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The Makings of a Great Drycleaning CSR (Part 2)

Investing in training gives new staff their best shot at success

CHICAGO — Your customer service representatives (CSRs) are often the face of your business to the customers who bring their garments into your store. Mistakes made here in the hiring or training process, however, will not only affect the service your customers receive, but can negatively impact the morale of the rest of your crew.

In Part 1 of this series, we examined the traits the best potential CSRs bring with them to your business and what to look for when hiring. Today, we’ll continue by exploring the training processes needed to make an uncut gem into a jewel who takes serving your customers to the next level. 

Training for Success 

Once the owner or manager has hired the right CSR candidate, it’s time to teach those drycleaning skills they’ll need to serve the customer and make a great impression.

“If they’re coming in with those characteristics and behaviors that we’re looking for, we’re really just training them in the ZIPS way,” says Jennifer Davis, training and development people manager for the ZIPS Cleaners network of drycleaning stores. “That includes teaching them our way to greet and interact with our customers, the way to handle the garments, and being knowledgeable about everything we do offer so that we can best serve them.”

She says that ZIPS training for new hires includes online courses offered in English and Spanish, as well as hands-on training and a final validation. 

“We want to empower them with the knowledge to be able to answer any questions that may come up, whether it’s specific about the services we offer, a garment that we take or don’t take, or just specific to that location,” Davis says. “It could be a complaint or an issue. So throughout that training, we are empowering them on how to speak, how to act, how to listen and how to respond so that we come up with the best solution.”

Jennifer Whitmarsh, owner of Snappy Dry Cleaning in Williamsville, New York, believes in taking time during initial training to give the candidate all the tools they’ll need. 

“Ours could be anywhere from 100 to 150 hours of one-on-one training,” she says. “It’s important to have one-on-one training because their training never ends, even when they’re on their own. They shouldn’t stop learning, and you shouldn’t stop touching base with them. If you don’t give them enough training, you are setting your CSR up to be behind as opposed to launching them into success.”

A lack of training for both the CSR and the person hiring them is a critical error that owners sometimes make, Whitmarsh says.

“They don’t have a process for it,” she says, “so they just wing it. Sometimes owners have elevated a manager who has taken over the hiring, but they haven’t had adequate training themselves in this, so they’re hiring warm bodies and repeating the process when that person doesn’t work out.”

Proper feedback is also a crucial element in training.

“Another mistake some make is consistently pointing out everything the new hire is doing wrong without balancing it out with things they’re doing well,” Whitmarsh says. “That’s a huge demotivator, especially when starting out.”

Reading the Room

Being outgoing and talkative might seem like good attributes for a CSR to have, but the genuine talent that great representatives possess is knowing how the customer wishes their front-counter encounter to go.

“Dry cleaning is different from most industries, as the interactions are very quick,” Davis says. “They’re trying to get in and out, whether it’s a pickup or a drop-off. So, we want our front-counter associates to interact, get to know the customers by showing they care, and be attentive, but also be mindful of the customer’s needs or desire to get on with their day.”

Because every customer is different, Davis says, great CSRs tailor the interactions they have with them, meeting their needs as best as possible.

“It’s important to know that some people don’t want to talk, but it’s good to get to know the customers’ habits,” she says. “You might have that customer who stops in every Monday and drops off all the clothes from the week before as they go to their office. And then, on Friday, they’re doing all their pickups for the following week. I do believe there’s a fine line between being friendly and understanding if the customer just wants to get in and out. They need to read the room.”

And, during interactions, there are lines between “friendly” and “too familiar.”

“You don’t want to be that person who overshares,” Whitmarsh says. “When a customer comes in and asks you how your day is going, don’t tell them about all the problems you have going on in the nooks and crannies of your personal life — that’s not why they came in.”

Conversations can stay on the proper side of that line, she believes, but don’t have to be solely about the weather. 

“When customers ask, ‘How are you?’ give them the surface answer, but then turn it around and start asking the customer how they’re doing. Don’t get too personal, but ask if they have any fun plans for the weekend, or if there are sporting events or other things going on around town to talk about. Be genuine — you don’t want to be disingenuous with your conversation, but you also want to have your personality shine through.”


Come back Thursday for the conclusion of this series, where we’ll look at the role of CSRs in dealing with angry customers, along with ways to retain your best counter staff. Click HERE for Part 1 of this series.

The Makings of a Great Drycleaning CSR

(Image licensed by Ingram Image)   

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].