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!


  1. Um, I'm smack them and tell them to STFU, but we all know I'm not a nice person. And this is why I'm not in a customer service job. Would it help at all to have some sort of grooming book (do these things exist, like haircut books at the salon?) so that people can point to a picture of what they want and if you've achieved the same thing, well then they can't complain, can they?

  2. HA! I do need to get a book together. The crazy people, however will ultimately choose photos that won't work at all for their pet.. and believe me.. they will complain. :(

  3. I love how Molly says she's not a nice person. If she's not nice then I'm outright the devil. (possibly true)

    I will never give someone their money back on something I stand behind. And I HOPE that the crazy people go tell their friends about what an awful experience they had with me - either 1. The friends know she/he is crazy and take it with a grain of salt, and/or 2. The friends are crazy too and I will never, ever have to deal with them (HOORAH!).

  4. Welcome being30something! Thanks for you your comments. Great points, which make me feel much better!

  5. Ah.. and I see you are the "other D" being30something! :)

  6. Hi D,
    I was seeing red the entire time I was reading your post.
    I have one word of advice for you "CAMERA". Okay, I lied I am going to say more. The customer is NOT always right!
    I have never given back money on a groom. The work was done, the dog was bathed, dried, ears cleaned, nails cut. I will take a dog back in and redo the cut, IF YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT, but I will NOT give your money back for a job that was done in good faith.
    I am not trying to make you feel bad about giving the money back. You did what you felt that you needed to do.
    Here are a couple of suggestions.
    In the case of the Yorkie. When you have a owner like that, that will not help at all in giving you instructions..."Your the professional, you should know what to do!" I hate those type of people. I have to admit that I nag them to death. I pick up hair and say do you want 1/2 off or more than half off? If they still stand there repeating the same thing, and all of my tricks of trying to get info out of them has not gotten me anywhere, I look at them and I tell them exactly what I AM going to do. Most of the time that seems to work and they will correct me if my description of the grooming isn't what they want. If I still have a feeling that this customer may cause trouble later, I write how I am going to groom their down on a piece of paper and have them sign it saying that they agree to this cut. I will also take a before picture of the dog and an after picture.
    If that lady had come back acting the way she acted with you, I would have very nicely put that piece of paper and the picture of the nice groom right under her nose. "This is the cut that you approved and paid for. I will gladly take her shorter for you at no extra charge." All of this said with a very nice smile on my face.
    It is one thing if I made a mistake in the grooming, or misunderstood the instructions, but when an owner will not give you a clue what they want, they get what they get.
    As for your friend...a camera would have come in really handy. Taking a picture of the dogs face before any grooming was done. Preferably, right after the owner dropped the dog off. Make sure that the time and date show on the picture. This way when the owner came back in you could show her the picture showing proof that the face was already short when she brought him in.
    It is very sad that it has come to covering your butt all of the time. Just the other day I took about five very close up pictures of a dogs penis that was so tightly matted on the tip, I don't know how the poor dog had been going to the bathroom. I was sure I was going to find a bloody, raw mess on the end of that penis when I got all of the mat off. I took a close up pic of the mat and also took a picture of the whole dog being held up to show his privates so the owner would not be able to say that the pic with just the mat was not his dog. I also saved the mat. You read my blog, you already know that I am nuts. :) I cover my butt every way that I can think of.
    Get a camera. Take those pictures. Get questionable owners to sign your grooming instructions.
    We work too hard to gave money back to nut cases!
    Sorry, I got on a roll. I hate when groomers are treated unfairly.
    Lisa, MFF

    1. Thank you for your comments, Lisa! I hoped you would read this post.. I was sure you of all people would know exactly what I was talking about. Great idea on the photo. J is ready to start turning these people away that we KNOW are not going to be satisfied.. because they just are determined NOT to be satisfyed. I do know I gave up too easily on the Yorkie lady.. it was the end of a very long week, and I just wanted to get the hell out of there. When I was in grooming school, every single person had to sign a paper after we had discussed the grooming instructions. I hate for it to come to that.. most people are actually not idiots, thankfully!
      Thanks again for your words of support and wisdom!

  7. I'm with Molly: haircuts book. Sometimes that picture really is worth 1000 words, and if the client can look through and say, "I want it like that!" you have a starting point. Obviously, it may not be possible to do exactly what they see (just as on a human head), but at least you'd know what they think they want and can explain why it would/wouldn't work for their dog.

    You have my admiration for your patience, that's for sure... I find it amazing that people think it's ok to abuse you - especially when you're somebody who treats their dog well and the DOG likes you! Frankly, that's the main thing that mattered to me when I took our boy in to a groomer - he was HAPPY at the end of it (and on repeat visits starts barking with glee half a mile away). Hair will always come back; confidence is much harder to grow.

  8. My cynical suspicion is that the Yorkie owner gets a free cut every time her dog needs one. How many groomers exist in any metropolitan area? People can be such jerks.

  9. Take pictures of before and after. If there is matting, take pictures of the matting. This way there is no question about whether or not something was trimmed, or if she was matted are filthy or anything of the sort.