CHICAGO — “At the most fundamental level, we use our fabricare point of sale system, or POS for short, to make the operation tick,” says Ian Noble.
“I am the owner of Rick’s Cleaners in Austin, Texas. Rick’s has 16 locations with four plants and specializes in one-price dry cleaning and in providing a great value for our customer,” he notes.
“Your boiler is the heart of your plant; your POS should be the heart of your store transactions and data,” Noble says.
“We utilize a pre-pay model at our store and an automated assembly conveyer from GMS to assemble items at our plant. Six of the 16 stores use bar-codes, and the other 10 use paper tags,” he says.
He plans on converting all his stores to bar-coding. “This allows for accurate mark-in, efficient tracking, and using customer data we never had before. It also reduces plant labor and allows for a smoother running plant.”
“POS should allow your company to be flexible and work ‘within’ your operation,” says Mark Jones, vice president of opertions at SPOT Business Systems based in Draper, Utah. “Software should not force your operation to work a specific way,” Jones notes. “If POS software is based on a single store and you attempt to scale you will run into issues such as reporting, time clock, production and other processes.”
Noble shares: “The two best things about using a POS are speed and data. I had converted from using paper tickets in 2011 and it was a game-changer.
“To help our staff know who they are dealing with, our POS currently places stars on the invoices of the top 50 customers in each store so our staff can always know who our VIP customers are. This changes as consumer spending increases or decreases,” he says.
A basic feature of all POS systems, Noble points out, is to be able to track how much a customer has spent with you.
“Beyond the dollar amount,” he relates, “you can easily dig deeper into their habits. We like to run reports of our top customers who’ve ‘Dropped From The Top’ to compare their spending in the last 90 days to 90 days prior.
“The report will compare the totals of the two date ranges as well as the last visit date so you can determine whether or not you have lost a customer. If we know or even think they may have moved on we call them personally to ask about their experience, see how we can improve, and thank them for their patronage.”
Noble says this has helped them understand why people leave for a competitor.
The benefit, he says, is that: “It has helped us gain back customers who had an issue with us but never told us about it until we reached out to them in efforts to earn their business back.”
“Multiple price lists can be set if you want to price locations or customers differently,” Noble relates, adding that another, “Simple, yet powerful, feature is pop-up notifications alerting our staff of the customer’s history or preferences.”
“A POS system can allow dry cleaners to connect with their customers as never before,” says Brian Athens, senior systems engineer at Fabricare Systems located in Acworth, Ga., adding that, “Texting and emailing are the things customers like about their POS,” Athens relates. “Letting a customer know there is a problem or question with their garments or that the garments are ready, really makes the connection.”
Athens says: “We are always making changes to accommodate our customers. Requests are something we take seriously. Example, we have new customers that have requested merging customers and moving inventory between locations. That’s a game-changer for cleaners.”
Back to Noble’s customer preferences, he gives this example: “If you’ve double-creased a customers’ pants and he has written a negative Yelp review for it, then next time he comes in our staff will receive notifications to triple-check his pants before they get back to him to avoid further frustration for the customer.”
Noble notes: “Your POS can also be used to anticipate staffing for the next day in production by viewing piece counts, or view trends that allow you to reduce hours in your store.”
He adds: “If your employee says they stayed two hours late because they got slammed with customer drop-offs right before closing, there is a report for that. Nearly every step of the process can be tracked, data-mined, and verified, which is very powerful for an owner or operator.”
Noble describes himself as, “A hands-on owner who is extremely involved in day-to-day operations.” He also points out that, “Rick’s was awarded the 2018 Best Dry Cleaners in Austin. It’s our ninth time to win, and we are a back-to-back winner.”
What we’re hearing is that POS systems can help a drycleaning business: to be more efficient; to help an owner know more about their clients; to know things in an up-to-date way; and to help an owner be profitable.
What about when an owner looks into buying a POS system? What tips can we learn?
POS BUYING TIPS
You’re about to make a POS system purchase. But before you do, tick-off these buyer’s tips.
Joanna Creed, president of Toronto, Canada-based Pivot IO, wants you to think about this: “When it comes to choosing the right POS software for your small business, you just have to buy the one that works best for you.”
Additionally, Creed points out that: “You need to explore the best functionality for your business. Here are some general features you’ll want to look for: Accessible and free support for questions and technical problems; Cloud-based; supports multiple hardware options; and marketing features, such as customer loyalty programs and customer communications, to name a few.”
Nick Chapleau, CEO and co-founder of garment care software firm Starchup, based in Brooklyn, N.Y. reminds you to, “Do your research and talk to existing users about the platform. How does the POS system’s payment processing affect their business? How is the customer support? Does the company go the extra mile for its customers, or are you just another number? How often is the software updated, and how open is the company to suggested improvements?”
Chapleau says: “Think about the future. Do you want a POS that follows the crowd, or one that is ahead of the technology curve and thinking about what cleaners will need tomorrow? Skate to where the puck is going to be.”
