CHICAGO — When dry cleaning is simply transactional (“Here are your clothes.” “Here is your money.”), the dry cleaner becomes a commodity — one that’s easily replaced for any number of reasons.
Dry cleaners who have mastered the art of continuously providing outstanding customer service are the ones who can better weather storms because their customer base is loyal to them. When a dry cleaner becomes “their dry cleaner” in your customers’ minds, they don’t consider going anywhere else.
So, what steps can dry cleaners take to boost the service they provide their customers to the next level?
Holding the Correct Mindset
One of the elements that sets an excellent drycleaning experience apart from just an acceptable one is recognizing that there is always room for improvement, and the keys to this progress often come from the customers themselves.
“We ensure we have an ongoing way to listen to our customers,” says Rita Foley, owner of Regency Dry Cleaners and White Star Laundry in Durham, North Carolina. “We not only listen but learn from their feedback so that we can act on the ways we can implement improvements. These actions can be anything from training opportunities for employees to new ways to communicate or new services we bring to our market.”
“The biggest fundamental shift I’ve made in recent years is to make an effort to understand the business from the customer’s perspective, including how every decision throughout the business affects their experience,” says David Crouse, owner of Crouse’s Cleaners in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada.
“One of the biggest changes in the last decade, specifically, is how Google and other online reviews have changed things. You have to treat every customer interaction as if it could be a review, and I’ve taken that seriously. I’m always open to new information and approaches to be able to help service the customer better.”
“Our mindset has evolved tremendously over the years,” says Michael Harris, owner of Oceanside Cleaners in Jacksonville, Florida. “We’re in the people business and not the drycleaning business. Our mindset is to make price irrelevant.”
Providing Your Team with the Tools They Need
Harris has found particular success in satisfying customers, with Oceanside Cleaners in 2020 becoming the first dry cleaner in North America to win the CINET 2020 Global Best Business Practices Award for Retail Dry Cleaners.
One of the foundational blocks for this achievement, Harris says, is having a well-trained staff.
“Due to the extensive nature of our program, we have a full-time trainer on staff,” he says. “It takes four weeks to understand the production systems, detailing, and our point-of-sale system. The next two weeks focus on understanding why we do things the way we do. They shadow our office staff, and our dry-clean, laundry and household departments. They ride on a route and then shadow a fellow customer care representative. It’s six to eight weeks before they touch a customer.”
Kyle Matthews, director of operations for Janet Davis Cleaners in Detroit, agrees with Harris on the need to have a fully trained staff to serve customers.
“I think what a lot of places do when they’re down a CSR is have a person they’re still training answer the phone and help the customers who come in,” Matthews says. “It’s easy to do because they’re just taking and handing out clothes, right? What’s the harm? What we’ve learned is that’s where the biggest source of misinformation and mistakes comes from — and that’s where you can upset customers the most, by screwing that up. So, our CSRs learn all the different tasks they need to do, and then, once they know a few things about a few things, they’re helping customers.”
Monika Manter, co-owner of Balfurd Dry Cleaners in State College, Pennsylvania, believes that providing that extra level of customer service begins even before training commences.
“I think that it actually starts with hiring,” she says. “Our whole goal is to hire coachable people. It’s one of our core values. We look for people with that growth mindset who are open to becoming better. We emphasize friendliness, crystal-clear communication, transparent pricing, and other values, but they have to be coachable.”
Come back Thursday for Part 2 of this series, when we’ll examine the role that training plays in providing an unforgettable experience for your customers.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].