Published Articles

Groomer to Groomer

May 2012


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!

Joe Zuccarello has excelled in the Pet Industry since 1986 and is National Accounts Sales Manager for Tropiclean Shampoo and Fresh Breath Made Easy! Dental products for dogs and cats.  To find out more about Tropiclean Shampoos and Tropiclean Fresh Breath Made Easy! dental products, please visit or call 800-542-7387.


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