CHICAGO — When customers don’t receive great service at a company, they are far more likely to shop around looking other factors — including price, location or simply a better experience. Dry cleaners who regularly exceed their customers’ expectations become irreplaceable.
In Part 1 of this series on pleasantly surprising your customers, we examined the mindset of cleaners who provide great customer service. In Part 2, we looked at the role of training staff in cleaners’ quests to keep their customers happy. Today, we’ll explore ways to gauge the experience through their customers’ eyes, and what to do when that experience falls short.
Ensuring that customers are getting excellent service is hard to determine in a vacuum. Gaining clients’ honest feedback is invaluable to building successful customer experiences.
“We use a service called ‘Review My Drycleaner’ by (industry marketing company) BeCreative360,” says Monika Manter, co-owner of Balfurd Dry Cleaners in State College, Pennsylvania. “The software package is tied to the store’s POS, so that right after a customer has picked up their goods, they are sent an email and text message asking them about their experience. If I had to cut everything out of my marketing budget, I would not cut that. It’s been a game-changer.”
Whether it’s good or bad feedback, Manter’s team is quick to put it into action.
“It’s nice to read the happy stuff and share it with the team, but when someone’s unhappy, it’s a quick, easy outlet to let us know,” she says. “We’ve been able to manage client complaints before they get on Yelp! and Google. The majority of the time, it’s a matter of miscommunication, and you’re able to get in there immediately and fix whatever they are unhappy about, they end up coming back.”
David Meyer, owner of Elite Cleaners in Phoenix, Arizona, pays close attention to the online chatter about his business: “Social media made us better. A lot of people are afraid of it — they don’t like the reviews. They get angry. I love social media because it gives me a temperature of what my business is doing. My customers are my livelihood, and it helps me understand whether I am actually meeting their needs.”
Meyer says Elite Cleaners has embraced social media because, like it or not, it’s a factor in modern business, and those who harness it will find more success.
“I’m not afraid of social media,” he says. “Every single customer coming into the store has a phone, and if we don’t solve an issue before they get to their car, we have a chance of getting a bad review. So, what it did for us was really hone our customer service skills to make sure that the customer was getting the value they expected.”
Making It Right
No matter how much training a staff has or how careful the production workers are, mistakes will be made, and customers will become upset from time to time. Michael Harris, owner of Oceanside Cleaners in Jacksonville, Florida, believes that the key to making sure I limited this damage is to act quickly and give the front staff the autonomy to make decisions.
“We use the philosophy of ‘Fail Forward Fast’,” he says. “We’re always going to take care of the customer — whatever you have to do. Our counter staff has full autonomy to take care of a customer.”
Even if the solution the staff comes to might be more expensive than necessary, Harris says that it’s not the end of the world; rather, it’s a teaching moment. “If something is over-promised, we stand behind the promise and use it as a training opportunity,” he says. “If we think what the team member did was right, great. If we think it was wrong, we’re going to educate them on what we thought was wrong and what to do next time. But we never get mad at them. Also, any service issues are handled on the floor immediately.”
David Crouse, owner of Crouse’s Cleaners in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, has opened more options for his staff, not only to increase their autonomy but to speed up resolutions with customers.
“I’ve tried to remove myself as much as possible from the interaction,” he says. “I’ve given our team members all the tools possible to be able to deal with these difficult situations.”
When a customer believes that they’ve brought in items they now think are missing, for instance, Crouse’s camera system can quickly resolve the issue. To use it to its fullest, though, his processes had to change.
“I used to be the person who was the only one who had access to the camera footage,” he says, “and I’d constantly be getting people coming to me. Then, I’d have to call the customer back. Now, our entire team has access to the camera system, and then they can resolve that right away.”
While replacing garments, offering “no charge” solutions and other damage-control options can be an extra cost, Kyle Matthews, director of operations for Janet Davis Cleaners in Detroit, believes it’s just the cost of doing business.
“Being nice and striving to do what you say you’re going to do doesn’t cost anything — mindset is free,” he says. “There are some efforts that cost money, but it’s also expensive to attract new customers. I’d much rather spend 50 cents to keep a customer than spend $2 to get a new one.”
Come back Thursday for the conclusion of this series, when we will ask for some of the secrets of dry cleaners who have found great ways to pleasantly surprise their customers. For Part 1 of this series, click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].