A Minnesota business emphasizes friendliness, low stress and satisfaction ... in both customers and employees.
STORY BY PAMELA MITCHELL
It all began with Roxy. The Bernese mountain dog has a dense double coat that needs regular brushing and bathing. To keep the mess made during its upkeep out of their home, pet parents Keith and Patrycia Miller considered adding a self-wash station to their daycare and boarding facility, Pampered Pooch Playground in St. Louis Park, MN.
LOUIS PARK, MN
Ultimately, the couple decided there wasn’t square footage to spare, so instead opened Bubbly Paws nearby in 2012. Four locations now exist in the Twin Cities.
“She’s the reason we got into the pet world,” Keith says of their beloved Roxy. “Now we build dog washes for her.”
The original St. Louis Park store serves as the template. It sets high standards for care of pups and their people, meeting and exceeding them by following three simple rules.
Bubbly Paws offers full-service bathing and grooming, but also lets customers wield the water nozzles. Having amateurs in the mix influenced the ergonomics of and equipment at DIY stations.
“Our goal was to make everything as easy as possible,” Keith says, pointing to waist-high tubs with steps and adding, “Our dryers don’t have 15 settings, just an on-off switch.”
Pet parents check in and out with team members wielding tablets, which he credits with improving the customer experience.
“Counters are a barrier. This helps show that we’re all in this together.”
Being employee-friendly was kept in mind during the design of Bubbly Paws, too. Stained concrete floors and tile backsplashes make cleanup a breeze, and fit in nicely with the white walls plus green and purple accents.
Keep Stress Levels Low
Because dogs don’t typically enjoy baths, Bubbly Paws strives to reduce stress however it can, which results in a more pleasant experience for everyone involved.
DIYers have access to aprons, shampoo/conditioner, ear cleaner, toothbrushes, towels, hairbrushes, professional dryers and cologne for $13 to $27, depending on pet weight. They can turn to team members at any time for advice.
“We give you what you need. We educate you. Add to that the fact that you’re not trying to keep your wet dog in the tub for fear of them getting the house soaked. That all makes giving and getting a bath less stressful,” Keith says.
He also recognizes the value of keeping stress levels of their professional groomers low.
“We value quality over quantity,” Keith says, compared to the practice of a single groomer at a big-box store having a dozen-plus appointments a day, with a kennel room filled with waiting — and often, barking — dogs. “By not overbooking, it leads to less stress for them and for the dogs.”
Bubbly Paws offers an online reservation system, as well, which he says staff and customers alike prefer to picking up the phone. Groomers can see their schedules via a web portal and add availability if they like. Pet parents can book on the website and respond to any follow-up questions via email or text.
“I feel like you have to embrace technology. If you’re still using pencil or whiting stuff out, you’re asking for a mistake.”
Bubbly Paws practices social sustainability in the community, sponsoring events year-round that raise funds for pets in need as well as brand awareness.
It recently partnered with its sister business and Westgate Pet Clinic in “Presents for Pooches,” which collected money, food and treats for Good Karma Animal Rescue. Those who donated received gift cards to the store.
Earlier in 2017, the animal rescue brought in adoptable dogs displaced by Harvey.
“We bathed them all,” Keith says. “Employees volunteered their time, and we bought them dinner as a thank you. They were so happy to do it.”
The couple actively looks for ways to give back with — and to — their team. They see it as a way to practice staff sustainability.
“At our meetings, we ask employees to tell us what they’re passionate about. We will donate a gift card to their cause. It’s an easy way to make them happy.”
Speaking of happiness, the Bubbly Paws team gets a survey about exactly that twice a year. They can include their name or answer it anonymously.
“We ask them, ‘How happy are you at work? What do you think of the company? Is there anything we can do to make you happier?’”
Nines and 10s are the norm, with the owners taking any negative feedback seriously. Among the changes inspired by survey answers are adding recycling to the store and tweaking the on-call system to provide better coverage on busy days.
Feedback flows from Keith and Patrycia to employees as well, both one-on-one and with the monthly Extra Bubbly Award that recognizes outstanding customer service. They take staff nominations, manager input and customer comments into consideration.
“When we announce the winner, we share why the person won,” Keith explains, adding that in addition to the detailed and public pat on the back, the winner gets a gift card.
All three Bubbly Paw rules revolve around providing outstanding customer service.
“Customer service is more than just saying ‘Have a great day and thanks for coming,’“ Keith says. “We train our staff members on how to go above and beyond with our customers, both the two-legged and four-legged ones.
“Little things mean a lot, and the word gets out. The lady whose dog we took to the car because the sidewalks are icy, I’m sure she tells her friends.”
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