Doggie Dragon Breath

Studies show only 10% of pet owners seek out solutions for their pet’s oral hygiene needs!  What?!  That means 90% of the pets out there have either the beginning stages of a life shortening disease (periodontal disease) or have advanced signs including loss of teeth, pain, infection, or worse.

As pet professionals, we have a duty to inform our clients about the importance of proper oral hygiene for their pets.  While solutions including visits to the pet’s Veterinarian exist (which can be very expensive and sometimes risky) there are daily, very simple things that can be done to help the pet’s breath and oral health between cleanings.  These options include brushing and NO brushing alternatives and some really cool toys that promote better oral hygiene.  Of course I am a bit biased (OK, allot biased) to the NO BRUSHING NECESSARY line of Tropiclean Fresh Breath products!  It really doesn’t get any easier than this!

For all of you groomers out there, if you don’t already, start offering a solution for bad breath as a grooming service and increase your earnings today!  It is amazing what adding this simple $5 service can do for your bottom line and your pet client’s health.

Till next time…..

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Want Loyal Customers?

As seen published in…

September 2011

Groomer to Groomer

Title:  Loyalty Royalty

By:  Joe Zuccarello

What is customer loyalty anyway?  What is so important about customer loyalty?  How can we master customer loyalty, putting loyalty first in our business?  In other words, how do we make loyalty, “King” in our business?

By definition, loyalty is defined as, “faithfulness or a devotion to a person, country, group, or cause.”  Some of us call these loyal customers “regulars”, “frequents”, “steadies”, or “guarantees”.  They fill our books with their pre-booked weekly or monthly appointments and we think they are the most loyal customers we can have.  When I ask groomers about their loyal customers, these are the customers that come to mind.  At first, I would have agreed with the groomers.  But after taking a step back and really looking at it, these are the most frequent customers, but we have many more customers that fit the definition of “loyal” than we may think.

Now that we are not confusing the words “loyal” and “frequent”, we need to understand what makes loyal customers so important and how can we get and keep more of them in our business.

Loyal customers are those customers who have made a decision to do business with you even though they have other choices, sometimes less expensive, or more elaborate choices to pick from.  Loyal customers feel good about doing business with you.  Loyal customers are your biggest fans, often speaking your praises and passing your business card to their friends and family members and even strangers on the street that ask them where they get their beautiful little dog groomed.  Loyal customers will bend their schedule for you on the days when you may be ill, you need a vacation, or simply need more time to complete their pet’s grooming because it is the holidays and you are slammed.  Loyal customers are not always the most frequent, but are the most faithful to you, even if they only visit you once every six months.  Loyal customers rely on YOU as much as you rely on THEM.  Don’t overlook the less frequent customers and mistake them for less loyal.

How do we get AND keep more loyal customers?  There are some basic principles you can employ to further solidify the relationships you have with your customers and foster new loyal relationships.

  1. Understand your role.  Your role is that of the Expert.  You know more about what the pet needs than just a haircut or nail trim. Be a partner with the pet parent in the pet’s health and well-being.  You may not be a Veterinarian, but you should have knowledge beyond the pet owner as to the needs of the pet’s skin and coat, the pet’s oral hygiene, and even the pet’s behavior.  Take care not to diagnose, but be a resource and refer the pet owner to the correct people or products that can help them with these issues.  Your customers look to you to be the Expert.  Learn as much helpful information as you can and be sure to pass it along to your customers at every opportunity.  Take every opportunity to pick up some additional knowledge you believe your customers would find helpful.  Purposely seeking out helpful information will also give you some variety in your daily routine.  Make a point every day to learn something and teach someone.
  2. Set Standards.  If you are the only person working in your business, then focus all of the following effort on yourself.  For the vast majority of businesses out there, you probably have others working for you.  A client is more apt to be loyal if they feel comfortable and confident in your abilities as a business, not just an individual.  For this reason, set strict standards for your staff to follow so they can deliver the same level of service and quality you would.  Their official name may be different than yours, but when it comes to business, all employees share the same name; the name of the business.
  3. Enhance EVERY experience.  Every customer visit should be just as exciting as the very first time they entered your facility.  Disney capitalizes on this concept better than most businesses.  For some avid Disney buffs, it doesn’t matter how many times they have been to the theme parks, they will gladly go back time and time again because of the feeling they get and the experience they have.  For these people, every other theme park pales in comparison.  For our businesses, we don’t have to change much, but we need to be careful we don’t take the customer’s visit for granted.  They need to feel important every time they visit or you may lose them to someone else who makes them feel important as you once did.  We do a great job of exciting new customers in an attempt to gain their business away from our competitor.  We forget, sometimes, our competitors would love the opportunity to make OUR “regulars” and “steadies” feel important.

