The Art of Giving Great Service – The Zingerman Way

bookAbout 6 years ago I read a great book while sailing on my dad’s boat. It was Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: Building a Great Business.  At one point, my dad picked up the book. He read a few paragraphs I had highlighted when I went below. When I returned a few minutes later, he said, “Good book. They know what they are talking about.” Wow. Coming from my dad, that meant a lot.

Zingerman’s is an institution in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hailed by Inc. Magazine as The coolest small company in America,” the original business was founded in 1982 with Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Since then, Zingerman’s has expanded to 11 food-related business, 724 staff members, and sales of over $62 million.

Service is a cornerstone of Zingerman’s success. Zingerman’s has earned its reputation for great service by intentionally creating a culture that nurtures amazing service. They teach every one of their team members system “recipes” which are at the heart of their extraordinary service.

I was so impressed with the book, I ordered copies for all my team leaders!

At Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, we really rolled up our sleeves. We took the summer to read the entire book together. Once a week we met to review, strategize, and implement what we learned from the pages.

When we started Zingerman’s training in 2011, we were earning about $655,000 in annual gross sales between overnight lodging, daycare, and grooming. Last year we grossed just short of $2.25 million. And the real kicker – we spent virtually nothing on advertising! Our growth has been fueled by stellar customer service from an amazing team of enthusiastic, pet-loving staff.

I know the Zingerman’s training isn’t totally responsible for the growth. However, I’d like to think it helped us formulate a positive culture for our Whiskers team.

Recently, we learned ZingTrain was coming to Grand Rapids for a half day of service training. We could not sign up fast enough. We had 13 team members there from all facets of my companies taking up two corporate tables. We all walked away pumped up and energized! Some of what we learned was a refresher for some of us – for others is was all new. Plus, it was refreshing to learn new service ideas the Zingerman team had formulated since we read the book. The concepts are all easy to implement, too.

I’d like to share a few of those with you.

Zingerman’s 3 Steps to Great Service

zingerman#1. Figure out what the customer wants.

  • Ask questions. Listen to what they really want. Give choices. Repeat questions back to the customer for clarity and understanding.
  • 10/4 Rule. When you get within 10 feet of either a customer or a coworker– make eye contact and smile. Once you get within 4 feet of a customer or coworker, verbally exchange a positive comment. (I’m not talking about those that you work with side-by-side all day long – however a room full of smiles and positive interaction is energizing).
  • Spend as much time as necessary to positively impact the customer. For repeat customers, it might be a quick exchange. For new customers, it’s going to take longer to help build a relationship, form a bond, and build trust.

#2. Get it – or do it – for them…

  • Let people know realistic deadlines, cost estimates, and realistic outcomes. Be specific. Under promise and over deliver.
  • Always say please and thank you. Avoid industry jargon.
  • You want the customer to leave feeling like the interaction with you was the best part of their day.

#3. Go the extra mile.

  • Do something the client didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to be costly. Even simple things can delight and pleasantly surprise your customers.

Within this framework, employees use their own best judgment about how to serve each individual customer.

If you’ve never heard of Zingerman’s or ZingTrain, I encourage you to look it up. If you want to dig in deep, grab the book and apply its principles. If you need a quick pick me up, participate in one of the mini sessions like we did today. Their systems approach is applicable to businesses of varying industries, organizational structure, and size. They are committed to helping others succeed.

You can learn more about their training programs at www.zingtrain.com. You can get the book at the best price by ordering directly from Zingerman’s www.zingtrain.com/building-a-great-business

My entire team left energized and ready to implement many ideas immediately. We were all impacted by the training we received. Hats off to the Zingerman team of Elnian Gilbert and Tabatha Mason and to the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring the program!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat did you think about these ideas? What do you do that works great for your team? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

Top Five Reasons I Don’t Allow Blue Jeans at Work

jeansI know I’m going to ruffle a few feathers with this blog. But… my blog – my opinions. It’s ok if you don’t agree with me, but this is how I feel.

Call me old-fashioned. Call me a stick in the mud. Call me conservative. All of them are true.

When it comes to presenting a professional image appealing to our service-based clientele, I want simplicity. I want neat. I want clean.

Why?

Professional pet groomers have an image problem. As a whole, we are not seen as “true” professionals. We are not respected. Professional pet grooming is not commonly viewed as a credible profession. My father wasn’t thrilled about my early career move back when I was twenty. (He’s OK with it now!) What about your dad?

