More Than Just Cleaning Clothes

Howard Scott |

Every drycleaner says he or she cleans clothes, but such a statement is insufficient. When you make this declaration, you’re underselling yourself.
You don’t just clean clothes, you enrich colors, maintain shape, provide excellent finishing, add softness, prevent pilling and fight stains. It’s easy to forget that you do all of these things every time you clean a garment.
Don’t undersell yourself — actively remind customers what they’re paying for. The next time a customer complains about paying $2.25 for a shirt, remind them that the shirt isn’t just clean, it’s whiter; even the reds and blues are brighter.
The shirt is shaped so that the shoulders fit perfectly. The finish features aligned cuffs, straight pleats and an even collar. The buttons are secure. And in spite of the crisp finish, the material is soft to the touch and feels comfortable. Due to your professional treatment, it will last longer.
You might say something like, “Mr. Smith, you’re an expert in your field, and I’m an expert in mine. We clean your clothes. But we also give them shape, add body, perfect the finish and keep the material soft. Look at yourself in a mirror and see how sharp you look. Everything we do makes that subtle difference. And the difference is thanks to more than 20 years of practicing and perfecting our procedures. Your clothes will last longer. It’s almost like buying an insurance policy for your clothes.”
Maybe that’s a little over-the-top, but you get the point: Sell the whole service. Educate customers about what you do. Walk them down the extra mile you go. Tell them that there’s more to cleaning clothes than cleaning clothes.
You can promote this at the counter with a sign that says, “We don’t just clean your clothes — We brighten colors, add shape, give clothes a sharp finish, add softness, prevent pilling, and remove and prevent stains. All in one process!” You can use the slogan, “We’re the 7-in-1 cleaner!”
Print the slogan on invoices and receipts. Paint it on your trucks. Put a series of signs listing the seven benefits of cleaning in your window. By delineating your value-added features, you can separate yourself from the competition.
You can illustrate the difference on a series of placards with fabric swatches. Compare a square of bright fabric that you cleaned and a square of dull fabric that someone else cleaned side-by-side, so that the difference is apparent.
For finishing, show a collar done by your staff and one from a competitor. Have two more swatches show softness, with your product very soft, and the alternative stiff and starchy.
Host a presentation showing stain treatments. Drop ketchup on two swatches and point out how the treated fabric repels the material. “You don’t just pay for cleaning,” you’ll say. “You pay for everything we provide — shaping, finishing, coloring, softening, and stain removal and prevention.”
If you ever give sales presentations, the placards will be helpful. Bring them out to confront complaints. If a customer wants a demonstration of quality, get the boards and point to the difference you make. After all, a new prospect doesn’t know how well you clean clothes. At best, he or she might have gotten good word-of-mouth about you. Train your counter staff to use the boards, and practice to make sure that the presentation isn’t snake-oily or false in any way.
Come up with a technical explanation of how you do a better job of delivering these features than your competitors. For example, you might use better chemicals or leave garments on the Suzy longer. Maybe your inspector checks every garment coming off the line. Every so often, use these explanations to convince customers that you do more than others to enliven their clothing and keep it looking good longer.
That’s your job — to enliven clothing and make it more livable. This makes the customer look better. “We enliven your wardrobe so you can look and feel sharp.” That’s the service you offer, and it’s far more than simply cleaning clothes.

About the author

Howard Scott

Industry Writer and Drycleaning Consultant

Howard Scott is a former business owner, longtime industry writer and drycleaning consultant. He welcomes questions and comments and can be reached by writing Howard Scott, Dancing Hill, Pembroke, MA 02359; by calling 781-293-9027; or via e-mail at [email protected].


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