GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s in your interest to always know why people choose your mat, but you should also know why they don’t choose it.
You can visit your mat every single day and not realize that some customers are being turned off. Your own natural bias makes it hard to clearly see your mat’s negatives.
Customers will always complain. But complaints are good! Why? Because the vast majority of customers don’t complain directly, and you need some complaints to help you know what you may be doing wrong. Instead, they simply don’t come back, and most of the time you aren’t even aware if or why they left. They could have a perfectly valid reason, such as moving away.
The ones that do complain are actually doing you a favor.
How many customers are you losing due to one employee’s nasty demeanor? Or perhaps it’s something about your mat or its equipment that’s turning people off. It may be something you’re already aware of in the back of your mind but you haven’t made the conscious connection yet. These turnoffs happen over and over every day, so this is why it’s important to nip them in the bud. Customer complaints and/or surveys can help you accomplish this.
You can’t win them all but you can stem your losses. If your sales are dropping and there’s no new competition, one or more things about your mat may be turning off your customers.
Here are some possibilities:
Your Mat Smells Unpleasant — Some mats smell like sewer gas. You and your employees may have experienced it so regularly that you no longer detect the smell.
Case in point: Before I opened my first mat, I was in the flower business. Customers would often come in and compliment us about how nice the shop smelled. The problem? None of us who worked in the shop could smell the flowers anymore.
Smells can come from your neighbors, too. I know a mat that gets slammed every day because it’s next door to a barbecue restaurant in the same building. As you know, many mats have negative air pressure due to the dryers blowing air out through the exhausts. Even with great makeup air, your dryers could suck in the restaurant exhausts.
And of course, you don’t want to be in the same building with a store that sells fish. In fact, request in your lease that your landlord not rent to any business that emits strong odors. You can point out that it’s bad for the other tenants as well.
To prevent sewer gas from building up, have all your drain lines cleaned every year with a snake that scrapes the pipes clean, and clean under the washers as well.
If the dumpsters outside are smelling from rotting garbage, pour a 50/50 mixture of bleach/water in them once a week during the hot weather.
It’s Either Too Hot or Too Cold — If you can’t take your coat off in your mat in the winter, or if you’re sweating bullets there in the summer, you should do what you can to resolve this. When the temperature is 95 outside with 90% humidity, nobody wants to go to a laundromat unless it’s air-conditioned. Some mats don’t have heat in the winter. Make it comfortable.
You’re Sharing Unpopular Political Views — If a local politician asks to post a sign in your mat, think real hard before allowing it, even if you support that politician! My rationale is that the country is extremely divided these days, so no matter which party’s reps you post, it’s bound to turn some customers off. The best thing is to prohibit political signs altogether.
It’s Too Crowded — It’s real exciting for you, the owner, to see your mat packed to the gills. You can feel great knowing that your mat is a hit and making money. The problem is, customers do not like it when it gets crowded, so do whatever you can to prevent this. (See “Bottlenecks and How to Manage (Avoid?) Them.”)
There Isn’t Enough Water in Your Washers — Remember the Wendy’s commercial when the old woman asked, “Where’s the beef?” Well, your mat’s customers may be thinking, “Where’s the water?”
Water and sewer costs have gone up dramatically over the past 25 years. The efforts of manufacturers, distributors and mat owners have worked together to save water. But customers can feel cheated that there’s not enough water in your washers. Many customers will not tolerate low water levels.
One year, one of my mats experienced a mysterious increase in customers over a few weeks. Usually, a spike could be attributed to a competitor closing down. But in this case, it occurred after a few laundry rooms in my area switched to new soft-mount washers. Customers couldn’t see any water in them at any time!
This became a big plus for me because they did what I always struggled to do: they made people leave the comfort and convenience of their apartment houses and shlep down the block to my mat where they could still see the water in our washers.
In fact, the last time I bought washers, my distributor told me to raise the factory water level settings, or else I’d lose too many customers.
Your Payment System May Be Confusing — As inflation bites into coin payment, be careful as to which new payment system you get. You want something that’s easy for the customer to use and understand, and a system that will still accept coins.
Check back Tuesday for the conclusion!
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].