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  • Pre-booking...is it time to change?

    We have always tried to pre-book our customers, whether it be just for the next groom, or some prefer to book a year at a time. I thought this was the right way to go, maybe not.

    With the newer, more expensive groomer in town we have lost some of those longtime (7-10 year) customers. As of yet, I can't ascertain why, because they won't t give us a reason for not coming to us anymore. (I very politely have asked by e-mail or leaving a message on their phone...no response). Obviously, there is a problem, and I sure would like to know about it so we can change things. From pix on her FB page, her grooms look to be the same quality as what we do (it's easy to compare because they're the same dogs I've been grooming for many years). I have sent some new customers her way when we can't get them in NOW. Her hours are more limited then ours, and as far as I can figure out they don't offer free daycare for dogs on the day they're groomed. (some dogs stay with us for 9-10 hrs. those days so their owners can get to doctor appts., etc.)

    The only thing I can figure out is that she can take people the same day they call. Maybe more convenient for the dog's owners? We still book out a couple weeks, but not much more than that, especially in the winter. Maybe her location is closer to them (she's about 2 miles from us). Is it because she's next door to the non-profit vet? I do believe they take credit cards, but it says they prefer cash or check. (these long time customers we lost have never complained about having to write a check, and for one of them we always held checks for a week or two at their request).

    Sure would like to hear what others do in this situation. I need some new ideas to keep us from losing more customers. (and yes, still working on hubby to get credit cards...)

  • #2
    The other place just opened recently?

    Some people always want the 'newest' because they think it's the best.
    Supposition- she may be offering discounts programs ( bad idea).
    Question to you - are you shabby looking or a bit run down / grungy looking? We overlook accumulated dog hair and splatters but our clients don't. They see every clump of fur. Do you need a spicing up and a coat of paint?

    Just putting this out there for consideration. When I worked in fundraising I was told by a MAJOR donor that we'd get better results if we looked like we don't need the money ( for basic maintenance and upkeep). We started investing in better venues to host events and the profits tripled. If you look successful ( = new and clean and shiny) the better chance for success

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    • #3
      We keep everything clean all the time. Cleaned and swept every day. Time for a bit of decluttering though, the desk always looks well used. Our place is bigger, brighter and shinier by far. They are in a tiny, very old (and ugly) strip mall right on the highway. And by right on the highway I mean 40 feet from a State Highway. Parking for one car (we have a large private blacktopped parking area) and no waiting area.
      Unfortunately we offer discounts that I would like to discontinue, but can't at this point (9 grooms, 10th free). Not sure what they offer, if any, for discounts.

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      • #4
        I wonder if that credit card issue may be a bigger deal than it may seem. If the other place takes them and everything else seems fairly equal, that just might be the deal maker/breaker. A lot of people just don't carry cash or checkbooks anymore, and it's kind of a hassle when they plan to be out and about doing business and have to make an extra stop or extra effort to get cash for one. I didn't realize how much so many people loved the convenience of cards until I started taking them. I am still a largely cash carrier and spender, myself. If competition were that tight for me, I'd have to go ahead and make that change.

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        • #5
          Just my 2 cents. .. I have had a few go elsewhere and never return (calls or at all). Which is disenheartenting (sp) to say the least. For some people they will jump around try out new things. Most will come back. At least the ones that appreciate the relationship between the 3 or more of you. The others well.... blah to them. Personally, I raised prices this last year and am fixing to do it again mid spring. For all reliable clients-preset never miss an apt no. All those that call only when company is coming yes. Also new clients. Definitely suggest altering the type of discount program you have in place. Some do no discount whatsoever. I choose to reward clients for referrals. 3 referrals and they can choose from a free bath or 50% off a full body style. I also let the clients that have a super low price know to not give out pricing for their pet or I will raise them up to my new client price (which is $15-$70 more than they pay ). Those of course are the ones that refer the most . Because they understand I love their pet and take care of them as my own and they get free stuff. This is the way I have always done it even the few years I was at corporate. Good luck to y'all. Breath. Sometimes it's a good thing to reevaluate what's going on.

