CHICAGO – Owners of attended or partially attended coin laundries understand the importance of hiring and retaining good employees. Attendants are an extension of the store’s owner and squarely on the front lines in terms of customer service.
But a skilled laundry attendant isn’t born — he or she has to be trained. While all coin laundries have their similarities, every store owner likes to run their operation in their own way. That’s what makes attendant training so vital in ensuring an owner’s store is run properly when they’re away.
American Coin-Op reached out to some manufacturer and distributor reps and asked them a series of questions about attendant training. Following are their tips for molding and managing employees so they keep your customers—and you—happy.
Q: How can a store owner keep their attendants motivated to perform well while away from their store?
Chris Brick, national sales manager, Maytag Commercial Laundry: Incentivizing employees who are going above and beyond the job’s requirements. Incentives can range from gift cards to paid time off and other options.
Gary Dixon, national sales manager, Huebsch: While it can sometimes be difficult to keep an employee motivated, owners can ease this by having enforced standards and recognition or incentive programs. To maintain performance standards while away from the store, the owner needs to hold attendants accountable by evaluating and inspecting their work. Furthermore, an owner should recognize the dedicated and hard-working employees with rewards such as pay incentives or awards for a job well done. These incentives will boost attendant morale and motivate them to perform their tasks regardless of supervision.
Ken Hebert, owner, Deep South Laundry Systems, Milnor distributor: Owners need to stay accessible, do regular evaluations, and provide customers with a response box.
Bryan Maxwell, regional sales manager, Western State Design, Dexter distributor: In simple terms, encouragement (verbal affirmation or financial incentives) or fear (accountability, security system surveillance). Once you have found the right people, retain them by paying them just a little more than the marketplace. It’s amazing how, by increasing your hourly costs slightly, the retention rate and satisfaction of employees increases significantly.
Q: Is attendant training a one-time thing, or should a store owner see that their staff is trained on an ongoing basis?
Dixon: Initial training is standard for a new employee, even if they have previous experience in the coin laundry business. Once operating procedures have been explained, there are still instances when ongoing training is necessary. For example, if a customer’s concern is brought to the owner’s attention, it is important to provide immediate feedback so the attendant can learn and understand how to avoid the situation in the future.
Another opportunity for ongoing staff training is when new technology or equipment is installed in the store. Attendants need to know how the newest features and operating systems work in order to best help customers and maintain the machines.
Additionally, general follow-up trainings are a good idea to update attendants on any changes and ensure that operation standards are met in the store.
Hebert: It should be ongoing. Keep an eye on the employee, watch the numbers on their shift and reinforce accordingly.
Brick: Training should be ongoing, like it is in a number of other businesses. Evaluations and reviews with specific timing should be woven into the policies and procedures handbook. A store owner can’t expect his employees to shine without feedback—both constructive criticism and positive reinforcement.
Q: If an attendant’s work performance isn’t meeting an owner’s expectations after having received training, what steps should the owner take? Should the employee be dismissed or should they be given another chance to prove themselves?
Hebert: 1. Oral warning with counseling and signed paper acknowledgement of warning; 2. Full written warning, signed by attendant, that includes an action plan for improvement and that termination is an option if no improvement; 3. Termination.
Maxwell: Dismissing or retaining an employee is really a case by case determination. At some point, you must make a determination that an employee is redeemable or not.
Brick: If the store owner has laid out the proper policies and procedures, given the employee the 30-day trial period and is not seeing the required skills, the employee should be dismissed.
Dixon: When an employee’s work performance is not meeting the owner’s expectations after training, it is important to calmly approach that attendant and explain how they are not meeting expectation or following procedures. Providing feedback after an incident or while they are performing everyday tasks is also a way to course correct. If the attendant has not improved even after the follow-up training or explanation, it may be necessary to release them of their duties at the store.
Q: How important is customer service to an attendant’s success or failure?
Brick: Customer service is paramount to a store attendant’s success.
Dixon: A main component of the Laundromat attendant’s job is customer service, as without it a store cannot be successful. Employees should be attentive, friendly and helpful to create a pleasant experience for customers. Attendants should welcome all guests, ask if they need help or take care of any problem that may arise. Customers will return because of outstanding service and will also refer others to the store. An attendant who provides superior customer service is a valuable asset to the operation as they can greatly impact the overall success of the store.
Hebert: Extremely important – the right or wrong attendant can decide the success or failure of the store.
Q: Do you have any other thoughts about attendant training and its role in the success of an attended coin laundry?
Brick: The store owner needs to continually push attendants to go above and beyond customer service. In addition, for store owners to get employee buy-in, they should ask for feedback and thoughts on how to improve business. By getting employees involved, they feel they have some “skin” in the business, which leads to a sense of ownership and loyalty.