DALLAS — Every dry cleaner has their own story about why they got into the business. Some did it because their family was in the business. Others because they liked the idea of cleaning clothes. Some, like me, because they were fed up with their local cleaners.

Regardless of what our story is, we all are in this business because at some point we wanted to provide a better experience for drycleaning and laundry customers.

The trouble is that while most of us start out with great intentions, the reality of running a dry cleaner day in and day out sometimes pulls us away from our customers. When you have to make payroll, fix the boiler, or replace an employee that just quit, it’s difficult to stay focused on the most important lever that you can pull to grow your business: The customer experience.

How do we stay focused on and create a great customer experience?

For me, it starts and ends with the customer journey. By customer journey, I mean the set of steps the customer goes through from the moment they have the thought: “I need to do my dry cleaning or laundry,” to the moment they receive their clothes.

By staying laser-focused on the customer journey, and regularly reenacting that journey, we can ensure that our customers are having the same experience we would expect for ourselves.

I recently stayed at a hotel and experienced a failure in customer experience that illustrates the importance of the customer journey. I checked in to the hotel and went to my hotel room. The accommodations looked perfectly nice, the room was clean, bed was made, and lights were working.

However, when I went to take a shower there was no rack for the shampoo or soap. So, I was forced to put my shampoo and soap on the floor, which because the floor of the shower was sloped, slid all over the place and fell over. It wasn’t a big deal, just a minor annoyance. I stayed at the hotel for a few days and each morning I grappled with this little annoyance, and by the end of my stay I found myself looking forward to being home where I actually had a place to set the soap.

You may be saying to yourself, “Dan, who cares. It’s a little oversight.” But to me it is the perfect example of the management of that hotel losing sight of the customer journey.

If any manager had just once used the hotel as though they were a customer and gone on that customer journey, they immediately would have noticed the lack of a soap tray. My guess is that nobody at that hotel has actually used the hotel.

Taking the customer journey in our industry is even more important because customers have such a powerful connection to their clothes.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.