Unfortunately, this image problem is often well deserved. We are our own worst enemies. If we want to be true professionals, we need to look and act the part. Not just in how we present ourselves, but how we present our businesses, as well. Are we personally presenting a neat, tidy, and clean appearance? What about our salons and mobile vans?

If we can’t groom ourselves, how do we ever expect our clientele to view us as educated professionals? How do we instantly gain their trust? How do we build a long-term relationship based on respect?

None of this will happen if we don’t take pride in ourselves and our workplace.

Not allowing my team to wear blue jeans at work is my first line of defense.

We have less than 30 seconds to make a first impression. When a new client walks in the door, the impact is almost instant. What do they see? What do they smell? And what do they hear?

I’m not here to argue some people can rock it in a pair of well-fitted blue jeans. The problem is – most of us can’t. When I’m working with a large team of people, it’s much easier to require a basic dress code.

Dress codes don’t have to be complicated. They go a long way to set the first stages of creating a positive first impression.

006b14ed7c8bcb88d198fb55ef140b6c_-dress-for-success-and-dress-for-success-clipart_1602-16035 Reasons Why A Dress Code is Good For Business

  1. A dress code creates uniformity. Keep it simple. Matching attire goes a long way to create a positive impact on clientele. Black, khaki, or even white slacks, capris or longer shorts look professional, especially when teamed up with coordinating business shirts or jackets. Some pet service businesses find matching medical scrubs a simple way to unify their team. If you’re dealing with dog hair all day, matching hair-repelling garments make it simple to look stylish. Clients instantly know who is a staff member.
  2. It’s controllable. With a well-written dress code, it’s easy to get a consistent look within your entire team. Plus, it’s easy to enforce it.
  3. It minimizes risk. Dealing with dogs all day presents risks. You need to be stable on your feet and be able to stand for hours. Sturdy footwear is a must. Hooped jewelry poses a health threat to the wearer when handling dogs.
  4. It builds trust. Having a clean, crisp, and simple – but polished – dress code in place instantly builds credibility with clients. Trust is at the heart of all successful service based business, bringing clients back on a regular basis.
  5. It simplifies life in general. Today, we all have hundreds of decisions to make. By establishing clear boundaries with a dress code, you simplify your team’s daily decision-making process. By giving them direction on what to wear to work, they clearly understand what type of impression the company puts out to its clients and potential customers.

Some employers struggle with employees who believe they have the right to dress and groom in a way that represents their personality. This is true – outside of the employer’s business. However, businesses have rights to establish a dress code that aligns with their company and their target market. While individuals have a right to express themselves, so too do businesses. The way your employees dress sends intended or unintended messages to your clientele.

Suitable attire, along with basic politeness, cleanliness, and knowledge are a few of the most common threads within professionalism. Torn, sloppy, or ill-fitting blue jeans, in my opinion, do not convey the type of professional image I want to present to the community.

It’s human nature to form instant options of others. Personal presentation affects the perception clients have of you, your business, and your team. It is important to maintain a dress code which creates a positive first impression.

Never forget, the point of a dress code and professional conduct, at all levels, is to make others comfortable, including your clients. Its implementation ensures the instant impression a business is credible, trustworthy, and reliable.

Happy trimming,

~Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white

 

P.S.  I know this is a controversial topic.  Let’s talk about it.  I want to hear what you think.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell me your thoughts.

Educational Events: Should You Send Your Team?

I recently received a question about taking staff members to educational events. As most of you know, I am a huge advocate of continuing professional development. Getting out to trade shows and other events is a great way to learn as well as re-energize your team.

 “I have a question about taking my employees to trade shows and seminars. I have never taken an employee to a conference before. My business has grown. I am seeing the need and benefit of having my employees go to classes instead of just me going and me coming back, sharing all I learned. (Which is hardly possible!)

I am wondering:

  • What is reasonable, as far as compensation for my employees?
  • Do I pay them their hourly rate for giving up their time and “working” all weekend?
  • Do I pay for all expenses…3 meals, hotel, classes, etc.

This is new territory for me and I need some experienced advice.”

-Debbie L., North Carolina

professional-developmentWhen you have a team that values education and training, the possibilities are endless!  Their excitement, dedication, and passion can propel their careers to uncharted heights and help your business thrive.  Encouraging that eagerness to try new techniques and test new tools and products has fulfilling personal payoffs that are also great for your salon.  If you have a team like this, investing is their education is also a solid investment in your company.

As a business owner, you must always balance risk with reward.  You are the person who must look objectively at your team and decide if they have the right attitude and drive for this financial investment.

