Recognize Value of Drycleaning Regulars, Non-Regulars

Carolyn B. Nankervis |

APPLETON, Wis. — Every year in December, we mail all of our clients a half-pound of privately labeled coffee to thank them for their business. Our pre-holiday post office visits have been going on for eight years.

A long waiting line forms because the counter person weighs each package individually, prints out the postage, and affixes it to the package. This year when we finished mailing, I gave the counter person a package of our coffee and said, “I hope you like coffee. This is what you have been sending for us. Thank you for your help.” The counter person thanked me, and I thought nothing more of the encounter.

At the end of the year, I needed some stamps and went back to the post office. The counter person retrieved the stamps I needed and then asked me about my New Year’s plans. We chatted a bit about what we both were doing. As she handed me back my credit card, she looked at the name and said, “Thank you, Carolyn.” I felt as if I had entered a different dimension.

What just happened? I had been going to the same post office for eight years and this was the first time anyone had recognized me. I started thinking about my coffee gift to the counter person weeks earlier. Was this just a nice way of recognizing me? No, that wasn’t it. The person who struck up the conversation was not the person to whom I gave the coffee. Was this counter person more outgoing or bubbly? No, she had waited on me over the years and was pretty disinterested in me and my mail needs. So what happened and why?

The coffee we send has our logo and a tagline of “Mystery Shopping and More!” Could it be that the post office staff thought I was a post office mystery shopper? During my visit, she hit two key points that we stress for all CSRs:

  • Establish conversation

  • Use a customer’s name

After 20-plus years in the customer service/mystery shopping business, I truly didn’t expect to be that impressed by two simple sentences!

I often hear from CSRs that the customer doesn’t want or like to be called by name. That attitude is lazy and wrong. Recognizing me and using my name when I show up means that you place a value on me and my business.

Every customer has a choice when it comes to purchasing drycleaning services. One choice may be not going to any dry cleaner. Other options might be Dryel, a washing machine, or new clothes. As drastic as these alternatives may sound, they are legitimate options and may be more appealing than being subjected to poor service and unexplained pricing.

Over the years, what I have seen at the drycleaning counter is that “regulars” get the “treatment.” The CSRs know “regulars.” Their “treatment” is that they are recognized, joked with and called by name. Those customers feel valued and respected. That is one of the reasons why they come back. “Regulars” are the customers that owners count on to pay their bills.

New customers or “non-regulars” often are not treated the same. I call this treatment “Speechless at the Counter.” If CSRs don’t recognize that new customers are valuable, too, these patrons will never become regular customers. The customer experience just isn’t worth a new customer’s time or money. No one will return more than once if they see their receipt as one gigantic expense with no associated value. Or feel as if they shouldn’t have come in to the store because no one acted interested in them or their items. Or the customer feels dumb because they don’t understand what the heck the difference is between laundry and dry cleaning. (Hint – a lot of people don’t!)

Using a new customer’s name, actively engaging in a little conversation, and knowledge of cleaning processes are the ways to create a regular customer out of someone who has entered a store for the first time.

How long does it take to become a regular? At my post office – it took eight years and a half-pound of coffee.

About the author

Carolyn B. Nankervis

MarketWise Consulting Group


Carolyn B. Nankervis is president of MarketWise Consulting Group, Appleton, Wis. Her firm specializes in small-business market research and highly detailed mystery-shopping programs. She can be reached at, 920-735-4970.


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