Knowing how to deal with complaints can be tricky, especially when you first start out. Alison Thomas of Look North Grooming and Training Centre has some good advice on how to avoid complaints and how to deal with them when you get them…

The important thing is to stay professional at all times. Make sure you understand what it is they want the finished dog to look like.

It is important to make a note of all complaints received and the outcome..

Joanne dealing with a customer

It doesn’t matter how experienced or professional you are as a groomer, you cannot please everyone all the time! You will at some point be faced with a customer who is not happy with the work you have done and will voice their dismay either at the time of collection or during a phone call at a later date when they have had time to think about it! Whatever the situation is there are certain principles that you must adhere to in order to keep the peace and also to protect the reputation of your business. Whilst we all may feel that the customer is not always right, they are the bread and butter of your business and as such you must take their complaint seriously. Even if you are being talked down to, shouted at or accused of something you believe you have not done, openly show that you are listening to what they have to say. Look at what they are showing you, look at the customer when they are directing comments to you and above all else…keep your cool!

It doesn’t matter what you feel inside the important thing is to stay professional at all times and not to be tempted to retaliate with a flurry of abuse or accusations. This will only make matters worse and may result in public complaints about you and your business when a little patience could have nipped the situation in the bud.


Take your time

Listen to the complaint and acknowledge what is being said in an understanding way. This doesn’t mean you have to agree but the customer must not feel belittled. If the complaint is down to the style of trim, try explaining what you have done and why.  If the trim looks a little untidy or uneven, go over it again in front of the customer checking that you have covered the particular areas they are upset about. If you have taken the coat shorter than wanted there is nothing you can do except apologise and assure the customer that you will leave more length next time.  Explain that you misunderstood the requirements, or, if the coat was more matted than you originally thought you could perhaps salvage some of it to show them unless, of course, it has already been disposed of!

If the complaint is regarding an injury of some kind examine the area of concern and again try to explain what may have happened. Is it down to clipper rash? Has shampoo got in the dog’s eye? Have you nicked the skin or perhaps the ‘injury’ was there when the dog was brought in.

Avoiding complaints

Very matted dog, half way through being clipped

There are things you can do to avoid some of these situations arising. Firstly check the coat thoroughly when the dog first arrives and if there is a possibility that, due to excessive matting, the coat will have to be clipped off or taken very short explain this to the owner in detail before they leave. If the change is going to be extreme it would be a good idea to ask for a disclaimer to be signed. If the coat is to be clipped off, make sure the owner is aware of the possibility of clipper rash or ear haematomas and how to deal with them if they occur.

If you find anything wrong with the dog or the dog’s skin during this initial consultation make sure you mention it immediately to the customer so that you can’t be accused later of causing it. If you find anything wrong during the time the dog is with you, make sure you tell the owner as soon as they return and show them the problem area. Perhaps advise them to go to the vet if you think it necessary.

Make sure you listen

Listen carefully to the instructions you receive; give advice and opinions and if the dog’s coat allows, do what the customer wants even if you don’t agree with it. Do not argue with the customer over how a trim should look.  If they want something out of the ordinary that’s up to them.  Just make sure you understand what it is they want the finished dog to look like. If you or a member of your staff causes a minor injury, be honest and tell the customer when they return to collect the dog. Explain what happened and advise them to keep an eye on it and if concerned at all to take the dog to the vet and you will refund the money on receipt of a bill. If the injury is more serious or the dog is taken ill whilst with you, you must of course consult the vet immediately and contact the owner.

Next steps

It is important to make a note of all complaints received and the outcome. If a member of staff was involved, get their written report on what happened.

If the complaint cannot be resolved to the customers satisfaction, refer them to the British Groomers Association (if you are a member) giving them the contact details and assuring them that their complaint will be taken seriously.

Even at this point remain calm and professional, and remember……word of mouth is by far the best advertising and bad reports spread faster than good!