CHICAGO — Getting a customer to come into your drycleaning business for the first time is only the first step of the process. To build for the future, you’ve got to keep them coming back.
Dave Coyle, owner of Wichita, Kansas-based In the Bag and Maverick Drycleaners, recently presented a Zoom webinar to members of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) on developing marketing plans for 2021. In Part 1 of this series, we examined some ways cleaners can attract customers to their store. Here, we’ll look at how a cleaner can inspire their loyalty and keep them coming back for more.
Building the Relationship
“There are three things people want from a relationship,” Coyle says. “They want to feel appreciated, they want to feel important, and they want to be included. Never forget these three things. It’s true with marriage, with children, with teams and their leaders, and true with clients and businesses.”
The most crucial time when creating a relationship with a customer comes at the very beginning. “Focus on your client onboarding experience,” Coyle says. “What is it like when a new client comes in? Are you adequately staffed so you can time some time with them?”
For Coyle, one way to make a memorable impression is to provide new clients with welcome gifts. While cosmetic companies like Estee Lauder pioneered the “free gift with purchase” approach, it’s largely fallen out of favor in business, he says. “I love this because no one is doing it.”
Coyle’s gift includes a personal letter introducing the new client to all the services he provides, along with a theater box of candy and other items. He also provides them with a VIP laundry bag with his logo and contact information. “We give the VIP bag when they drop off that first time,” he says. “Don’t give it to them when they come to pick up that order because you want to encourage them to be picking up and dropping off in each transaction. It’s an incentive to start that right from the second visit.” He also offers a discount for the second visit to keep the momentum going.
When Challenges Occur
“Things can go astray for all different reasons,” Coyle says. “Challenges happen. The only question is, ‘How are you going to handle them?’” Having plans already in place is essential to smoothing out bumps in the relationship you’ve built with your clients, as well as actually listening to what the client is telling you.
When it comes to lost or damaged items, for instance, “you don’t want to give the impression you have an open checkbook,” Coyle says, “but I like to handle claims as if it were my mother. Give that empathy and try to solve it in a fair and quick way.”
The personal touch can go a long way in building a relationship that can withstand the test of time. “Sometimes you want to use a more personal way to retain someone in your top 20% of clients and bring them back into the business,” Coyle says. “There are all kinds of ‘We Miss You’ offers we can do.”
Handwritten letters also offer that extra touch the client might be looking for. “If someone gets a handwritten letter from the owner or team leader of a business, it’s a ‘wow,’” Coyle said. Personal videos can also be useful in keeping the lines of communication open.
Tell Your Friends
Word-of-mouth advertising is some of the best notice a business can receive. To gain this advantage, however, a business must understand why people refer their friends. Coyle believes that people, especially the affluent people who usually make up a drycleaning company’s top 20%, don’t do so for some reward.
“Affluent clients make referrals because they find joy in helping out a friend, a family member or a co-worker,” he says. To facilitate this, Coyle gives his most valuable clients coupons — printed as “golden tickets” — so they can give them to people in their circle. “You don’t give them any reward,” he says. “The only reward they’ll get is when they do give it to someone and that person redeems it, you’ll write them a note to thank them. Affluent clients love contributing to other people’s lives.”
To get referrals, Coyle stresses that your business “be referable.” “There are four components to this,” he says. “First, you show up on time and have their clothes ready on time. Second, you do what you say you’re going to do. Third, finish what you start, and fourth, do the common courtesy of saying ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘my pleasure.’”
DLI is offering several webinars, all conducted via Zoom on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1 p.m. EST for its members throughout February. For more information, visit the institute’s website.
For Part 1 of this series, click HERE.