CHICAGO — Dry cleaners who go above and beyond their customers’ expectations set themselves apart from the competition — even better, they become a trusted service provider, rather than an easily replaced commodity.
In Part 1 of this series on pleasantly surprising your customers, we examined the mindset of cleaners who provide great customer service. Today, we’ll continue by looking at one of the most important steps a cleaner can take to keep their customers happy.
Training Never Stops
Monika Manter, co-owner of Balfurd Dry Cleaners in State College, Pennsylvania, says her team gives new hires a few weeks of training by a lead CSR, which includes frequently asked questions they receive from customers. Ongoing training, however, is also a facet of this educational process.
“We have an online portal where we keep training material,” she says. “It’s searchable, and they can look up various topics, and it’s helpful for uncommon situations they might experience. We’re trying to move away from paper — our CSRs are getting younger, and paper manuals are kind of antiquated.”
David Meyer, owner of Elite Cleaners in Phoenix, Arizona, trains his people that service doesn’t stop at the front counter after the transaction is complete.
“A lot of dry cleaners put the clothes on the rack, the customer pays, and then they walk away and go back to what they’re doing. My staff is required to stay with the customer for the entire time they are in the store and, if at all possible, carry the clothes out for them.”
Part of this practice is to ensure the customer has a great experience. Another element is to look for signs that it might not have been.
“They are trained to watch the customer’s eyes and look for body language,” Meyer says. “If they see something that might not be to the customer’s satisfaction, they are trained to ask, ‘Is everything okay?’ Then they open a dialog. If there’s a problem, the words we use are, ‘What can I do to make it right?’”
Michael Harris, owner of Oceanside Cleaners in Jacksonville, Florida makes sure that his entire staff — not just the customer-facing team members — is on the same page when it comes to customer service.
“We have formed a steering committee, led by Flair Consulting Group,” he says. “I believe this is the most important part of our business. It addresses educating all of our employees. This committee analyzes all areas of interaction and stresses the fact that all departments have customers — the front staff are the plant’s customers. The steering committee is the most important thing we do. It’s also the hardest thing we do, but it’s incredibly worth it.”
Meeting — and Exceeding — Expectations
While successful dry cleaners make sure all their customers receive excellent service, different customers may measure this with different expectations. The service older customers desire might not be what younger customers want.
“We meet our customers in the channel for which they want our service and/or communications,” says Rita Foley, owner of Regency Dry Cleaners and White Star Laundry in Durham, North Carolina. “Some are avid users of our app, some are long-time customers who know the staff by their first name, and some desire that everything be brought to them. There’s something for everyone, which allows us to be nimble and accommodate all demographics and experience expectations.”
By giving personalized attention in the way they want it, Foley and her team gain something all dry cleaners desire: positive word-of-mouth.
“Word-of-mouth is extremely important to us — it can make or break obtaining new customers and the loyalty of current customers,” she says.
While word-of-mouth isn’t the only marketing Foley’s companies rely on, it’s a powerful building block.
“Our marketing campaigns run across different channels, from social media posts to magazine ads,” she says. “If someone sees a mention of our company for the first time and asks someone about their experiences with us, we want that word-of-mouth to be positive and influential every time. Our ongoing commitment to the customer ensures we’re performing in hopes that word-of-mouth always promotes our brand.”
David Crouse, owner of Crouse’s Cleaners in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, agrees with Foley’s focus: “Word-of-mouth in the drycleaning industry is one of the most important things. Our job is to build trust with the customer so that they feel confident in the time and money they’ve invested in us. The more confidence they have in our ability to clean, the more they’ll bring to us.”
Come back Tuesday for Part 3 of this series, when we’ll explore ways to gather feedback from your customers — and what to do if that feedback is negative. For Part 1, click HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].