[00:16:25] And we're gonna talk about that for a minute cuz I came up in a recent discussion with one of my students. Handling fees are interesting. Handling fee implies that they can just pay more money and have it done. Yeah, think about that. Well, I paid the handling fee. I pay her $5 extra and she nipped my dog.

[00:16:46] Ooh, , but I want you to think about from an owner's point of view, they think it's an upsell because he's more work. They do not understand that it's because he is dangerous, because someone could get hurt because their dog could get hurt or a groomer could get hurt. They do not know.

[00:17:04] They will be furious. And they think that they can just buy the service, an upsell, right? Like it's a box on a shelf and we need to make it much more clear. There are additional fees for handling dogs with behavior issues because they take a lot more time. Okay. If you, if you label it a handling fee, there are plenty of people, and we all know them who already have the check written out.

[00:17:32] I, I mean, who even uses checks anymore except for the people who wanna make sure that they don't have to pay any more. , in case you guys didn't know, that's a definite thing where it's like, oh wait, but if I bring my card, Then I can't say, oh, I already wrote out the check. I mean, it's, it's this much plus the $10 handling fee, right?

[00:17:51] Sorry, I already wrote out my check. . They're just gonna think it's a purchase. They will not understand that the training problem is real, [00:18:00] that their dog is having trouble, their dog could get hurt, or that there's a solution set. So basically what happens is you end up with a dog that is bad like this and has trouble with this.

[00:18:12] For their entire life. Owner's not working on it. Don't care. Mm-hmm. And then what happens? Now, let's play this out too. We've all heard it. Then what happens? You know, he's just getting so bad that I can't do it anymore. I think it's time to bring him to the vet for sedation grooming. . Or bring him to a vet groomer.

[00:18:32] guys, I wanna tell you, there is no veterinarian on the planet who is going to sedate that dog as if for surgery every four to six weeks for their regular grooming. That behavior problem needs to be worked on. That's not the way it works. It's gonna go, oh, well, we have this magical way of doing it.

[00:18:51] Okay? This problem needs to be worked on. So if we talk to our owners and say, this is a problem that needs to be worked on, and. Forcing your dog through is not gonna solve it. Putting beautiful haircuts on dogs who are thrashing and screaming and biting and air snapping is never going to solve the behavior issue.

[00:19:15] Take that in. That's one of the very few, always and nevers. Okay. Have you ever seen a dog who decided at the end, oh, well that was bad and everything's gonna be fine. Okay. And I know, I know I sound a little cheeky when I say it that way, but think about it. How often do we have a dog who looks like he's just like, hello?

[00:19:37] Oh, well that's bad. Thanks. , for pushing me through it, you know, while I screamed and sprayed my anal glands and alligator rolled and I'll be great next time. It never happens. It doesn't happen that way. , if you had an owner who every time they touched their dog's face, the dog tried to bite at them and they did it a lot and they kept doing it all the time, what would [00:20:00] we tell them?

[00:20:01] What would we tell them? We tell them, stop teasing your dog. You need to do some training. He needs to be comfortable with you touching his face. Yet when he goes to the groomer, they're expecting us to magically be able to take care of that, right? A lot of these dogs have trouble outside of grooming.

[00:20:18] There are times when we need to talk to trainers, so send your trainer friends to this podcast. Absolutely. Send your owners to this podcast, everything I say on this podcast. Is for owners, for trainers, for other pet professionals. I'm trying to be, , open-minded about everybody's opinions, ? But I'll tell you what, as somebody who works with a lot of behavior cases and people come to me from their behavior cases, here's another fact that I think a lot of groomers don't think about.

[00:20:45] A lot of owners really feel lied to if you never told them their dog had problems until that day when you're like, we just can't get it done anymore. Tell them. A lot of them are like, wait, has this been going on all along? Oh yeah, he's always been bad for this, but now we can't get it done anymore. And they're like, what?

[00:21:04] What happened? Why didn't you ever tell me? Why didn't you ever tell me? And it's something I hear a lot of, we need to feel more comfortable talking to owners about. You know, your dog's not having a good time. Your dog is finding this frightening. Your dog is finding this uncomfortable. We need to get down to the bottom of this and help teach him to be good for grooming.

[00:21:26] And, I know I'm wrapping this up now, it's been in my 20 minutes, but, , if you go to creating great grooming , I have the safety policy written out. You can use that if you'd like. You can change it up. It's not a contract, but it is a way to explain to owners that behavior problems are safety problems and that this is how I do business.

[00:21:47] This is how I handle behavior problems when they come up, and how you will be charged because in fairness, You know whether the trim gets finished or not, I will be paid for my time. We're not here to lose money. Working on dogs with behavior [00:22:00] problems, you need to feel more comfortable with saying, I charge for my time, and to bring it up before we see a problem.

[00:22:07] Bring it up before the problem comes up. Or if you've had a dog for a long time that has always had problems, that's harder. But you can say, you know what? I just learned something new and I really wanna try this with your dog because he's not getting better. Things we've tried already have not helped this dog yet better, and we need to help him get better because, um, I saw a video of a dog who died during a nail trim, 

[00:22:29] Go ahead and cite that video. Have you guys all seen the video? . There's a video online of a dog dying during a nail trim. , because he was muzzled and they thought he was just flailing around because of his feet and he choked out. Things happen. Things happen so we can talk to our owners and say, this is the way I do business.

[00:22:48] This is what I'm gonna do. I am not going to force your dog through that trim. We can say no, just like we don't put haircuts over mats. We need to stop putting grooming over behavior problems because we can fix behavior problems. We sure can. So if you enjoyed the show, please remember, subscribe, follow.

[00:23:08] If you want more information, you can find more information about me at creating great grooming , I'm also teaching the Master Groomer Behavior Specialist Program at Whole Pet Grooming Academy. That's whole pet And if you wanna know more about Master Groomer Behavior Specialists, master groomer behavior and come find me if you are interested in learning more about my classes.