John Buni, co-founder and CEO at CleanCloud, based in London, England, offers these tips: “Don’t just buy a system. Business owners really have to imagine their staff using it. If the system isn’t intuitive, and if the training offered is poor, staff will inevitably become frustrated and the system won’ t have the desired impact.
“It’s important not to sign up for features that you don’t need, and business owners should be equally wary of hidden extras or unnecessary add-ons,” he advises.
“Look for a system that is transparent, and make sure those offering it are knowledgeable,” Buni reminds. “I think it’s also really important that potential buyers look for a system operator that offers reliable support.”
The tips from some of these software companies serving the drycleaning industry will help you formulate a plan when getting ready to make a POS system purchase. But the last word will come from the users — drycleaning owners and operators like you.
A POS system is a management tool for today’s world. If you’re setting out to buy, it’s best to first ask questions. Let’s listen to what owners Ian Noble owner of Rick’s Cleaners, and Jason Loeb, CEO, Sudsies, Miami, Fla., say.
Loeb: “As technology is always changing, I wanted the most current up-to-date software. Look at the way the software is communicating with your clients. Look at the security. Also see how and when updates are deployed.”
Loeb recommends you ask: “What is the response time for technology questions? How easy will they make it for you to switch to another POS in the future by transferring your credit card data and your database? As long as my POS is delivering on its promises there is never a need to switch but the freedom to switch should be easy.”
Loeb concludes: “Make sure that your software provider will give you the information you request in the format you request and do it within an acceptable time period.”
Noble says this: “The upfront cost will be scary, but it is definitely worth it. We can now control costs by monitoring employee activity and utilizing our reports to make better business decisions.
“If an order does not arrive or isn’t ready, it is easy to see, and we can call the customer immediately to let them know. This simple step could save you from a Yelp or Google review if you happened to save that customer a trip to your store that day.”
Noble also relates that: “The biggest savings, that the owners may not realize, is theft prevention. On paper tickets it was very easy to steal, but POS systems allow you to monitor every step of the transaction, and if there is unusual activity, suspicious voids, or any other activity, it can most likely be found in a report.”
“One major improvement to our business is implementing heat-seal/bar-codes,” Noble points out. “It is more time-consuming the first time you apply them to a garment, but after that, the savings are great. It saves in time and labor for all future drop-offs on that item as well as increases tracking ability.”
Noble explains that if an item goes missing or the bar-code comes off, “You know exactly what you are looking for which can help you find the item or avoid costly claims. All of these things contribute to the bottom line.”
John Kim, owner of Wauconda, Ill.-based Global Business Systems says, “Coming generations will see automation as a key to succeed for drycleaning owners. Wages are up and manpower is harder, and not only POS but automated sorting and bar-coding will help in reducing labor needs.”
Noble says: “Whether you are a one-price cleaners, standard, or a couture cleaners, every single penny counts.” Noble’s POS purchasing tips? He has plenty, based on experience: “The first thing to analyze is where your business is today and what can be improved by buying a POS. When you install one you immediately legitimize your business in the eyes of the consumer. It will help you run more efficiently and streamline your operation,” he says.
With a streamlined operation, POS can create, as Jones relates, “An efficient counter, plant and route operation, which will require less labor and help to maintain happy customers. A happy and engaged customer will visit your business more frequently.”
“The single most important thing when interviewing a potential POS provider is their support system,” Noble relates. “Are they always available by phone? What are their hours? Can you get help fast? Do they provide solutions the first call or make you wait?”
Ali Khan, owner of Bellingham, Wash.-based DajiSoft says, “POS can actually change the life of a dry cleaner. Its record-keeping can prevent employee theft. And customer history is a ‘gold mine’ because you can see where most of your customers are coming from.”
Khan indicates: “You can run reports to see if customer revenue or store visits have increased or decreased in the past month or so. Pricing mistakes are almost gone. So it has increased the bottom line for many clients.”
Khan advises: “For those who are looking to purchase a new POS, my biggest recommendation is to look more at the quality of service the POS provider is offering. Also look at the quality of the software and its marketing reports especially.”
Tim Woodman, senior sales manager at Cleaner Business Systems in Burnsville, Minn., offers these tips: “Make sure the provider offers phone support and other mediums for their customers to communicate with them; and give those mediums a test to make sure that the company is responsive. You don’t want to be waiting on your POS provider for a response to an e-mail, or a call-back, for hours, days, or even weeks.”
Noble says this regarding service: “Don’t entertain a POS company if their support isn’t fully equipped to take phone calls when you need them or they are not adequately staffed. The best thing to do is find out from friends or other cleaners how their technical support is, and make your decisions based off real operator experience.
“Don’t be afraid to make a change in your business,” Noble concludes.
“If you do things the way they have always been done you’ll ultimately suffer. Try new ways of utilizing your POS system to see if it enhances your consumer and employee experience. If your change does not work, change it back. This is the beauty of business.”
To read Part 1, go HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].