I have always encouraged my staff to continue their education by attending trade shows and other events. The staff members who participated were dedicated to their craft and did not need a lot of guidance.  This is not always going to be the case.

About 18 years ago, I had my first major setback with a team.  We had had an exceptional year.  As a reward, I flew almost my entire team from Michigan to Intergroom for an all-expenses-paid learning experience.

About half the team did exactly what I had hoped. They presented themselves in both dress and manner as true professionals in every sense. They focused on learning and came home with lots of new knowledge and skills.

Unfortunately, the others fell far short of my expectations.  Their appearance was terrible and many of them spent way too much time in the bar or on the dance floor.  A few members of this group were even too hung over to make it to any of the classes.

By the end of the show I was more than frustrated – I was embarrassed.

These employees did not represent themselves or my business the way I had hoped.  They embarrassed their team mates.  They squandered an amazing learning opportunity – and I lost a significant financial investment in their training.

I realized changes needed to be made. I needed strong guidelines. I developed new policies and put them into place so this type of disappointment would never happen again.

Over the years, we have applied several different techniques with great success. Hopefully, a few of the ideas below with help you avoid frustrations and wasted expense.

Continuing Education Benefits

Today, we have an Education Assistance Program in place. It’s a benefit to all full-time employees. Each year we set a budget and these funds can be requested for a wide range of learning formats.

Everyone’s situation is a little different. Some employers find a set amount to work well for their entire team. Others find a sliding scale works best. Lower level team members get one amount. Key staff members and/or managers get a higher amount.  Figure out what works best for your team – and your budget. Typical amounts would range anywhere from $100 to $1000 or maybe even more, depending on your situation.

professional-development-2Formal Education Assistance

Occasionally, a staff member goes back to college. If the class or program will enhance their job performance, they may qualify to have all or part of the tuition costs covered by us. All courses must be pre-approved prior to reimbursement. Upon successfully completion, the team member submits their transcript or certificate along with their receipts for expenses. We will compensate them for the pre-approved portion of classes.

In-House Educational Training

At times, we arrange in-house training. These programs aid the overall knowledge of our pet service teams. At times, the training programs are offered to our employees for free or at a heavily discounted rate. Other times, the benefit is simply the convenience factor. They have access to leading educators right in their back yard. Attendance is highly encouraged at these events. If it is a mandatory event, the staff member will be paid to attend.

Seminars, Clinics, Trade Shows, and Grooming Competitions

teri-2Smaller seminars and clinics offer wonderful ways to learn. Typically, this type of educational event is much more intimate. It’s easy to get up close to see what the demonstrator is doing. Plus, it’s easy to ask questions throughout the entire program.

Larger trade shows are fabulous learning opportunities. At larger events, attending classes isn’t the only way to learn. Opportunities abound out on the trade room floor. There is a variety of products, services, tools, and equipment to learn about. Many of the larger vendors have platform demonstrations going on right at their booths. Sitting ringside watching the top stylist groom in the competition ring will yield plenty of educational opportunities too. Some of the best learning takes place in a more social setting while networking with fellow pet professionals.

To qualify for reimbursement, employees must seek approval before attending. The staff member needs to submit an outline of the program(s) they plan on attending and what they hope to learn from each.

Sitting down with them shortly after their return is a great way to let them share what they’ve learned. Show support and encouragement. You want to learn firsthand what they heard and saw. Ask them how they plan on applying the information. I personally give them brownie points for coming back with photos on their phones of their favorite speakers and personalities at the event.

Don’t forget, upon return of the educational event, they need to submit a written report outlining key takeaways from what they have learned at the program. If they have been pre-approved for travel expenses, they must submit a full expense report including receipts.

Keep in mind, whenever a staff member is at a work-related function, they must uphold your professional standards of conduct. If they fall short, they may not be reimbursed for the cost of the event. Having them sign an agreement outlining your expectations of professional conduct would a great idea.

Here are a few qualifying rules for our Education Assistance Program Benefit.

The Cost

There is more to it than just the upfront cost of the learning event. There are lots of hidden costs, too. Typically, there will be fees associated with:

  • travel
  • lodging
  • meals
  • wages (if the training is required)
  • lost revenue if the event takes place during a typical work day

Sometimes, it’s more cost-effective to seek out smaller events – especially when first getting a team excited about continued education. Personally, I like to test my team on smaller events closer to home. They are easier for my team to get to and less costly. FYI, some of the best educational events for my team are those I’ve hosted. (That’s another blog altogether!)

