Where’s My Customer?

By Michelle Robinson

Every time a new shop or mobile opens up, everyone gets nervous. Are they cheaper than me? What kind of services do they offer? Should I lower my prices to match theirs? Will they take all of my customers? Those are some of the questions that many business owners ask themselves. The truth is that every customer is not your customer. Every customer may or may not appeal to your personality or grooming style. That is just a cold hard fact. You may ask yourself, where is MY customer?

The Occasional Customer

These are the people you see once in a while. They usually bathe or groom their pet at home. When something comes up like an illness or a special occasion, they call a professional groomer. Most times the pet is in pretty decent shape, and you can use them as a fill-in on slow days.

The Once/Twice-A-Year Customer

This is one of my least favorite customers. The pet is usually an unholy mess! They expect you to be a magician, and they want to pay the price of a well-groomed pet. They will complain bitterly that you can’t make their neglected pet look like the show magazine’s pictures. Everyone has their preference, but I have seen enough of them to say NO!

The Emotional Customer

They sometimes suffer from pet separation anxiety. They will call you, what seems like, a hundred times a day or come to the truck every five minutes to see how Fluffy is doing. One exasperated look from their groomer can send them into a tizzy. They can be great customers once you have earned their trust. Depending on your personality, this customer will see you as an angel from heaven or a vile beast! If Fluffy is a screamer while getting his nails trimmed, let them see your technique. They will begin to understand that screaming from Fluffy doesn’t mean you are tearing his leg off!

The Table Hopper Customer

This, in my opinion, is one of the most disloyal customers. They don’t have a regular stylist because they hop from table to table trying to find the “best deal.” If your price is the cheapest this month, the next month they are looking for someone cheaper than you. There will always be something wrong with how you groomed their pet, and the hunt begins again. After they have made their rounds through every salon and mobile available in the area, they will be back. Understand that the pet will usually be a mess, because no one can give them what they want: a show cut almost for free! To them, what we do is nothing special—after all, it is “just a dog!”

The Conversational Customer

This is the customer that will drive you crazy on a busy day. They will give you the story of their life, their neighbor’s life, and anybody’s life within a 50-mile radius. They are the sweetest people, usually good tippers, and will always make an incredible fuss over their pet when you return them. They are the ultimate social butterfly. They know everybody! They will pass out your cards and talk you up to everyone they come in contact with. You have to know how to contain them (gently), or they will throw your entire day off.

The Hardcore Busy Customer

They are straight to the point. Very little conversation. Sometimes around the holidays, a hint of a smile. You will receive a holiday card with your year-end tip. “ABC” style, no add-ons or the same add-ons, and next appointment rebooked before they leave. They want a smooth, no frills check-out. They seem as cuddly as a Brillo pad. They are busy and they appreciate your efficiency, which makes this part of their life simple. I love these customers! They have the same feral cat personality as I do, we bond wonderfully!

The Clueless Customer

This customer has no idea what pet ownership is about. Someone gave them the pet. They like pet but have no idea what to do. Basically, they need you to guide them through vets in the area, grooming, and the ins and outs of pet ownership. Once you have helped them through some tough times, they are loyal and a great referral source.

The Pristine Customer

This is, believe it or not, one of your best customers. You will kill yourself making sure that every hair is in place and every detail is to perfection. Yet when you take Fluffy back in the house or they pick him up, they will always find something wrong. At one point or another, you convince yourself that you are going to get rid of them, but they do not go away easily. They either have a style in their head that they want you to recreate, or they are stuck on a cut that doesn’t complement the pet’s coat or bone structure. If they should decide to go elsewhere, they quickly come back, realizing that you were the best thing since sliced bread!

The Ride or Die Customer

This is your customer for life! They have been with you since the beginning, when you started in your venture of grooming, and they stayed with you through the ups and downs. If you move to another shop or mobile, they will follow. It’s almost like a marriage—until death do you part. They are a great source of referrals, and they can become Conan the Barbarian if someone should make an unfavorable comment about you. You are GOLD to them! No one can do what you do in their eyes! They always tip, but they can be a little inconsistent with the scheduling. You bend over backwards for them, because they would never ever think of letting anyone else touch Fluffy!

I started off in a salon, and I have come across each one of these customers. I wasn’t surprised to find the same thing once I went mobile. I have accumulated a lot of Conversational Customers. Most of them are seniors who pretty much tell me the same stories over and over again. I usually schedule a little extra time for them but keep edging my way to the door so that I can get to the next customer. The ultimate goal is to have a mixed client base of Busy, Conversationalist, and Ride or Die Customers. You will get them, but they won’t be the same for every groomer. You will attract people that will flow with your personality. They are less likely to hop to the newest table in town. They trust you and they are comfortable with how you interact with their pet. That bond is not easily broken. Once the wounds of a lost pet have healed, most will get a new pet, and they will seek you out. That is your customer! It is a relationship that will last to the end of time. The next time a new shop or mobile moves into your area, relax! If you are good to your customers and give them quality service, they will have no need to go sniffing other patches of grass. The few that do leave will only make room for your new Busy, Conversationalist, and Ride or Die customers that you have been waiting for!

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