CHICAGO — When running a drycleaning business, it can be easy when performing day-to-day tasks to lose sight of some of the important fundamentals that will allow you to achieve long-term success. Getting feedback from clients can be one of these elements that goes missing in the wash.
Without knowing what your customers are experiencing at your company, you are operating in a vacuum. Just as you wouldn’t drive a vehicle with the windshield covered and “hope for the best,” feedback, both positive and negative, can offer you valuable insights into pleasing your customers, as well as provide fresh ideas for future growth.
The Art of Listening
“Feedback is part of our lifeline,” says Michelle Windsor-Baughman, who co-owns Dutch Girl Cleaners in Walnut Creek, California, with husband Joe Baughman. “It determines your successes and failures. Feedback generates growth if used properly. Our industry is a service-driven one and should be treated as so.”
“All feedback is important,” says Jason Loeb, owner of Sudsies Dry Cleaners in Miami. “If you don’t have any feedback, create feedback. Feedback improves everything.”
“One of the most important factors that attracts customers to our dry cleaners is the feedback that we have that is public,” says Elton Cerda, owner of DryClean NYC. “I really believe that Google Reviews are the most important — and are the biggest magnet — for our new customers.”
Tracking customer behavior can be a good measure of how they feel about your business.
“Nothing is better feedback than referral sources,” Loeb says. “It’s hard to track that, but when someone refers you, it gives you a pulse on what’s going on in your business. One of the fundamentals is to measure how many new customers you get. Every time we get a new customer, we asked how they heard about us. Google? Word-of-mouth? Online? Whatever it is, we track it.”
The Feedback Mindset
When Jonathan Bence purchased Port Huron, Michigan-based Troy Cleaners, he found that the business in operation since 1873 was lacking in a vital area: communicating with customers. As a former engineer in the military, he knew he had to get to work to fix this issue.
“When I started, the biggest complaint wasn’t about pressing quality or getting stains out, it was that people couldn’t get a hold of us on the phone,” he says. “Text messaging and other forms of communication are important, but the traditional forms are also important. We had several 1- and 2-star reviews saying that we never answered the phone.”
Bence put in a software-based telephone system with recorded information like store hours — the No. 1 question he was getting — and keeps the phone ringing until someone answers. He also put in a point-of-sale system that helps capture information from clients. “It gives our customers some comfort knowing that they can get a hold of us.”
This effort to maximize communication is crucial, Bence believes, because it can provide answers to a fundamental question: “What can we do to make their lives easier? Because we sincerely believe if we can do that, then they’ll either send more business your way or give us word-of-mouth advertising. We’re happy when people are happy with us, but I believe there’s always room for continuous improvement. That’s something I learned from the engineering industry.”
Matt Simon, owner of Pierce Cleaners in Columbus, Ohio, agrees with Bence’s outlook on the value of feedback.
“I’m looking for problems that my target customers might have,” he says. “If I can get to that point, I can hopefully start developing solutions to those problems. When you can come up with those solutions, they are going to pay you, and pay handsomely for it. That’s the kind of feedback I want to hear.”
One such client encounter allowed him to pursue an idea that rapidly paid off: “I was talking to a target client at church, well before the pandemic, and she mentioned that her son, who was in college, had too much classwork and not enough time for it. She said she would even pay for someone to do her son’s laundry while he’s in college. The conversation continued, and about a month later, we started our wash-and-fold service.”
Come back Tuesday for Part 2 of this series, where we’ll look at methods to weigh and act on feedback — both positive and negative.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].