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Addressing Customer Claims (Conclusion)

Online word of mouth can make or break your business, so make it good

CHICAGO — With a process as complex as dry cleaning, there are going to be mistakes and disappointments along the way. How these faded dyes, broken buttons, set-in stains and other mishaps are handled will set the tone for how the customer’s perception of their dry cleaner’s business.

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we’ve examined how dry cleaners can help manage customers’ expectations, how the front-counter staff can be a cleaners best defense, and how open lines of communication can defuse many disagreements. Today, we’ll finish by taking on the topic that many cleaners fear but should, instead, embrace — online reviews.

Maintaining Your Online Reputation

A customer’s voice has been amplified by social media and review sites to the point where dry cleaners can no longer ignore bad word-of-mouth. When researching companies, the vast majority of consumers start their search online, and negative reviews are a quick way for them to weed out choices and narrow their selection.

When dry cleaners find a negative review of their store, action must quickly be taken, says Peter Blake, executive director of the North East Fabricare Association (NEFA), the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA) and the Mid-Atlantic Association of Cleaners (MAC).

“Respond to it as soon as possible,” he says. “Give them your contact information so you can talk about the situation. At the end, if you successfully made that person happy, ask them to take the review down. Most of the time, they’ll actually change it to a positive review.” Even if the reviewer doesn’t reach out, those reading the reviews will see that the cleaner took action and tried to make it right. “The worst thing you can do is just let it sit there and let it fester.”

Blake also believes in responding to good reviews: “Say, ‘Thank you. We appreciate the opportunity to take care of you.’ That shows that you’re reading the reviews and that you’re active. If you see a three- or four-star review, you can also ask how you can improve their experience. It shows you’re always trying and striving for perfection.”

Paying attention to your online reputation can also head off potential abuse.

“We had a grad student at Ohio State University leave 330 1-star reviews across all our platforms within a week,” says Brian Butler, president of Columbus, Ohio-based Dublin Cleaners. “We looked into the situation, and he had made a $325 claim. I called him and asked him what he was after, because those reviews weren’t true and they were hurting our business. I also told him that this was the one opportunity he had to work it out with me, because things were going to get litigious very quickly. When he said he wanted the $325, I asked him where he was and that I would bring it to him, but not until every last one of those reviews was taken down.” The student did remove the reviews, and the issue was resolved.

That kind of situation is extremely rare, Butler says, but dry cleaners must pay attention to their online reputation: “You do what you’ve got to do. It all boils down to communication. Don’t try to win every battle; it might cause you to lose the war.”

The Value of Complaints

While no dry cleaner looks forward to having uncomfortable conversations with their clients, the alternative is worse when a mistake is made: The customer quietly goes away, leaving no clue that he or she was unhappy, and never comes back. When claims are handled quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction, that customer could become more loyal to your store — and tell their friends and family.

“Look at a complaint as a big bouquet of roses,” says Trudy Adams, principal of Blue Egg Consulting. “If a customer keeps telling you, ‘You know, every single time I come in here, my buttons are broken,’ or this or that, listen to them and start investigating.”

“Each complaint is an opportunity,” Blake says. “It’s an opportunity to forge a better relationship, to further your reputation and to make a satisfied customer.”

For Part 1 of this series, click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE.