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A Swing and a Myth (Part 1)

Nine beliefs you thought were true, but they’re not

SAN FRANCISCO — Industry myths can wreck your business.

It is human nature to repeat past behavior. Creatures of habit are less susceptible to day-to-day risk because they fall into safe habits that have proven to be sustaining in the past.

But what about relying on these old habits and traditions in the future?

Can established behaviors and practices be relied upon indefinitely to keep you in the ranks of the survival of the fittest? If it isn’t broken, should you try to fix it?

Let’s ponder together a few established and widely accepted beliefs that have proven dangerous to operators who assumed them to be true and inviolate. (Below are the first four of nine myths.)

Several cleaners have demonstrated that these accepted beliefs are in fact actually myths that have impeded growth and profitability for many in the industry.

Myth #1 – All dry cleaners have diminishing piece counts

In fact, a large number of operations have proven that piece counts can grow significantly with proactive sales and marketing efforts that dramatically increase the number of items being processed.

These efforts are not relying on discounting, but rather on informing customers and prospects of the many services that the cleaner can provide to improve consumers’ quality of life.

Do your current customers all know that you can provide any or all of the following services in addition to keeping their wardrobes beautifully maintained?

  • Save them time with route service to their door;

  • Save money and the planet (professional cleaning uses less water and utilities than home washing);

  • Make household linens look fresh as new;

  • Take drapes down, clean and re-hang them;

  • Do the family laundry, to free up time to enjoy the family;

  • Clean the muddy rugs inside and out;

  • Clean the muddy Uggs that have hiked all about;

  • Eliminate Fido’s hair and odor;

  • Clean patio cushions during summer;

  • Eliminate the musty smell from the RV, cabin, boat or plane;

  • Restore the disgusting floor mats to fresh and clean;

  • Care for specialty garments from christenings to life celebrations;

  • Preserve the memories of life’s highlights;

  • Clean sports gear;

  • Rejuvenate a favorite handbag or leather garment; and,

  • Repair or alter garments.

How do you convey this knowledge to your customers and prospects?

Is your team really trained to share this information with your targeted market? Do they ask leading questions to identify the customer needs?

Are automatic periodic reminders sent to let consumers know that it is time to clean a specific item that hasn’t been cleaned since a specific date?

If these things are systematically being done, your team is the rare exception to the norm.

Myth #2 – Giving customers what they want, when they want it, can’t be profitable

The reality is that customers can get what they want when they want it from some provider. If you don’t supply the preferred alternatives, someone else will.

The rather famous entries and exits from the industry may not have found the perfect solutions for execution, but they have planted the seed of desire and possibility for instant gratification. Step out of the mindset of “This is how we do it.”

Expand your thinking beyond the past and test ways of doing things until it works for the customer and for you. Amazon is a constant “tester” and they continue to grow. One of their tests that was successful enough to expand is strategically and conveniently located “on demand” lockers.

Competitors are emulating them as well, offering customers newfound convenience and access 24 hours a day.

Myth #3 – My staff will quit if we send them home when the day’s work is complete

Your staff wants to be successful and for that to happen long-term, the company must also be successful. Redesign your staffing schedules to meet production demand and customer traffic. Flex hours and job sharing have been very successful approaches to on-demand staffing.

Milking the clock is bad for productivity, bad for morale and bad for profitability. If your staff is too large for your work load, reduce it by eliminating the least productive employees to right-size the labor force.

Myth #4 – If I pay more, I will get what I want from my team

If the team is not properly trained, you will just pay more for the same mediocre results. Training is essential to continued growth in sales, profit and expertise.

Consumers are a sophisticated lot, and the best drycleaning customers are especially discerning. They cannot be properly served by staff that has no knowledge of, or appreciation for, fine textile care. Attention to detail is the mantra for serving the luxury segment that we assist in our business.

Question: Do you spend at least 1% of your revenues on training? If not, it is time to budget for this necessity.

As an example, Rent the Runway, one of today’s fastest growing fashion and service businesses, has one in-house full-time trainer for every 10 employees. What is your training ratio? Your training plan?

Do you rely on “on-the-job training” done by an employee with other primary duties and who probably also has bad habits you don’t want to perpetuate? Professional training is essential to a positive customer experience and a loyal clientele.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].