LAUREL, Md. — The Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) debuted its latest member benefit—a mobile app offering step-by-step instructions on removing common stains, information on problem garments, and more—at the Atlanta Clean Show. Now available for both Apple and Android mobile devices, the app is yet another added value of membership.
“People are happy with it, and we’re excited,” says Jon Meijer, DLI’s membership director. “It’s a product that’s designed to strengthen the package we offer to members at no additional cost. It’s a benefit that’s hard not to like.”
SOLVING HUNDREDS OF STAINS
Designed for use by staffers in the back of the plant and at the front counter, the app’s most distinctive feature is the Stain Solver, an easy-to-use, comprehensive guide to the techniques required to remove hundreds of common stains.
“DLI typically works with the owners or managers of plants, but we never really have any interaction with the staff—the people pressing and removing stains,” says Ricardo Gonzalez, who built the app as DLI’s web developer. “The idea was to create something that would be useful to them while they’re working in the plant.”
“What we are trying to do is get deeper into organizations,” adds Mary Scalco, DLI’s CEO. “We frequently know the owner of the store, but we wanted something employees would have access to readily at the spotting board, so they can get the training they need when they need it.”
The Stain Solver offers a selection of more than 40 staining substances, grouped into Beverage, Food, Pets, Oils, Cosmetics, and Personal categories. It cross-references users’ stain selections with 17 base fabrics—including angora, metallic, mohair and Spandex in addition to cotton and wool—to produce complete stain-removal instructions.
“The most difficult part is that you could write volumes on stain removal,” Scalco says. “We had to design the app for the device you’re using. You have to know some basic skills, otherwise it would be 20 pages long—and nobody is going to scroll through that.”
DLI is already updating the Stain Solver with Spanish-language instructions, more staining materials, and other features. “By the end of this year, we plan to incorporate video of Brian Johnson, DLI’s director of education, doing these steps, so that people can visualize what they’re doing,” Gonzalez says.
EASING EXPLANATIONS AT THE COUNTER
DLI has also incorporated archives of its popular Technical Analysis Bulletin Service (TABS) to explain potential garment failures and other problems that can occur in processing to customers with questions and complaints.
“People love the TABS section, so we decided to incorporate that into the app as well,” Gonzalez says. “We want this to become a regular part of the dry cleaner’s life; that’s how we wound up choosing TABS and the Stain Solver. We wanted to deliver many benefits and services, [and] create an app that helps them succeed on a daily basis.”
All TABS appearing in the app have been checked for accuracy, updated, and rewritten when necessary, he notes. And if the first two functions of the app don’t answer every question, there’s an additional option at the bottom of the screen: a “Contact” button members can click to call or e-mail directly from their tablet or smartphone.
Houston-based MW Cleaners is testing the app in two stores. “I don’t know how you could get the interface to be much simpler,” says Mike Nesbit, company president and DLI treasurer. “If we have a stain we’ve identified, and there’s a question whether to go at it on the acid or alkaline side, it’s easy to come up with the answer.”
Paper stain-removal charts tend to get worn and thrown away, he notes, but the app is not going to disappear. And following initial download and log-in, it can be used without an Internet connection, untethering employees from stores’ point-of-sale (POS) systems or networks.
The app is the first tech tool DLI has released since the Encyclopedia of Drycleaning Online debuted in 2011. “We are actively moving DLI’s technological level up to today’s standards,” said Gary Maloney, the operator of Nu Yale Glacier Cleaners in Jeffersonville, Ind., who helped spearhead app development as DLI’s District 4 Director and chairman of its Technology Committee.
Next up are an app to assist with garment analysis, as well as webinars exploring new-media marketing topics. “As an association, we want to add new members and strengthen our current memberships,” Meijer says. “We want to keep making members happy, and we have to introduce new products to do it.”