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          • #6
            Totallyclips makes valid point. Check into square.

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            • #7
              Could be the cards. We don't accept tips on cards snd scoot if our clients are always gobsmacked by it.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Petekids View Post
                We keep everything clean all the time. Cleaned and swept every day. Time for a bit of decluttering though, the desk always looks well used. Our place is bigger, brighter and shinier by far. They are in a tiny, very old (and ugly) strip mall right on the highway. And by right on the highway I mean 40 feet from a State Highway. Parking for one car (we have a large private blacktopped parking area) and no waiting area.
                Unfortunately we offer discounts that I would like to discontinue, but can't at this point (9 grooms, 10th free). Not sure what they offer, if any, for discounts.
                Why can't you discontinue the discounts? It is YOUR business! !! If you stay booked two weeks out, I don't understand the problem.
                Ain't always easy to stand up for what is right.

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                • #9
                  I don't take cards, never have , never will! Cash or checks. Clients know they will need to pay that way & there are ATM's everywhere if they forget.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by pugnacious View Post
                    I don't take cards, never have , never will! Cash or checks. Clients know they will need to pay that way & there are ATM's everywhere if they forget.
                    Which is all ok if competition is not very stiff and/or they don't take cards, either. Or, I guess, if you live in an area where people overwhelmingly prefer to carry cash and checks. If I were struggling to maintain my client base and the biggest discernible difference is that the competition takes cards, I would up my game and do it, too. Even if it never mattered before. It never used to matter much when groomers smoked right at the table over the dog. Now it does. Things change.

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                    • #11
                      I agree with Cyn your business your rules. Discontinue the free frequency grooms, but definitely start a referral program. No better way to get clients IMO.

                      You know I've always said start taking cards. Still stand by that. I suppose if I chose to go to a place that only took cards or checks and I was really really happy with them I would make sure I had cash or checks (I always have checks in my wallet though) but if I had to go to an ATM that wasn't my bank and pay a fee to pull out my own money I would resent that and absolutely use the person who took cards, all other things being equal.

                      Am I understanding you want to stop pre-booking to be able to take people same day? I'm not sure I see the benefit in that.

                      People don't want to tell you why they aren't coming anymore. It's awkward. They may feel bad about it and just don't want to face you.

                      You're right though, there is a reason they are going to her. Are they staying with her? Are you not seeing people come back after skipping a groom?

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                      • #12
                        Sorry this is long, but the whole situation is bugging me.
                        I guess what brought about my most recent concern is a customer with 2 dogs that have been coming to us for 7 years. Always pleasant, no complaints, always liked our grooms, always pre-booked. We even helped name their new 2 year old dog. She outright lied to me (never thought she was that kind of person) that they were out of town...pix of her dogs are on the new groomers FB page. There are a few newer customers that will not pre-book and they started going to her. Then there are a couple more that I really don't miss... (not so much the dogs, just the owners). Our first concern is the safety and welfare of each dog we groom. As much as it upset me, I had to send one of our very long-time favorite customers to her. The dog basically had a panic seizure (he's over 14 years old) the last time I groomed him and I don't want him to keel over here. Owners told me, after the fact, that he had the same issues at home. The new groomer is next door to a vet...safer for the dog if something happens. Owner of that dog is a prominent Chamber of Commerce officer, I know we hurt their feelings by sending them elsewhere, but I have to think of the animal first and I explained that to them. Was I really stupid to do that? Could she be spreading rumors about our incompetence? Just don't know.
                        No, they are not coming back to us after going there. Just not sure why. Maybe I'm taking too long to groom a small dog? We have drop offs every hour, and they can pick them up about 2-2.5 hours later (larger longhaired dogs about an hour more because of drying time). One thing she does do is brush the dogs teeth. I have a problem with that...brushing the dogs teeth once every six weeks does no good at all. Personally I think it's a rip off for groomers to charge for that, but that is just me. We sell toothbrushes and toothpaste here if people want to purchase them...very few takers... And I will instruct them how to brush their dogs teeth (for free) if they want. I also tell them that it needs to be done every day, just like our own teeth, to make any difference in the dogs oral health.
                        I just keep wracking my brain to figure out what we're doing wrong to lose longtime customers.
                        The new place does run ads every week in the shopper newspaper advertising that she is licensed. We all know that groomers aren't licensed, but the general public doesn't. Maybe she's referring to her hair dressers license? The ads also state that she is insured...isn't any responsible groomer insured???
                        I do prefer prebooking, but in this day and age when people want things NOW, maybe I need to try to keep at least one appt. slot open each day? (during the winter our average day is 8 dogs, during the summer it is 10-12 dogs).

