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Hot Irons (Conclusion)

Looking at the talent and philosophy that go into great finishing

CHICAGO — The process of finishing is just as important as the cleaning process when it comes to customer satisfaction with their dry cleaner. Having a staff that is both well-trained and attentive to this phase of the operation goes a long way into creating customer loyalty.

To explore the importance of this critical process, American Drycleaner reached out to four industry professionals to get their views — Carlyn Parker, director of operations at Dependable Cleaners in Boston; David Grippi, chief operating officer of Clean Franchise Brands; Sasha Ablitt, owner of Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners in Santa Barbara, California; and Jim Desjardins, president of Daisy Cleaners in Salem, New Hampshire.

In Part 1 of this series, we asked our professionals how the finishing process has evolved over the years, and in Part 2, we looked at the inspection and training processes they have put into place. Today, we’ll finish by looking at the skillset that great finishers possess, and the philosophy our cleaners have when it comes to this last stage of the process.

Q: Do you cross-train your staff to work different machines in the process?

Parker: We cross-train a lot of people in inspection and pressing. They’ll learn to press first, and then, if they have some downtime waiting for work to come in, they can do wash-dry-fold, or fold up the comforters and put them in the bags or inspect clothes — those types of things. We also like to have training on pressing different kinds of garments; if you can press silks, we’d like you to be able to press pants and vice versa.  That was a key during the pandemic. At the very beginning, we called in more people who could do multiple jobs because we didn’t have enough work to have somebody just press pants for three hours.

Ablitt: Our staff is completely cross-trained so everyone is constantly learning how to press everything. After shirts, we move them to sweaters and pants, and go all the way through to the silks and the linens. Linens can take a long time if someone doesn’t have the right training. We want everyone to learn everything.

Grippi: Cross-training is more important than ever before. Finding an experienced presser is more difficult today than it was five years ago. It’s important to cross-train everyone on not only your presses but having your inspection people be able to press different garments. It makes your plant more flexible, helps cover for days off, and allows you to cover if you lose someone.

Q: What are some skills that a good finisher has? What can be taught, and what characteristics should the person innately possess?

Desjardins: You need someone who’s detail-oriented. I like to look at the car they’re driving; if they’re driving something filthy, they’re likely not going to make a good presser.

Grippi: Good hand-eye coordination is something that we look for — someone who can move things quickly from one point to the next. We also want someone who has attention to detail because we want to make sure we’re finishing these garments correctly and that they’re not rushing to the process. We want people with a good work ethic, and who don’t mind being on their feet for a long period of time. They should be able to work in an environment that can sometimes be hot, and I look for someone who is upbeat and friendly.

Parker: Attention to detail and hand-eye coordination are crucial. They also need to like routine and have a good focus. They’re systematic, and they should understand a little bit about the mechanics of how the press works, and how they can use that to their favor. We try to show them the job so that they can take themselves out of the running if they think they can’t do it. They’ll self-select out if they don’t feel like the job is for them.

Ablitt: We tend to hire people who haven’t worked in production at other cleaners because we find they come in with bad habits. We also hire for attitude. Are they going to show up to work? Are they going to show up on time? Are they going to communicate with us? You can train for that a little bit, but a lot of it is innate. But the No. 1 thing I’ve found is that the naturally detail-oriented person makes for a much better presser.

Q: Describe your philosophy of finishing — what part does it play in overall customer satisfaction?

Grippi: I think that pressing is one of those lost arts, and it’s something that I enjoy training people how to do. I want team members to understand what finishing is about. It’s about finishing that garment for it to be ready to wear for that customer. The garment is wrinkle-free, has all its buttons and has no seam impressions. It all goes to the overall satisfaction of the customer. Once you have a presser who comes to enjoy the process, you know, then they can really finish those garments. I think that’s the big thing — it’s finishing, not just pressing.

Parker: It means a lot. We are a higher-price dry cleaner, and I think the quality of our stain removal and pressing has to be one of our top goals. If we didn’t have the quality, people wouldn’t pay our prices. We want our clients to look the best they can every day, whether they’re going to work or going to a party or getting married.

Ablitt: I always imagine that I’ve got friends and family who are going to be wearing the clothes we clean. So, I look at it from the perspective of how I’m going to feel when these clothes go out. When the customer sees it, am I going to be proud of it? That’s the same thing I encourage my operators to think about.

We provide cleaning for our employees, so when they see their own clothes, they think like a customer. It’s fun when I see them acting like a customer instead of the presser. It’s the idea of being proud of your work, and really understanding the effect you have on the final product — and on the bottom line of the cleaners.

Desjardins: The first thing the customer is going to see is the pressing. But in all honesty, I have the same feeling about pressing as I do about stain removal and the cleanliness of the garment. You only have one opportunity to make a good impression with your customers. I remember going to drycleaning school in 1983, and the teacher said, “If you’re going to do a bad job, do a bad job all the time. You’re going to do a good job, do a good job all the time, but don’t screw your customer and do a good job one time and a bad job the next.” I’m big on consistency and providing quality products the customer can expect each time they come in.

For Part 1 of this series, click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE.