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Keep Your Customers Coming Back (Part 1)

CHICAGO — Dry cleaning is a unique industry. Customers come with their possessions — possessions they value — and trust their chosen professional to take care of them. But how can cleaners first earn, and then build on, that trust?

It starts — and can end if handled poorly — with customer service. Dry cleaners who ignore this essential component will find several “one-time” customers but few who return.

This was the message Trudy Adams, principal of Blue Egg Consulting, gave during her session of the Fall Fest Expo, a virtual event held in November and co-sponsored by the Northeast Fabricare Association (NEFA), the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA), and the Pennsylvania and Delaware Cleaners Association (PDCA).

“Businesses exist to provide something to the consumer,” Adams says. “And if you’re not doing it well, then why are you doing it? Why should a customer choose one business over another?”

While dry cleaners focus on doing an excellent job for their clients by cleaning their clothes and other materials to the best of their ability, many forget the impact that the personal side of customer service can have on their business. There are, however, simple ways to train employees who deal with the public so that each encounter becomes a win-win situation for both the cleaner and the consumer.

Follow the Script

“I get so much resistance for scripts,” Adams says. “I always hear, ‘They're so impersonal,’ ‘You make me sound like a robot.’ Or ‘I don't want to say that.’ Following a script isn’t about being a robot, and it’s not about being impersonal. It’s about creating consistency, uniformity and confidence.”

Confidence, Adams says, is the primary goal of creating and training from a script. “When you have somebody who’s not sure what they're supposed to say, or what is expected of them, they're going to feel nervous,” she says. “Following a script just creates that consistency.”

Adams pointed out several companies — including Chic-Fil-A, Publix and Southwest Airlines — that provide scripts for their employees to give their customers a consistent experience and make sure that the customer feels like their business is valued. From Chic-Fil-A’s “My pleasure” to Southwest’s “Thank you for choosing us,” simple courtesy and respect goes a long way to creating a customer experience that will ensure repeat business.

For a first-time customer, for instance, Adams recommends a simple but effective script for counter managers. “Right off the top of their head, they should be saying, ‘Thank you for choosing us. You made the right choice. We’re going to take great care of you,” she says. “Three simple sentences.”

Adams says good scripts to create are:

  • Entrance and exit greetings
  • Answers to common questions
  • Details for services you provide
  • Checklists for services not used frequently
  • Solutions to overcome common objections

Playing the Part

Once these scripts are in place, another simple but highly effective training technique is to role play with employees who deal with the public. Memorizing the scripts is one matter; using them when speaking with another person internalizes them and completes the mental circuit.  

Adams suggests role playing situations that come up frequently when dealing with customers — and can cause conflict if not handled correctly. These situations include:

  • Lost items
  • Damaged items
  • Stains
  • Missing/cracked buttons
  • Pressing issues

The more an employee practices, the less likely they are to freeze when dealing with a customer. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes where the employee just turns into a deer in the headlights,” Adams says. “Consistent, repetitive training and constant feedback are how they get confidence. Confidence creates competence in their job.

Come back Thursday for the conclusion, where we’ll examine two other methods of improving customer service to keep customers coming back!

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