Staff members must:

  1. Advise the company prior to enrolling for any continuing educational event. Upon review of the training opportunity, the management team will decide if the course or programs qualify for the Education Assistance Program.
  2. The program must be job-oriented and offered by an approved institution, person, company, or organization.
  3. The staff member must be employed with the company for at least six (6) months (full-time).

Alternative Educational Opportunities

We offer additional funds towards approved learning opportunities. These opportunities include, but are not limited to; on-line training programs, membership based platforms, educational videos, and literature.

We encourage all staff members to stay current, informed, and self-educated as it relates to their job. Ultimately, it is their responsibility to manage and grow their career.

If a team member is seeking reimbursement for the cost of a learning opportunity, they must seek prior approval.

Depending upon the situation, either written or verbal reports will need to be submitted to the management team prior to reimbursement for the cost of the educational opportunity.

Certified Master Groomer Status

All our grooming staff members are eligible for voluntary certification testing through one of the approved programs: NDGAA, IPG, or ISCC. This is above and beyond their educational assistance program benefit. Upon successful completion of each phase, we will pay the cost associated with each level of the testing.  Membership dues are the responsibility of each employee.

What do I do if a team member shows their commitment to learning? I start looking at more involved programs for them. I’ve had a few staff members so committed to growing their careers, they blow through their allotment in one weekend. If they want to attend events beyond what I will pay for, we will always try to rearrange their work schedule to make it possible.

Continued education is at the heart of all successful grooming businesses. I love helping people grow their skills. If I have a team members committed to growing their careers, I will do what I can to point them in the right direction. Knowledge builds confidence, bolsters technical skills, and increases productivity. Win. Win. Win.

If you are building a team committed to quality and success, you have decisions to make. What is the best way to grow your team? It will be up to you to weigh out those costs and to determine how they will benefit your business.

Happy trimming!
~Melissa
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8 Ways to Turn Setbacks into Success

I love setting goals. For me, goal setting leads to exciting challenges, personal development, and rewarding achievements. That is the fun part. Unfortunately, there is another side of the goal setting coin:

Setbacks.

What is a setback?

A setback is typically an event that hinders your forward progress. Maybe you had a staff member quit without notice. You lost a large account. A pet was injured in your care. Some type of government regulation has forced you to proceed differently. I have personally experienced every one of these setbacks – and then some!

Everyone responds to setbacks differently. If you are the leader, it’s easy to lead a team of people when everything is going well. A true test of leadership will be challenged when things are not going as well. Of course, setbacks pop up at the least opportune times. It’s the nature of the beast. If you are a business owner, this will happen on a regular basis to you and your team.

Over the years I have had my fair share of setbacks and adversity. Sometimes they were small. Sometimes they were massive. Sometimes even I did not believe we could overcome them.

As I work through each setback, I go through a series of emotions. It always starts out with disbelief. Anger. Despair. As I come to terms with the setback, the next stage of emotional triggers take place. Acceptance. Hope. Planning. And finally, a new positive path to follow.

I will not lie to you – it is not easy to deal with setbacks. They are emotionally draining, frustrating, and taxing. It is not uncommon to feel fear, experience doubt, or to feel hopeless. Here’s the good news: there are specific skills, mindsets, and actions that can help you turn a setback into success.

Facing setbacks can be a leadership building experience. Each time we have to deal with difficulties, we gain new knowledge and new skills to deal with a situation on a personal and professional level. Being tested in this manner is how inexperienced leaders become great leaders. It’s always an opportunity to realize leadership potential in yourself or your team.

Here are the steps that I follow whenever I am faced with a setback. I wish I could say I have only had to use these 8 tactics a few times. However, as a longtime business owner, I have gotten pretty experienced in using these skills to get through many challenging situations.

As business owners or team leaders, we have special responsibilities especially during difficult times. People will look to us to see how they should react to the situation. To find out what they should do. They’ll expect us to have some ideas and guide them through what might be a very frightening period.

If you have the ability to approach setbacks as opportunities for growth, you can stabilize your organization as well as moving forward. Even if you make mistakes, the experience can lead to a greater understanding of your situation and your work. It can advance your team or business to a new level. Remember, setbacks are a fabulous learning tool when handled effectively. It is important as you work through the solutions to always keep the big picture in mind and never give up.

Setbacks are generally a one-time occurrence. They may be serious, but they are not ongoing. When dealing with setbacks, keep an open mind. Know what your options are and act swiftly. If you stay focused, stay calm, and deliver your message with clarity, you can turn almost any setback – no matter how difficult – into a success.

We know setbacks happen to everyone. Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what happened and how you conquered YOUR setback!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

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