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October 13, 2015

For the past five years, pet services, which include grooming and dog training, have been the fastest growing segment of the pet retail industry. As such, independent pet retailers can sometimes find themselves facing a conundrum. Even though they hold distinct advantages over big-box pet stores with their ability to offer more personalized pet services, many don’t.

Many independent stores don’t offer grooming because of space constraints and overhead costs of purchasing the requisite equipment to open a grooming salon in their store.

Dog training is another matter entirely. Some stores don’t offer obedience classes because of space issues. However, there are ways around that challenge. Others might balk at the perceived overhead costs involved in setting up classes, yet the actual costs are minimal.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges retailers face is figuring out who to hire (or who to not hire) to teach in-store dog training classes. This is particularly important since your customer’s class experiences will influence their opinions—good or bad—of your business. Negative service experiences could not only hurt your reputation, it could cost you new and existing customers.

According to the Accenture 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey, 27 percent of customers of consumer goods retailers switched to a different retailer due to poor customer service.

“Price is not the main reason for customer turnover, it is actually due to the overall poor quality of customer service including secondary services referred by a primary business,” said a global customer satisfaction report from Accenture.

A separate report from the Bain Company confirmed this: “A customer is four times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price- or product-related.”

We have all heard that bad news travels faster than good—and it is true. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs in its 2011 and 2014 consumer trends analysis stated that, “A dissatisfied customer will tell between nine to 15 people about their experience. Around 13 percent of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.”

Conversely, “Happy customers tell about four to six people about their experience.”

That’s nine to 20 folks sharing negative experiences, compared to four to six sharing positive ones.

Based on these numbers, some retailers will not go down the service-offering path, concluding that it is safer to simply not refer—and certainly not offer—training classes even if they have the room.

While this might seem logical, it’s worth pointing out that “customers are 53 percent more inclined to shop at a retail store if this store has services available that can enrich their shopping experience,” according to Marketing Metrics. In addition, “47 percent of shoppers will frequent a store that offers services that can make their lives easier or impact them in a positive way.”

That last set of numbers is salient. Offering or referring quality services can and does allow a business to not only retain customers, but also attract new ones.

Regarding customer retention, I read an interesting book by Emmet Murphy and Mark Murphy called, “Leading on the Edge of Chaos.” The authors state that a “2 percent increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10 percent.”

While they are not specifically tracking the pet industry, it is clear that customer retention, especially in a repeat business like pet retail, is essential.

Offering dog training services, or at the very least referring interested customers to a dog trainer, can improve customer retention and make your store more competitive. Moreover, provided you pick the right trainer to work with or refer to, you can boost your store’s reputation with high-quality services.

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