How to Make Your Salon Stand Out in a Crowd

By Joey Villani, CEO of Intergroom International & VP of World Dog Expo

Mrs. Jones comes through your front door carrying her dog Fluffy.  A person walks from the back and greets her with a, “Hi, What can I do for you today?”  Mrs. Jones says she is here for an appointment. The person asks for the dog’s name as she checks the appointment book. Mrs. Jones wants to know if this person is the one she spoke to on the phone or if this person is the groomer. The person reaches for Fluffy and replies, “Oh, I’m not the groomer. I just answer the phone, so you may have talked to me.”

STOP! What is wrong with this picture?! This “person” is nameless, faceless, and clueless!  This is NOT the way to start off a grooming appointment, and it may even damage the relationship with the pet parent!  Let me give you a few tips to make your salon stand out and connect with your clients.

First, realize the importance of YOU, you the groomer and owner. Your clients come to you because they like you, they feel comfortable with you, they like the work you do, and they like how you treat their pet. Can you clone yourself? Well, almost. What you can do is brand yourself.

Create a list of things you do, things you say… in other words, create Standard Operating Procedures. How do you answer your phone? Write it down and have everyone who works for you answer the same way. What is your professional attire? Create your logo, have your colors, and have all your employees wearing your brand as their professional work outfits. Just think of the marketing you have when an employee runs out for lunch or stops at the grocery store – he/she looks professional and bears the salon’s name, logo, and colors for everyone in the community to see. My advice, stop wearing hoodies and jeans – brand yourself and stand proud.

Next, brand what you ask your clients when you set up appointments.  Make sure everyone who sets up an appointment asks for the same client and pet info – and give them scripts to use to help them cover all the bases. One question I like to ask is, “When was the last time the pet was professionally groomed?” Why ask this question this way? It can give some hints such as the client’s perception about grooming, if they have had a groomer and perhaps have left that groomer, and if the pet has been exposed to professional grooming. Don’t ask if the dog is biter – this just gets things off in a negative light.

Another question, “Has your dog been vaccinated for rabies.” Be ready to tell a story to show the importance of being current on this vaccine. I say to the client that pets, just like people, get uncomfortable and may get a little feisty. A dog may bite the groomer –it is usually nobody’s fault (not the dog’s or the groomer’s fault; it just happens sometimes). However, the groomer may need medical attention, and this is where it gets ugly for the pet because the law says the pet needs to be quarantined and some regulations/laws require that the quarantine period is at a kennel. This is not comfortable for the pet, so to avoid creating problems for the pet, have current vaccines.

You can’t always take the client’s word for it, yet you don’t want to press for proof either. How do you get what you need? Establish a relationship with all your local veterinary hospitals. Now, this doesn’t mean you have set up a referral relationship, this means you made an effort to visit the practices, you are available to answer grooming questions for them, and you touch base every so often with them. Call the pet’s veterinarian and ask for the proof of vaccination or, easier yet, have your clients download to their phone an app that links the pet’s vaccination records to the client’s phone for easy sharing with you, the groomer. BabelBark is an excellent app that allows for this happen in an easy, seamless way. 

Don’t forget to have a checklist to go over with the client about arrival for the appointment. Of particular importance is having the pet on a leash or in a carrier because no one wants to be running down the street trying to catch an escaped, scared pet. Tell the client to send you a picture of their pet (this helps for recognizing the pet when it arrives) and an image of a specific style or cut they like (this provides a great starting point to discuss what can/can’t be done to the pet). Finish by asking the client if there is anything special you need to know about the pet and if you have answered all of the client’s questions.

Finally, have a Standard Operating Procedure for appointment arrivals. Have the team review the appointment list and know what breed of dog is coming next (remember that picture you asked the client to send when they set up the appointment), what the pet’s name is, and how to greet the pet when it arrives. You heard that right; greet the pet first, not the person bringing it in. Have everyone on your team go through the same steps of verifying what the client wants to be done to the pet, and how to check over the pet in front of the client to discuss pet needs and client wants for grooming that day (don’t be afraid to have a table in your entrance area to do this).

You are unique, and your salon should represent you. Have your set of guidelines that brand you and your salon, and train everyone on the team to present your brand to the community and your clients. These tips and others are part of an online seminar series I have created for BizBark. Join the Bizbark Community to have access to all the videos in the seminar series (yup– it’s totally free)!