Easy Money? Is there such a thing?  It takes work to build a business; Physical and Mental work.  I am not sure who first coined the phrase, but it is SO true.  “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”  As always, I wish you the best.

Treat your customers like Royalty and they will reward you with Loyalty.

Pressure Cooker

As I often do, I write about things I see or experience as a way of not only sharing with you the reader, but also to heighten your awareness of things going on around you.  If we pay more attention to things around us and behaviors of others we encounter on a daily basis, we can use these experiences to build our skills, our talents, and definitely our character.

90 degrees.  That’s how hot it was today when I left my office for lunch.  I parked in the lot of my favorite eatery and as I walked in, I saw a group of people staring at a full size pick up truck with a camper shell on the bed.  Then I heard it.  Bark, bark, bark.  Yep, some fool left his dog in the truck while he went inside.

I quickly checked with everyone in the crowd and someone (actually a few) had already alerted the police and they were on their way.  So, I became one of the observers as the police arrived and the man walked out of the store, seemingly amazed about all the ruckus around his vehicle.  What amazed me the most was that no one in the group was willing to leave until that dog was safe.  You go pet lovers!

Here’s some interesting information about the dangers of heat in vehicles you may want to pass along to those you have the pleasure of dealing with each day.  Click here.

Staffing Problems?

As seen in:  Groomer to Groomer

April 2012

“The Doctor is In”

By:  Joe Zuccarello

 

 

Recently my wife and I had a rare moment out at the mall, by ourselves, without the kids.  I am not a mall shopper, but more of a people watcher, but this day we actually had some things to get at specific stores only located at the mall.  We finished our shopping and took a few minutes out to grab a quick lunch at the food court and then departed soon after for home.

 

Well, a few hours later, we knew something was not right.  Our stomachs started to grumble, our bodies started to cramp, and other unmentionable actions were about to take place that would result in a completely miserable, bed-ridden weekend.  Yep, you guessed it, food poisoning!  To those of you who have experienced this, you know how awful this can be.  For those of you who have not experienced this, consider yourselves fortunate.

 

You may be asking yourself, “where is Joe going with this story?”.  I have often written about how we should pay close attention to our surroundings and how life imitates business in more ways than we think.  Well, this particular occurrence reminded me about a variety of times in management where I felt that I had exercised some disregard for warning signs and that “little voice” we all have that tries to warn us against doing something that would eventually come back to haunt us.  Did my “little voice” suggest we not partake in the food at the mall?  Yes.  Did I listen?  No.  Did I pay for this decision?  YES!

 

For all of you who manage someone else, the following may sound very familiar.  Just like the food poisoning punishment we endured because we didn’t listen to our instinct, many of us managers make the same mistake keeping certain employees on our payroll who cause us distress and discomfort.  You know who I am talking about.  Maybe, right now, you have a picture in your mind of someone who is, or who was, working for you.

 

We hire people after scrupulous screening, background checks, interviews, and even try outs, sometimes just to find out once we have them on our payroll, they become an “infection” to our business.  Harsh words of comparison, but give me a minute and you will see just how true and appropriate this description is.
This person, who you decided at one time could benefit (feed) your team with their experience, ability, or knowledge has in fact, started to negatively impact (poison) your staff morale, customer satisfaction, your ability to manage effectively, and overall daily activities of the business.  They are an infection.  They suck the life right out of you.  They seem to come out of nowhere, multiplying by recruiting others to their way of thinking, tearing down the strength of the business you have built, and left untreated, can kill your drive and maybe your business.

