Breaking Up is Hard to Do

You know that customer. The one that when their name shows up on caller ID, you cringe. The one that, when you see them on the calendar, makes you wish you had called in sick. Sometimes they are perfectly nice people but have unrealistic expectations, or their dog is exhausting. Other times they are difficult people, but you like their pet. No matter the reason, you just don't want to work with them anymore. So how do you break off your unhappy grooming relationship? You must first realize that it probably cannot be done without some hard feelings. However, if dealing with this customer is causing you dread and anxiety, the breakup must occur. There are ways to terminate your relationship that are professional, and then there are ways that are not. The following are three ways to avoid dumping someone.

  • Ghosting- It has become common in the past few years to ditch a relationship by ghosting. Simply put, it means not answering phone calls or text messages. It is a means of ending a relationship by vanishing, leaving the ghosted person feeling terrible. It is a hard, cold rejection and never professional.
  • Blowing up- One reason to end a grooming relationship that is causing stress is that if you don't, the tension you feel about this person will continue to grow. The unhappiness and pressure you experience when dealing with this client may cause you to blow up at them at some point. This is bad for your blood pressure and not fair to the customer. Chances are that they were utterly oblivious to the fact that your interactions were anything but fine. Unloading all your pent-up feelings in a blow-up will shock them, and, you guessed it, it is not a mature, professional way to end a business relationship.
  • Lying- Avoid the familiar "It's not you, it's me" scenario. For instance, if you beg off working for them using a lame excuse like that their dog is too big and your back hurts, and then their best friend's dog the same size is groomed by you, they will know you were not truthful with them.   It isn't ethical and does not arm the person with any information to help them move on to a better relationship with another groomer.

So, how can you communicate that you will not be offering further services? Ideally, this is a conversation that you will have face-to-face. A phone call is the next best option if that is not possible. Speaking calmly and clearly, you need to communicate the problem. Here are some examples: "Mrs. Fussy, it seems that I can never groom your dog correctly. You complain every time, and it has gotten to the point where I feel defeated before I even pick up a brush. I only want happy customers here, and it is time for you to find a groomer who can satisfy you." A declaration like this lets them know the problem and does not leave room for them to argue. Here is another scenario, "Mr. Denial, as you know, we have worked with your dog's biting issues for several months. At this point, we have exhausted all our best efforts, and it is only a matter of time before someone is injured. Unfortunately, we will be unable to groom Bitey in the future."

If possible, offer referrals to other groomers who might be well suited to Mrs. Fussy and a trainer or behavioral veterinarian for Mr. Denial. Any time that you must refuse service, it will help smooth things to offer suggestions to the pet owner for how to proceed.

Breaking up is hard to do, but it can be done professionally. Imagine a world where none of the names on your caller ID make you wince.


By Daryl Conner, MPS, MCG 

Daryl Conner has been devoted to making dogs and cats more comfortable and beautiful for almost 40 years.  You can find her happily working at FairWinds Grooming Studio with her daughter and infant granddaughter, or typing away at her latest grooming-related article. Daryl was awarded both a Cardinal Crystal Award and Barkleigh Honors Award for journalism.  She shares her meadow-hugged antique Maine farmhouse with her practically perfect husband and too many animals.