• Julie Ethan

Pet Salon Owner - A Case Study

This pet spa owner wants to grow her business and enjoy more free time. But the two concepts seem to be at odds with each other. What can she do?

In order to understand the situation better, I interviewed an employee. Employees often reveal the gaps in the systems.

When a new customer comes in—how are they handled?

At the Paws Salon the new client is handed a new client form to complete. A clipboard and pen are provided. Sometimes the dog is taken back behind the counter, but we ask the client what they prefer: take the dog back, or not yet.

After the client completes the form, we check it and make sure they signed and dated it.

Our pricing is based on the dog. Some clients ask what we’ll be charging and some don’t. A small dog is 45 to 55.00 for a bath and brush. Haircuts are 58.00. Brushing teeth adds 10.00 plus we have other add-ons. We sell products, too. All pricing is verbal, and not displayed, which keeps it flexible but also confusing. The owner must price all appointments and if the dog hasn’t been in for 6 months, the price goes up.

What happens next?

You have to read the situation in order to know what to do with the dog in the customer’s presence, because, things can change from customer to customer and even in the moment. Based on how the customer is reacting to the experience and how the dog is reacting (some hate the kennel) you might hold the dog in front of the customer to reassure them. Then you send the customer away with an estimate of when the dog will be ready for pick-up. We say, “We’ll give you a call when they’re ready.”

From that moment until the dog is picked up, we must enter the New Intake Form into the computer.

Performing the service

After the grooming we put a bandana on the dog and take a photo on the shop phone. Sometimes we call the client 15 minutes early because the dog is screaming the entire time in the kennel.


Ideally, you complete the payment transaction and give the customer an overview of how the dog did. You give instructions and possibly homework to the customer. Then you go get the dog. Exceptions: If the dog goes bat-shit crazy in the kennel—then you give the dog to the owner before the check-out. Big dogs are still going to be left in the kennel, even if they are freaking out.

Groomers job

Social media posting is usually at the end of the day to get the dog’s photos posted. We wipe the table between dogs and sweep the hair from the floor because hair on the floor is dangerous. We wash and dry the towels.

My assessment to help this pet spa owner free up her time and grow her business

The owner is relying heavily on the strong social skills of her groomers to greet customers and read the vibe between the customer and the dog.

Recommendation: Create a standard script that covers:

  • How to greet the new client

  • How to greet the repeat client

  • Key observations about the behavior of the dog owner and the dog. What questions to ask or actions to take based on behaviors in order to make the initial phase of the drop-off comfortable for everyone

Why scripts? Because they standardize the experience and can be used as a platform from which other important questions may spring. The more informed the groomers, the better they can make the experience for both the dog parent and the dog. Scripts also help when training new groomers, and hiring more groomers is part of growing.

The owner has all the pricing in her head and is called upon to price each and every dog. This does not allow her to ever be free from the business during operating hours.

Recommendation: This is an easy fix, but a bit tedious at first. The owner needs to create a pricing questionnaire that leads a groomer to a final calculation. Every variable should be listed with a range for how severe the situation. For example, a dog has been groomed monthly but ran through a field recently. The fur is full of burrs and mats. Perhaps an hourly estimate might be the most beneficial, or perhaps the groomer uses the high end of the pricing spectrum for “mats” versus the low end for just a couple “mats”. The owner doesn’t need to reveal the chart to the customers, but she’ll never get away from this business if she doesn’t teach her groomers how to price the appointments.

The vibe the customer gets at “check-out” is key. If the customer walks in to hear their dog “screaming” in the kennel, it’s going to be a stressful check-out.

Recommendation: Research industry best practices for “check-out” procedures.

  • You might not be able to avoid a howling dog in a kennel; but you might be able to grab the dog out of the kennel just before the customer walks in the door

  • Be intentional about what the customer is told. Are there one to three compliments that can be shared about their dog? When giving follow-up instructions, can product recommendations be made without making the customer feel pressured to buy product?

  • Is a follow-up appointment requested?

  • How long are groomers tied up doing a proper check-out?

  • When would it make sense to hire a receptionist? Do a cost analysis.

In summary, this pet salon owner is closer to her dream of growing the business and having more free time than she realizes. But like many small business owners—she can’t see the forest for the trees surrounding her. I’ve only touched the surface in examining the client experience portion of her business. I also develop hiring procedures, marketing systems and financial tracking to name a few.

If you’re a small business owner, I hope this case study helps you see through a few trees, so you can prosper even more.

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San Diego, CA 92107


Tel: 619-363-2159


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