Groomers, in fact people that interact with the public in many facets of the pet industry, are divided on the question of whether to apologize to a customer when they have a complaint. Some think an apology is due for every complaint, some that it’s warranted only if the groomer or salon is at fault, others think saying you are sorry admits culpability and so should never be said.
Here’s my firm opinion on the matter – it depends.
Mostly it depends on whether it will sound sincere. There is nothing more annoying than to be told “I’m sorry” in a tone of voice indicating that you really couldn’t give a darn. And it should be fairly easy to be sincere with an apology to a customer. Most lawyers will tell you that it in no way admits culpability. Saying “I’m so sorry Fluffy was injured” is a long way from saying “I’m so sorry we cut Fluffy’s foot”. The former can be said to imply accident. The latter is in fact an admission that you cut the dog, and might lean towards liability. Sure, Fluffy was injured at your salon but it may well have been because they kicked the shears, or had poor behavior making the groom difficult. But really, we are always sorry something bad happened. Injury, accident, charged the wrong price, dog not completed when promised, trim not what the customer wanted – one can always say “I’m sorry that happened” before explaining what you will or will not do to make it right in the customer’s mind. The regret may be that it took time out of your day to resolve it, or that the customer is upset, or any other reason, but most of us should be able to produce a sincere expression of regret over the incident. You can tell a customer you are sorry that they are upset, as that’s usually true. And it often goes a long way towards softening attitudes on irate people as sometimes they are only looking for a little validation. “I understand that you’re upset and I’m sorry”.  (Saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” isn’t really an apology as many will take it to mean they are wrong to feel that way). Different phrases can defuse a difficult situation without meaning anything further. It’s not saying you’ll refund money or pay for a vet bill or whatever the customer thinks should happen. That’s a separate issue.
I’m sorry just means you are, sincerely, sorry. And it can go a long way towards an amicable solution to a customer service problem.


By Carol Visser, Journalist, Master Pet Groomer, Certified Dog Trainer, Pet Product Expert


Carol has been involved in the pet industry since 1982 in various capacities, including grooming in and owning a busy suburban shop, teaching grooming, working as a product expert for PetEdge, teaching seminars and training dogs. She certified as a Master Groomer with NDGAA in 1990 and as a Certified Pet Dog Trainer in 2007, and she continues to enjoy learning about dogs and grooming on a limited basis in rural Maine.