We have all had them.
Those unplanned early days.
You get up in the morning, syncing yourself up for a full day of dogs, because the last time that you checked, before you left work the day before, you had a full day of dogs on the books.
Or, in my case, we already knew that we lost two dogs for today, because when my husband called to remind the customer of their appointment for today, the first thing he heard was the; "oh, I meant to call you"
It turned out that this customer had to work and could no longer keep the appointment for her two dogs.
Sadly she knew this for a few days...but she meant to call.
A lot of times this is not a problem, because we still had some time to call someone off of the waiting list, only....there was nobody waiting for today. :/
Then right before you close for the day, one of the customers that you left a reminder call for calls.
"I was going to call you," is the first things he says.
He was calling to cancel his appointment, because he got his dog groomed Saturday, because he could not wait till today...Wednesday.
Oh, one side note...we last groomed the dog 5 months ago, soooooo she certainly could not wait 4 more days.
And, we were open all day Tuesday but,.....he was going to call.
So, we went to work today knowing that we did not have a full day.
Sometimes that is okay too, because even though you hate losing the money, the thought of possibly getting finished early and having some extra time to yourself can be very appealing.
So, you can be upset and happy at the same time.
I think only a groomer can understand this kind of logic.
Then we get to work.
The phone rings within 5 minutes of opening.
"Hi, C**** won't be coming today, because she has been sick."
You sincerely wish the dog well and tell the customer no problem.
At the same time, you are trying really hard to bite your tongue, and not ask why, if the dog has been sick for awhile, why did you wait till the day of the appointment to call?
Are you keeping count?
That would be 4 appointments lost for the day so far.
I said so far.....we were not done yet.
Besides the late cancellations, we had to throw a No-Show in the mix too.
A new customer who said that they would be here when called yesterday to remind.
Five lost appointments that could have gone to other customers.
30% of the grooming day gone.
Someones pay is effected.
The business is effected.
What are groomers to do?
How do you make your customers understand that they need to respect you and your time?
How do you get them to understand that when they cancel an appointment too late to replace it, or they just don't show up, that it effects the groomer and the grooming business?
Thankfully, a day like today does not happen very often.
I honestly believe that most customers just don't get it.
I used to be one of them.
Before I became a groomer, I would have an occasional appointment that I forgot.... say an hair appointment.
Even though I had that darn reminder card right on the refrigerator, I would forget about the appointment.
When I remembered, I would just call for another.
It never once crossed my mind that I might be messing up the hairdressers day, or the salons business.
No big deal, just make another appointment.
Of course I am much better now.
I don't miss appointments now, and I make sure to call well ahead of time if I need to change something.
I truly believe that a lot of customers don't think that it is any problem missing an appointment, especially a dog grooming appointment.
It's just a dog after all.
How hard can it be to groom a dog?
I have no problem when a customer has to cancel last minute, because of a true emergency, or they truely have car trouble, or were called into work without notice.
It is the people who knew well ahead of time that they could not keep the appointment, and didn't call that bother me.
I think some of the cancellations that bother me the most are the customers that wait to call 5 minutes after their dogs appointment to say; "he doesn't need a haircut yet, he still looks nice. Can you make another appointment for next week instead?"
Then they get mad at me, because I don't have an appointment for next week, and they will have to wait 4 weeks to two months for another appointment.
Sometimes you feel like you just can't win.
Even reminder calls are not a guarantee that all of your appointments will show up.
I don't believe in charging a missed appointment fee.
Yes, the customer made you lose money, but I still don't think it is right to take money when you didn't groom the dog.
I know that a lot of other groomers will not agree with me, but that is okay.
It is my business and my own personal opinion.
Every time I see a sign at a business that says that they charge for missed appointments, I always ask them how well it works for them.
Not one of them tells me that it changes anything, and just about everyone of them say that they never collect, and the customer just goes somewhere else.
I will say that the last couple of years the late cancellations and no-shows have gotten worse.
So much so, that I actually thought about not letting my customers schedule for the year like 90 % of them have gotten used to doing.
I feel that they don't appreceate the work that goes into making all of those appointments.
But, that is not entirly true, because most of my customers do keep their appointments.
As with so many other things, it only takes a few to mess things up for everyone else.
Did you know that the first day of every month the Military opens their phone lines up for Vets to make doctor appointments for that month?
Once the month is filled up (usually within the first two days) they stop taking appointments till the first of the next month.
What do you think that my customers would think of that?
The Tattoo parlor that my daughter and son go to makes you put down $50 to make an appointment. (the lowest cost of a tatoo)
If you don't show for the appointment, they keep the money.
If you keep your appointment, the $50 goes towards the total cost of the tattoo.
What do you think my customers would think of that?
Well, of course we are letting our customers book up for the whole next year as usual, but this time I am doing something a little different.
Every year we send out forms for our customers to fill out if they want to make next years appointments in advance.
Along with this form, we send a cover letter.
I usually use the cover letter to explain the form, to tell the customer when we want the form back, and any other new news that I would like them to know.
After years of sending out this form and cover letter, I have noticed that most of my customers don't even bother to read the cover letter anymore.
They see the form, fill it out, and send it back.
I have talked about late cancellations and no-shows in the cover letter before, but since I don't think that my customers are even reading it, I am going to do something different this year.
We usually have our customers new schedules, for the next year, ready to go by the first of December. (thanks to a lot of hard work on my daughters part)
This year I will be stapling another letter to their grooming schedule.
It will be about keeping these appointments, late cancellations, no-shows, and respecting our time.
I will try to make it straight and to the point without sounding preachy.
I also don't care if I sound like I am begging them to respect me and my time.
I want them to understand the harm that late cancellations and no-shows can do to a groomer and a small business.
I have not written the letter yet.
I will most likely write several drafts before I am happy with it.
When I finish writing it I will post it here to see what all of you think, and to use it yourselves if you like it.
The next thing to tackle?
Customers who arrive late for their appointments....very late.
I can't worry about that right now.
At least they showed up for their appointment. :/
I'll tackle late arrivals when I fix late cancellations and no-shows.
The only problem....that may not happen in my lifetime. :)
Happy Grooming, MFF