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Little Things Mean a Lot (Conclusion)

Details might not seem like game-changers, but they can add up for great success

CHICAGO — For many cleaners, the past year has left little room in the budget to make sweeping changes and reinvent their business for the future. Sometimes, however, small actions can add up for big results.

In his webinar “Setting Up for 2021,” sponsored by Southern California Cleaners Association (SCCA), Norman Way, vice president of Puritan Cleaners in the Richmond, Virginia area, offered some items that, in his experience, cleaners can put into action today, no matter their circumstances.

In Part 1 of this series, Way examined methods of training team members and improving marketing strategies that won’t take away from the bottom line. To conclude, Way suggests actions that, while not “magic bullets” to profitability, can make a big difference over time.

Small Jobs, Big Impact

When counter people have additional time on their hands, having a list of activities can keep them productive and the business moving forward. “Some of these are going to sound elementary,” Way says, “and some of these may be new to you, but they’re good reminders for all of us.” Some of these activities can include:

  • Aged order calls — “If you’re like the majority of cleaners, you recognize the sales incoming, and you collect the money at outgoing,” Way says. “All those aged orders are things that you have a chance of not collecting the farther it goes. We all know this, but sometimes we need to be reminded. It’s so simple to go to your point-of-sale system, print a report of aged orders, and your customer service representatives (CSR) make the calls.”
  • Equipment maintenance — “We all fix things when they’re broke, but we’re usually not as good at doing preventative maintenance,” Way says, suggesting owners make a list of regular checks. He cautions, however, not to go overboard here. “If you go and try to make a list that contains everything, it’s just going to be overwhelming,” he says, “so just do some basic things, whether it be adjusting pads, greasing machinery or checking steam traps. Just begin a basic maintenance schedule.”
  • Courtesy calls to top clients — Keeping your top clients coming back can sometimes take more than just doing good work; it requires maintaining a relationship. “Have your employees print out a report of your top clients,” Way says, “and then call them just ask how they’re doing and if there’s anything that we could do for them. (The conversation) doesn’t just have to be about dry cleaning. And man, are they just wild by the fact that we took time to give them a call for that. This is something you can have your store managers do, or competent CSRs you have who will well-represent you.”
  • Contest for ideas to reduce costs — Sometimes, great ideas will come from people you might not expect. “It’s amazing the things that people come up with,” Way says. “Most of your employees don’t have the big vision for the company that you do, but they definitely have a unique perspective. There are some good ideas you’ll pick up from them. And, you can have it as a contest; if you use their idea, give them a reward." 
  • Start recycling hangers Way has found that, if the counter staff is looking for things to do, recycling hangers can be a good use of their time. “One, you get a chance to reduce costs because hangers are coming back,” he says. “Two, you’re able to have something for your employees to do as they sort the hangers and get them back into production. And three, you’re showing your customers you’re ‘green,’ and it doesn’t cost anything.

Freshening Up Your Customers Info

Way quoted Bill Gates, who has said, “How you gather, manage and use information will decide whether you win or lose.” Customer information can be the lifeblood of a cleaning business, so it pays to stay on top of it. “I would suggest to you that information becomes wisdom, and that wisdom is how to use knowledge to best benefit others, as well as yourself and your company.”

  • Cell phone verification — It’s basic, but Way urged cleaners to have their CSRs always get the customer’s current cell phone number. “Today, that’s almost become cliché,” he says. “That’s like putting up that you accept Visa or MasterCard. Everybody expects that you’re doing it. But make sure you’re getting that number. And make sure in your point-of-sale system that it’s marked as a mobile number.
  • Update account information — Most point-of-sale systems have an option to print out, in pre-determined increments, a small ticket with the customer’s account information. “You can then take that information, present it to the customer and ask them to update,” Way says. People are migrant. They move, their email changes… things of that nature. This is an excellent way to gather that information and keep it up to date.
  • Keep credit card information on file — This is a great way to streamline the process, Way says. “Once you’ve got that data, you can make it easier for customers to pick-up and drop-off their garments because you’ve already got all your information in the system.” It also gives cleaners more information when it comes time to market convenience services.
  • Happy birthday! — “We have found it incredibly useful to ask the customer’s birthday,” Way says. While he doesn’t ask for the year, getting the month and day information from customers allows his company to provide a personal touch through automated marketing. “For us, the headline for our birthday message is ‘Happy, Wrinkle-free Birthday!’ and then offer a 21% discount, because who doesn’t want to be 21 again?”
  • Get all the names — Just because one person generally comes in for a household doesn’t mean that they are the only one who might visit a business. “If you’ve got the wife coming in,” Way says, “and that’s on the account, most point-of-sale systems have a place to put a second name in there, with a place for a second email. That way, when you’re marketing, you can be able to hit that home in a more consistent manner, and not just to the one email.”

Make Little Adjustments to Stay on Course

Way concluded his talk by taking an imaginary trip from Virginia to California by plane. “Just as we get up, the jet stream moves the plane off a little bit,” he says. “As we're going, the gravitational pull and curvature of the earth gets the plane gets a little off track. Could you imagine the pilot coming on the intercom and saying, ‘Hey, we need to turn around and go back to Richmond and start over’? No. He's going to correct the course. And so, wherever you find yourself at now, take the little corrections that will allow you to reach the destination that we all want — success for us success for our team members, and to provide value to our community.”

For Part 1 of this feature, click HERE.