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                        • #13
                          It definitely sounds like time to up your game and compete with the competition. Taking credit cards sounds like a must at this point ! Prebooking is great, but are you calling the day before to reconfirm the appointments? This makes a huge difference since many have forgotten in 6 to 8 weeks, or if they do need to cancel, you still have time to fill their slot. I agree that brushing teeth once every 6 weeks does not make much of a difference, which is why I suggest you just include it in all bath and groom packages at no charge. People hate being nickle-and-dimed over add on's anyway, and love freebies. I would discontinue all other discounts except a referral bonus of some sort, and replace it with free teeth brushing on all packages... (advertise it as a $xx value) . This will be way cheaper than a free groom, and gives the clients perceived value. It will also one up you over your competitors packages if she charges for this service. Do you advertise at all or are you just relying on your core clients to keep you afloat? Doesn't need to be expensive advertising, just enough to gain some visibility. Do you participate in any holiday parades, career day at school, coat care clinics? When was the last time you refreshed the place with a new paint color? You basically should refresh the appearance of your business every 3 to 5 years to stay relevant for your clients. Painting the interior and rearranging the lobby goes a long way. Do you maintain an online presence (website and Facebook primarily )? If not you should, or maybe you need to refresh these sites as well. Have you checked out your competitors website? Maybe she has more groom pictures than you posted. Put some pictures of your grooms, your staff, your shop and kennel, etc. on your sites. This personalizes you to your clients. Best of luck!

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                          • #14
                            Do you know if the more-expensive groomer handles dogs skillfully and patiently? My concern with your referring a special-needs dog to the groomer is that you don't know what goes on behind the scenes. What if she's someone who spend a lot of time yelling at dogs? It would be different if she worked at the veterinary clinic. She only works next to it. With your history of grooming the dog, I think you might be a better choice since you know the dog's personality. If you were friendly with her or with other local groomers, I think referrals would make sense, because you would know that they treat dogs well. They, in turn, would refer dogs to you if they are ill or too busy. This sounds like a one-way deal, where you refer but they don't.

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                            • #15
                              This has me thinking I need to accept credit cards. I have been telling myself that people understand because the small businesses in my area (and they are all small, no chains) are all cash or check only. If the OP is holding checks for clients, that would be a sign to me that they would rather use a credit card. That way they don't feel bad asking her to hold the check.
                              I don't think there is one deal breaker but several small ones combined together. That is why it is so hard to pinpoint. I get from the history of previous posts that cheap/discount is what the area wants. Somewhat more upscale is what makes money so OP is between a rock and a hard place. And now someone else is having a go at more upscale and seems to be doing well. Perhaps reopening with a totally new look and pricing will work. When I opened my shop in a rural area, most people were wanting cheap and unprofessional and were happy to see a home-based groomer. I went with more upscale and let prospective clients move on. There were many more who said no thank you than who booked. I told myself I needed to make a minimum amount from the business or else I would need to close and get a job in a different field. I didn't let myself become desperate. It's been over 5 years and I'm still not completely booked but I probably make as much money as a discount groomer who is overbooked.
                              Sorry this was long and all over the place but I really feel for Peteskids.

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