 

I have studied many different business models over the years and those who require skilled talent (construction, mechanics, artists, groomers, etc.) seem to have more of these infectious people working for them.  Although some use their infectious powers for good, some will purposely or even subconsciously use this influence solely for themselves and will destroy everything else around them.  These people cause you the most effort, the most dismay, and the most pain than other employees will.  These people, because they know their skill is in high demand, can sometimes hold that over our heads, making us their puppets.  The people who we have welcomed into our business, who we trusted, who we thought had promise, hold us hostage.

 

The human body is an incredible machine.  If I had a tiny camera when I ingested the food that made us ill, I bet I would have seen my body identify this poison and immediately go into protection mode, planning whatever action it needed to evacuate the poison as quickly as possible, and not stop until the infection was completely clear.  Yes, this effort is exhausting and really takes a toll on the body, but versus allowing the infection to remain, is much better exhausted and in a rebuilding stage than seriously injured or dead.  If our management style could be based on a survival and health perspective, then we would be better at addressing and curing ourselves of this type of employee.

 

As you focus on becoming a more efficient machine, here is a quick prescription to jump-start your immune system:

 

1)    Be sensitive to what is ailing you.  Learn to read the signs, and “feel” what is going on.  Listen to your little voice.  It can easily tell you when you are about to get sick.

2)    Identify the poison.  Just like your body knows what particles are not welcome, you must be able to isolate the root cause of the problems and shield others from their influence.  Do this quickly.

3)    Attack.  Voraciously attack the infection by putting a plan in place to rehabilitate this person or to remove this person from your business.  During this stage, make certain the person knows what it is you want and what steps you feel are appropriate for them to take to fix things.  After all, not every infection is discharged; many can be remedied with treatment.

4)    Cure.  Once you have attacked the situation, and identified action steps to curing the infection, put your plan to work and be diligent.  If you miss a step (dose), it could set you back a step or two.

5)    Heal.  Continue to strengthen the healthy parts of your business so that future poisons have a much more difficult time even existing in your surroundings.  Encourage loyalty, foster growth and learning, accept nothing less than perfect, and counsel weaknesses.

 

Of course I would have liked to add a number six, “Don’t eat at the mall”, but that’s not completely fair.  Things happen to all of us for a reason.  Open your eyes to your surroundings and see what is going on around you.  Pay close attention to the well being of your business and everyone who is affected by it.  Nobody will take care of your “business body” better than you can.

 

Stay healthy.

Is it REALLY fashion?

Just when I thought I have seen it all, there it was.  While walking to grab a quick bite for lunch, I saw an attractive lady who was walking her attractive dog, then it happened.  I had to do a double take, as was most of the people in the general vicinity of this pet/pet owner combo.  The woman was dressed very nice and had plenty of jewelry on, but SO did her dog!

Now, I have seen some really nice “bling” type collars or even clothing for pets but this pet owner took it to a whole new level.  This unassuming, beagle type mixed breed dog HAD EARRINGS!  Oh, they were not those magnet front and back type earrings, the dog had pierced ears each with a diamond stud looking earring in them.

To each their own, but in a day of pet clothing, diamond collars, bright colored hair colors, and doggie strollers, I shouldn’t be so surprised.

Till next time…..

Let’s GO Fido!

Our pets are our family.  We rely on them for comfort during challenging times, laughter during playful times, and companionship during lonely or family bonding times.  One thing is for sure, we are beginning to take our pets everywhere with us, whether it is to run a quick errand or even take a long vacation.  More and more restaurants are allowing pets in the outdoor dining areas and some even offer pet friendly cuisine prepared by the chef!  Airlines are easing up on regulations about pets in the cabin, hotels are adopting a pet friendly policy, and local pet service providers are stepping up to take full advantage of visiting pets in the area hotels.

Here is an interesting statistic provide to us by the APPA National Pet Owners Survey 2011-2012.  “Overall, dogs go with their owners an average of 2.2 times per week when running their errands.”  In another recent survey, it was reported that 42% of pet owners travel with their pet at least annually and an overwhelming 90% of the participants reported they would change their plans to better accommodate for their pets!  Incredible!

So, what does this mean for our pet business owners out there?  It means we all need to figure out creative ways to cater to this growing trend of pet and pet parent travel.  Maybe we need to look at being pet parent travel agents, working with our local hotels for out of town guests…offering pick up and delivery or discounted day care programs for visiting “out of towner” pets, or maybe even selling travel packs complete with items that make the pet’s travel and the pet parents preparation for travel easier for both.

