But Why?
Going the extra mile
by Jonathan David
R ecently I received a phone call from a former client. When I say “former,” I don’t mean that she stopped using my services and went to someone else, she was actually a long-time client for whom I had groomed her little Bichon mix for the entirety of his life. This is one of the difficult parts of being a pet groomer. When we have long-term clients for whom we groom their beloved pets until their unfortunate, inevitable passing, sometimes we get attached to them as if they were our own.

This particular client was calling to ask me for assistance in finding a new furry family member. She was done grieving and was ready to share her home with a new puppy, but she said she wouldn’t trust anybody but me to help her. This conversation got me thinking about the bonds that we form with our clients. But I’m not talking about the actual pets—I’m referring to the pet owners themselves. And sometimes we even like the human client more than their dog…

But why would you want to be that close with a client?

When we chose to be pet groomers, we chose an unusual career path. Grooming isn’t the typical nine-to-five where you clock out and mentally check out at the end of the day. No, our attachment to our work extends far beyond the walls of a salon or grooming van. Our attachment to our work runs deeper than just collecting a paycheck. We became groomers because of our love for dogs, and when you have a passion for your work, it seldom gets left behind when you clock out for the day.

We become attached to the pets we groom and we recognize that people are putting their trust in us to do the right thing and to exercise proper care and compassion when we handle their pets. As pet groomers, we become an important person to some pet owners who have reservations about entrusting their pets with a stranger.

While some people, it seems, will leave their pets with just about anybody, in my experience, the vast majority of the clients that I have had are a bit more discerning. Just as you are sizing them up during that initial meeting to determine if Fido’s mommy is a nut case that you may want to avoid, they are sizing you up as well to determine if you are kind, trustworthy and, most importantly, will you treat Fido well?

While this might seem intimidating at first glance, this can actually be the start of a long and special client relationship that benefits both you as the professional and them as the client. This is where customer service becomes more than just creating a pleasant experience or dealing with trivial issues surrounding a typical transaction; this is where you build relationships that can be the foundation for a successful career in pet grooming.

Digital Image of a curvy road
I have always professed that I’m a firm believer that you can do all the advertising and promotion you want, but the best boost to business and success is good old-fashioned word of mouth. When I had my salon, I didn’t do much advertising because my goal was to have clients that were so thrilled with their experience that they were eager to spread the word, and their dogs were the walking billboards. A referral from a trusted friend or neighbor will make people entrust you more easily than if you were just randomly selected. Having a solid and friendly relationship with your client leads to more business.

In my 34 years as a pet groomer, there have been several clients for whom I’ve been the only groomer their dog has ever known—from their very first groom to their very last. We all experience this at some point in our careers. We have been there to assist with grooming issues, training issues, medical issues and sadly to also grieve with them when their little furry family members cross the rainbow bridge. This certainly isn’t what might be considered typical customer service, but then again, groomers aren’t typical people and the relationships we form with our furry clients and their humans are also not always typical.

One of the other benefits to having a great relationship with clients is having dogs available to you when you need them. When I was a competitor, I used to borrow my clients’ dogs for the weekend to be my competition dogs. These clients would allow me to take their dogs for days at a time without a worry because they knew me and trusted me. Anytime I would win, I would have a professional photo taken as a gift for the owner—a small “thank you” for allowing me to succeed with their pets.

I had one particular client dog, a Standard Poodle, whom I competed with so frequently and quite successfully that when I went to the client’s home, I saw that she had all of the competition photos of me and her dog framed and hung all throughout the her house. She was as proud as I was. This client became a dear friend whom I would go to dinner with, attend the Westminster Dog Show with and stay in her home to pet sit when she traveled. I have also benefited from these special relationships by being able to borrow dogs for video shoots, webinars and live events.

What I’m trying to stress here is that going a little above and beyond for certain clients may initially come from the heart, but it can pay off in ways you might not have even thought of while simultaneously touching the life of someone in ways you didn’t expect.

Being a professional pet groomer is a labor of love, and in this profession, we definitely go above and beyond, but often the rewards far outweigh the effort.