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4 Ways to Maintain Excellent Service
by Denise Heroux
Communities love to support small businesses, and the number one reason for that is strong customer rapport and business-to-customer relationships.
The industry has changed drastically for consumers in the 25 years since I first entered it. Now they have more options of places to spend their money and more access than ever. Small businesses are starting to get out of the cookie-cutter mentality and take on personalities of their own in order to stand out and find the customers that fit their business’s best. These personalities will be what clients are drawn to and help you retain their loyalty and gain their trust.

Communities love to support small businesses, and the number one reason for that is strong customer rapport and business-to-customer relationships. They do not feel like just a number walking in when they enter a small business like they do when entering corporate stores. Over time, the big thing entrepreneurs have to keep in mind is how to maintain our small-business feel while moving towards a bigger business.

My business started out like most do. I was in a toxic environment that I could not change. The logical next step was to open a business of my own. And since I had always wanted to be a business owner and entrepreneur, it was the right fit for me. But this is definitely not the case for everyone.

It started out really hard. I was lucky just to have three dogs scheduled in an eight-hour shift as I was starting from the ground up. But, my hustle and customer service personality helped me grow to the point that I needed another groomer after just six months in business to keep up with the demand.

Training and maintaining strong customer service was easy with one employee, but as I continued to grow, support staff grew as well. New faces were coming in, and the “small” feel that clients were used to was getting harder to sustain. Clients are thrilled to see your growth until it doesn’t look like you are “small” anymore. They then see you as a larger business and will start to gravitate toward the next new small groomer in the area.

If I wanted to give my employees the benefits of working at a small business, then I had to focus on making sure the clients had the small-business feel while expanding hours and employing up to 15 people at each location. To take the first step toward creating an environment that customers wanted, I listened to feedback from the community and adjusted accordingly.

These are some of the things that have helped me maintain my small-business feeling while staying true to my brand:

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Go Back to Your Roots
I sat down and evaluated what I offered and how I offered it to be able to grow the way I did. The feedback from my clientele was always about the good customer service they received. My business was inviting and trustworthy—they felt comfortable. So, I jotted down the things I did that made them feel that way.

Some of the qualities I noted were that I was consistent in how I answered phones, the check-in and check-out processes were personal and easy for the customer, and I answered any questions that were given to me in the same way, no matter who was asking them. My brand had a strong direction and knew what it did and didn’t offer.

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To take the first step toward creating an environment that customers wanted, I listened to feedback from the community and adjusted accordingly.
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Duplicate What Worked
I then had to develop a process that ensured I was delivering my brand and message through the others that worked in my salon. I assessed what worked for me and then started a procedures list. I did this with every aspect that was important to me in order to keep customer service cohesive throughout the salon, as well as throughout multiple locations. One of the biggest compliments I can get is a client stating that they get the same service no matter which salon they go to—and that it’s great service!

As you go through this step, it is really easy to end up micromanaging the process and your employees. Be very cautious that this does not happen, because it’s important that your employees’ personalities shine through the procedures, too. Give them a little creative leeway while still maintaining cohesion.

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Be Clear About Expectations
Every time I interview a potential new-hire, I am very clear about what my brand and salon stand for. I have an outline of the salon’s practices that I share with them, as well as a list of the expectations I have for them and other staff, and what they can expect from me as a salon and employer. A potential new-hire will respect knowing where your business stands so they can decide if it’s a workplace that fits their needs as well. (Bonus: This step helps weed out the people who wouldn’t be a good fit, which benefits your salon and the employee!)
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Have a Strong Training and Onboarding Process
This step is crucial to ensure the follow-through of your brand, no matter who a customer is dealing with. You have done all of the homework, but that doesn’t mean anything if you haven’t trained your employees properly. It is really easy to “toss” employees into the day to day when you are busy and rushing to get them working, but it is a missed opportunity to be able to get them started the right way from the get-go.

Why start bad habits when it will take more time, energy and effort to work out the kinks later? Set aside the proper time needed to make sure all employees know how to make your customers happy in a way that speaks to the brand.

There is no doubt that growing a business is fun and rewarding, but it also includes many small details that, if not handled properly, can derail you along the way. You need to set aside the time to be able to build a strong foundation, which is a huge timesaver in the long run. The hard work you put into it now will ensure that you will be making your clients happy and content, no matter how large your business grows and how many employees you have.

Denise Heroux has spent 25 years in the grooming industry. She became a business owner in 2014, and since then, she has built her brand to include over 20 employees and three locations with no end in sight for expansion. Taking the step into the next chapter of her career, she has decided to use her extensive experience to help the business owners in the grooming industry. She’s calling this new endeavor “The Ambitious Groomer,” offering coaching, leadership, and employee seminars to help create a great grooming business both for the owners and their employees.