Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dodging the question

Our clients have a knack for answering a direct question with an answer that has nothing to do with the question.

Here is a prime example:

I was given the number of a potential new client with a St. Bernard.  I needed to call them to give a quote.  Giving quotes over the phone are difficult in the best situations.  With a large hairy breed like this one, it's nearly impossible.  The range of size, coat type, and of course coat condition can vary.  Most of all, owners are either in complete denial about the condition and or size of their dog, or  they downright lie to us to get a lower quote.  We have to carefully draw out all the information we can before giving them a price range.

I started out with the usual questions. She even knew exactly how much her dog weighed: 165 pounds.  She even told me what type of coat he had, somewhere between a smooth coat and a rough coat.. but closer to smooth. Only his tail was a mess, due to the burrs on their property, however he had never been professionally groomed before. 

Then I asked the magic question.

 Do you brush him? 

*silence*  I wait.

Well, we live on a farm out in the country.

Uh.. that is not what I asked.. I'm going to take that as a big fat NO.  I tried asking a few different ways.  Of course what I REALLY wanted to know was if the dog was used to being handled.  A farm dog St. Bernard doesn't always do so great with handling, because they just don't have to at home.  Many of them have never been on a leash.  I charge extra for physical effort.. I could do 3 Shih Tzus and NOT have a back ache afterwards. 

I heard all about how the dog "acts just like a puppy" (not what I like in a giant breed) and how he "loves people", and even "he just likes to lay on the couch".  The last comment gave me hope that he wouldn't be completely filthy when he came in. 

I gave her a quote, warning her that it was just a guess, and that after I saw the dog, I'd give her a more accurate price.  For those wondering, it was over $100 at the high end.  She gave me no reaction to make me think I had shocked her, but she had to ask her husband, so we will see. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Customer is always right?

First of all.. so sorry.. it's been a really long time since my last post.  I'm  sorry because this post will be an extra crabby one.

Most of the time, my clients are very happy with their groomings.  If they need a fix here and there, we deal with it.  Maybe I left the ears too long, or we got our wires crossed on the instructions.  It's all good.. I'm human, and certainly make mistakes.  I realize people are paying good money for their pet's grooming, and I do my best to make them happy.  Sometimes, it seems, that is just not possible.

Many times the miscommunication is in my translation of what the client wants.  It is very helpful if they actually KNOW what they want.  I don't need to know what the last groomer cleverly named your dog's haircut, that really doesn't help me.  Just describe what you want, what it looked like, and how long ago the last groom was. 

Recently I groomed a Yorkie that I hadn't seen before.  The customer gave me one instruction: Give her a puppy cut.  Puppy Cut.  Everyone thinks that means something to me.  It doesn't.   It only means something to the groomer who last groomed it.   To some people a puppy cut is long and fluffy, just neaten up the feet and face.  Some think it's shaved bald.  Most are somewhere in between.  I then ask lots of questions, explaining that everyone has a different idea of what a puppy cut is.  The only Puppy Cut I learned to do, is a the scissored conformation Poodle cut for the show ring. 

Most are fine with it, and tell me to the best of their ability what they want.  This lady was not playing that game.  She looked at me like I had just landed from Mars. How stupid I must be.. inexperienced even, to not know what a simple puppy cut was.  I tried to get her to tell me what I needed to know, but got very little help.  She kept saying the last groomer gave it a puppy cut, that is what I want.  I decided on a longer fluffy trim, which on a thinner coated Yorkie isn't the easiest, but I really didn't think she wanted it short.  I brought her to the owner with pink bows in her hair.  OH she looks adorable, you did a great job.. She even tipped me. 

One day later.  I happen to be up front when she comes back in.  She addresses the receptionist, insisting that she get her money back on this awful grooming.  EVERYONE says it looks like she did it herself.  She is ushered into a room and I join her to find out what the trouble is.  Once more, she says she doesn't have time to discuss it, and wants her money back.  I tell her I'm sorry she is unhappy and ask what the problem is, perhaps I can fix it.  Does she want it shorter?  NO!  I wanted a puppy cut, which you obviously can't do, which is why I will never be back!  I ask once more to describe what she wanted, she refuses.  She goes on to tell me again, that EVERYONE thinks it looks awful, and when she picked up the dog, she didn't notice it, but as soon as she got home, she did.  I offer once more to bring the dog in the back and neaten it up..no dice.  No, I don't have time for this, I'm moving and I just want my money back.  I say that if it's too short, perhaps she'd like to come back in 3 weeks and I'll give her a free bath/brush and neaten.  NO, I wanted a puppy cut and you just can't do that, obviously.  I gave her money back.  I hate to do that.  I feel like giving her that money just told her that I agreed that the haircut was crappy.  Giving her that money will not make her come back.  It will not stop her from telling her friends of the rotten haircut she got from me.  Sometimes, you just have to give in, of course, but I wish there would've been a better option.  I can't see into people's minds.. which makes it hard to do that perfect groom.  The funniest thing she said was that the dog obviously loves me (she was very excited to see me), but she wanted a good haircut.  It made me think she would've liked to see the dog cower.. then she could have accused me of also being mean to her dog.  It's so frustrating.

J had a similar problem recently.  The client she had to deal with, was one she said she knew from the start it wasn't going to go well.  This client wanted her dog to look scruffy.  Last time, she said the dog's head was taken too short.  She said "I like it just how it is".  The dog was also matted, it had been 3 months since the last groom.  Right off the bat she had to tell her that the dog would have to be shorter today, there wasn't much of a choice.  

"I like him scruffy".  A very popular request.  I'm sorry.. I went to grooming school to learn to DEscruff (probably not a word) dogs.  Why get your dog groomed if you like it " just how it is".?  J showed me the dog's head, which apparently had been taken too short last time.  It was quite short.. compared to the rest of the body.  I guarantee you the dog had gotten a home haircut on it's head at home, it was very uneven and much shorter than 3 month growth.  After much discussion she decided to leave the head.. just took off two small stringy pieces over the eyes.  She took a very long time on that dog, she tried hard to make it like the owner wanted it. 

J left before the dog went home.  She called right away in the morning. She hated the haircut, it was too short on the head!!???   What the heck??  I was J's witness... she never even trimmed anything on the head!  She ranted to the receptionist, and then wanted to come in to discuss it further with J.  The woman was so irate that a manager even joined them in the room, to try and calm the situation.  The woman  ranted on and on.. never letting J or the manager answer any of the angry questions she had.  Of course she denied knowing about any matting.. she brushes the dog every day, why would there be matting??  They further discussed the head.. she insisted it had been trimmed.  She then went on to accuse J of letting someone else groom the dog, maybe an apprentice?   It's our word against theirs, what can you do?  Arguing gets you nowhere.   J never even got a chance to offer to try and fix it.   Lucky for J, this customer did not ask for money back.  Of course she left in a huff, insisting she would tell everyone she knew about the haircut she received.  I have no doubt she will, but as crazy as she seemed, I'm not sure many will listen. 

Thankfully, these examples are rare.  However, they do tend to take the wind out of our sails for a bit, making us second guess every snip of the scissors.  It would be really helpful to be a mind reader sometimes. 

So, how would you deal with customers like these?  Money back?  No money back?  Have you had a similar situation happen when it was you that was dissatisfied?  If so, is there something the business did to make you want to give them a second chance?   Do you feel the "Customer is always right rule" should always apply?  I'd love some input on this. 

I promise to make my next post positive!