By Stephen Bean | Jan 04, 2012
The coin laundry business is a volume-driven business. In other words, the more customers the better – and your machines don’t get tired, don’t take vacations, don’t complain and never refuse to wash and dry a load of clothes. Occasionally, they might get “sick,” but your friendly repairman can make them better and usually in one short visit and with no recuperation time required.
So, essentially, it’s a lot about marketing to attract and maintain customers to regularly frequent your laundry. If you’re a decent marketer, it’s likely that you will attract your fair share of customers, and once you do, the idea is to keep them and have them also spread the word that your laundry is the best one on the planet.
However, I have noticed that continual good (no, make that exemplary) customer service is, shall we say, rare. A lot of laundry (and other business) owners tend to get complacent and take their customers for granted. After all, they live nearby and have to go to your laundry, right?
Wrong! They have cars and opinions, and they can patronize any laundry they choose, if you have chased them away by providing poor or inferior customer service.
If your marketing and advertising programs are effective, why would you not provide continual topnotch customer service once you have attracted the customer in the first place? I have noticed that many laundry owners fall into the trap of doing just that because they mistakenly think that customers won’t leave for another laundry if they live nearby.
This is a bad scenario. You spend hard-earned money advertising and marketing your business, and you increase your customer base – then, because of poor (or completely absent) customer service, you lose these individuals because you’ve only done half of your job.
Many industries provide poor customer service due to a sense of entitlement toward the customer. They mistakenly believe that no matter how badly they treat or ignore their customers that they people will continue to buy from them.
Let me give you some of my personal all-time favorite examples. I’ll start with the obvious, which is, of course, the airlines. As I have mentioned in a previous column, I actually had a major airline hang up on me while I was attempting to make a reservation. The last thing I heard was: “Due to heavy call volume, we can’t take your call, so please call us back later.” Then, click, the connection was discontinued. Amazing huh?
How about your cable provider? If my cable TV stops working because some moisture actually fell from the sky and I have to call them, I dread the moment. Once I get past the more-than-irritating “our menu options have changed,” then I can be put on a waiting list, “due to heavy call volume.”
I had that happen once too often for me, so I dropped my cable provider and signed up with its competitor. Suddenly, my original provider’s call volume wasn’t so heavy; in fact, the original provider called me to save the account by offering a better price and increased customer service. (Yes, they actually have a “save department.”) Of course, I informed them that, speaking of saving, I could have saved them the phone call… see ya!
Here’s the usual order of events. First, you develop your marketing program and your advertising strategy at a cost hopefully within the bounds of economic sanity. Let’s then presume it all works fine and you attract a bunch of customers. Now that you have the customers the art form is to retain them by continuously delighting them and keeping them happy.
In a perfect world, we would all do just that. However, in reality, a lot of us do just the opposite. Therefore, I thought I would bring to your attention my top 10 ways that are guaranteed to irritate and turn off your customers – just in case you happen to be doing any of these and are not consciously aware of it. Here they are:
1. When the phone rings at your laundry, be sure that whoever answers it acts as if he or she is totally bothered by the intrusive call. That’ll work great to set the negative tone for the caller who may be an existing customer – or perhaps a prospective one.
2. Promise your customers a high level of service but don’t actually provide it on any predictable basis. That’s ideal for irritating your drop-off service customers.
3. When a customer wants to talk with you or your attendants be sure to act disinterested. After all, who wants to hear what’s going on in a customer’s life anyway? That’ll definitely turn them off.
4. Handle all complaints in an “oh yeah, like I care” manner. Customers will just love that. Why on earth should they have complaints in the first place? After all, you’ve provided them with the opportunity to give you money to use your machines.
5. Only pay attention to customers when there is an immediate profit in it for you. After all, there’s no point to asking how they feel or inquiring about their kids or parents.
6. Make sure you allow your staff to regard the customer as a potential complaining irritant and never go out of your way for them. After all, there’s no reason to offer to help a senior carry that heavy laundry bag into your store. The exercise is good for them.
7. Never throw in anything extra. Make your customers pay for every last thing that occurs in your store. Just because you’ve had a particularly loyal customer for years doesn’t mean you should actually buy them a soft drink from your vending machine once in a while. Hey, only social workers give things away.
8. Make sure that kids are treated like the “little monsters they are.” All they do is disrupt the order in your laundry anyway – making noise and creating a mess. The parents will certainly admire you for that. And, for sure, never offer the kids any toys to play with.
9. Be sure that the soap chutes on your washers are always caked with hardened dirty soap residue and the floor is always a mess. Who said the place has to be clean?
10. If you offer a coupon and a customer arrives a day after it formally expires, let them know who’s boss by refusing to honor it. That will pretty much guarantee that you are willing to trip over pennies on your way to dollars.
These 10 blockbuster “methods” are just a sampling. Unfortunately, there are so many more. To avoid them, the key factor is to always look at your laundry business mainly through the eyes of the customer – not your own. The words “I” and “we” are far less important than the word “they.”
However, it’s amazing how often many laundry owners confuse these pronouns when it comes to their businesses.
Keeping your customers happy – and loyal to you – boils down to doing the right thing… even when nobody’s looking. Typical laundry customers are not likely to do you a favor and express their displeasure to you about the poor customer service at your store. When sufficiently disappointed, most of them simply prefer to keep it to themselves and just not return.
So, keep your eyes and ears open for signs of trouble. Or, as Paul Simon famously sang, “Listen to the sound of silence.”