Till next time….

“Satisfaction” featured in May 2012 Groomer to Groomer Magazine

Groomer to Groomer

May 2012

“Satisfaction”

By Joe Zuccarello

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones said it the best, “I can’t get no satisfaction.  I can’t get no satisfaction. Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.”

How do we make sure this is something our clients are not saying about us?  How do we make sure our customers are satisfied with our service?  How do we make sure they are so thrilled with our service, they recommend us to others?

In one of my recent articles, we were introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Picky.  They could easily say this about any of us at any given time if we are not careful.  Worse yet, they could say this as they walk out our door and our business and start giving their money to another shop down the street.  I have learned over the years this customer only has to try another shop one time, and be more satisfied with the outcome at the other shop, for us to lose this customer forever.  Again, what is a client worth to your business?  Not just the $40-$50 from one lost appointment, but an average of $4,000 to $5,000 over the life of the dog!  That’s an expensive loss!

The secret of customer satisfaction lies in our COMMUNICATION with the client.  Yep, the number one reason for relationship challenges at all levels, poor or lack of communication.  This reminds me of another famous television commercial that uses the following question to drive home their presumed competitive advantage over their rivals, “Can you hear me now?”

Listening versus Hearing.  Are they two different things?  VERY.  The difference between hearing someone and listening to them is a level of engagement you have in the conversation.  Hearing is simply catching a sound with your ears.  Listening is interpreting what the client is saying, using it to create a substantial response, and committing the conversation to memory.  Some business coaches call this “Active Listening”.  The term implies a use of energy to focusing on what is being said and how it is being said to guide us in our response and our actions.  If this focus is used correctly, we can better satisfy the needs of our clients by delivering the outcome they are looking for.

I have observed and participated in tens of thousands of grooming client check in procedures and have seen some real masters and some real disasters.  The following tips are based on actual occurrences.

Tip One:  Ask Questions.  Not only does this engage the customer and allow them to be part of the grooming process, it helps you delve into what it is they are specifically looking for and what you have to do to deliver satisfaction.  If the customer says they want a “puppy cut”, ask them how much hair they want LEFT on the dog, not how much you are to trim off.  Ask the customer what time they want to pick up their pet.  Don’t leave this open ended with a simple, “call when finished”.  Time after time, the customer’s interpretation of how long a groom should take is much different than yours.  Ask the client if they would like for you to perform certain extra services during grooming instead of waiting for the customer to request them.  Pick your top one or two extra services and ask every customer every time and your income will improve.  Ask the client to make their next appointment at the time of check out.  This reinforces the likelihood of their return and lessens dissatisfaction of not getting in when they need to because your schedule is booked.

Tip Two:  Don’t Assume.  While this is a lesson we can all use numerous times in our lives, it plays a particularly important role in the satisfaction of our grooming clientele. A style you think will look good on a pet, may not be what the pet owner has in mind.  Be specific in your description of the services you will be performing on the pet and define what expectations the pet owner should see at the completion of your work.  I have said it before, but although you may see dozens of pets each day, your client only sees their pet.  See the pets as individuals.  Don’t dictate what you WILL do on the pet, let the customer choose from what you CAN do for the pet.

Tip Three:  NO Surprises.  If there is something I cannot tolerate, it is unnecessary surprises.  I am a planner.  I plan and schedule everything I can so I am not put in a situation where myself and/or my clients are rushed, uneasy, emotional, or left to make a decision without all of the information needed to make the best of the situation.  If the pet is injured or becomes ill during grooming, no matter who is to blame, CALL the pet owner immediately.  If the time you gave the pet owner is not going to work out, CALL the pet owner immediately.  If the price of the groom has to be higher for things like special handling, extra tangles and brush out time, flea treatments, etc., CALL the pet owner immediately.  Why set yourself up for failure and conflict?  Both of which are sure to happen if you don’t communicate with the pet owner as soon as you should have.  I know this seems elementary, but lost customers happen because we surprise them with negative news when they were expecting something enjoyable; picking up their expertly groomed pet.

While I could go on and on with other examples of ways we can use “active listening” to our advantage, you can certainly use these situations to help you identify dozens of opportunities in your client and staff interactions and make your business successful and give your clients SATISFACTION!