PEMBROKE, Mass. — A dry cleaner recently called me, complaining of losing $17,000 worth of business in the month after he moved his plant.
Simultaneously, he had to move his drop store. I advised him that with proper promotion, business will normalize.
But perhaps that isn’t the whole story. You can’t just sit there and wait. You have to be proactive to get back to your regular business level when dealing with business interruption.
First, expect volume to drop during these scenarios: 1) you moved; 2) you have a construction project in front of the store; 3) you closed up for two weeks because of a family catastrophe. It makes sense that customers avoid you.
Some of the reasons: possibly they can’t find where you moved to and you didn’t provide enough advance notice; or they anticipated the move, and cleaned enough clothes in advance so they wouldn’t have to use you for a while.
It’s possible that because of the construction, it’s become inconvenient to park in front so the customer goes elsewhere.
Maybe the patrons are mad that you are closed, as they made a special trip to come to you during business hours.
Also, conceivably, they haven’t needed any dry cleaning.
It stands to reason that you are worried, because business isn’t what it’s supposed to be, and if this continues, there will come a point where you won’t be able to pay bills.
Panic sets in. You see collapse in plain sight.
Don’t go overboard.
The usual pattern is for business to drop considerably on the first month of change and slowly return. Four to six months later, you’re back to normal.
Of course, there are things you can do to mitigate the decline in volume.
Make sure every customer knows about the change.
It isn’t good enough just to have a “We are moving next month” sign on the counter. It isn’t sufficient, because not all your customers will have entered your store.
Have the sign but also talk about the move (or situation). Then call every customer. Perhaps bring in a part-timer to work from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. for three or four nights to make these calls.
The reminder phone call goes something like this:
“Hi, this is Diana from Springdale Cleaners, your dry cleaner. I just want you to know that we are moving on April 23rd to 85 Sunshine Drive, and will be closed the fourth week of April.”
If your caller connects to an answering machine, she leaves the message on the machine. Keep records from customer lists so you don’t leave anyone out.
Even if customers come in regularly and know about the change, they won’t be annoyed hearing from you. It simply shows you care about your clientele and want to keep them abreast of developments.
Making calls is better than sending e-mails because not everyone has a computer. Also, some customers might ignore the e-mail. It is a more personable encounter to communicate person-to-person rather than machine-to-machine.
Use the occasion to advertise.
Interruption creates opportunity. Spend money to promote a feature, tout your skills, or call attention to a benefit. Tie this promotion to the move. Use print, mailings, online, or radio, whichever vehicle you feel comfortable with.
As for content, talk about your amazing turnaround service — and state that this service will continue even during the interruption. Explain how your high quality will now get higher, because of new equipment in the new location.
Promoting your business during this transition keeps the momentum going. You’ll win new customers.
When prospects walk in, you might show them around, boasting about your clean and well-lit plant filled with high-tech equipment.
Business volume will be down, so you won’t be as busy. It’s a perfect opportunity to be social.
Put up large signs both at your old place of business and your new place. How large? Very large!
Make signs large enough for drivers to read as they pass by. Ten feet high, if possible. An arrow on the sign pointing in the direction of the new store always helps. This encourages the patron to go, right then, to the new location.
Unfortunately, I usually see a letter-sized sign taped to the front entrance that is handwritten and barely legible. This is wrong. You must spend money to communicate this major change and get the message across loud and clear.
Contact customers after the move.
When things are back to normal, go on the offensive.
Keep a list of the 200 customers who come in weekly and the 500 who come in monthly. The rest are occasional customers.
If a few weeks go by and you don’t hear from the 200 weekly customers, call them.
If a few months go by and you don’t hear from your 500 monthly customers, make a phone call. Yes, it is a hard call, but it must be done.
There is a reason why they are not coming back, and you want to find it out.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion.