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 may a store owner go about training an attendant? Is there a generally accepted procedure for this?
Ken Hebert, owner, Deep South Laundry Systems, Milnor distributor: We have the new attendant mentored through a full shift because ‘hands-on training’ is the best.
Bryan Maxwell, regional sales manager, Western State Design, Dexter distributor: Training varies by attendant responsibilities. Does the store have a wash/fold service? If so, the training will be much more extensive. If the store does not have wash/fold service, the training is less extensive.
The best training is (conducted) in person, with written goals and expectations. The goals should be measurable, achievable and should be reviewed with the employee regularly. With regular follow-up, expectations can be clarified and employee concerns can be addressed.
Chris Brick, national sales manager, Maytag Commercial Laundry: A store owner should compile a policies and procedures handbook, which gives employees a go-to resource if they have any questions. In addition, the storeowner should walk the new employee through the store, explaining the equipment and highlighting the most important procedures. One-on-one store training with the owner can take up to a week’s worth of time, should cover every job requirement, and provide ample training on the machines and store’s amenities.
Gary Dixon, national sales manager, Huebsch: Every store owner goes about training an attendant differently, but there are similarities regarding what an attendant should be trained to do. The new attendant should first understand the general workings of the Laundromat, including opening and closing procedures, cleaning process, and how to answer commonly asked questions and handle customer concerns.
After the attendant understands the basics, the trainer can then move into more specific knowledge about the equipment, including how to increase the laundry’s efficiency and revenue by properly using the advanced control systems installed on the machines. All staff should be well-versed in what the newest control systems offer, including multi-level and time-of-day pricing options and programmable water levels.
By choosing equipment with features such as multilingual operating instructions and service diagnostic troubleshooting, owners can help significantly reduce the learning curve involved for employees.
Q: How can the documentation of a store’s standard operating procedures aid the owner in training attendants?
Maxwell: Establishing written goals and standards assist the employee in understanding your expectations but, equally important, assist the owner in defining what is really important to him. Many times, frustrations exist between employees and employers because the expectations have never been clearly expressed.
Brick: Clear policies and procedures that are easy to reference and have been spelled out during initial training aid the store owners and attendants. If an attendant finds additional ways to serve customers or goes above and beyond the standard responsibilities, owners should have an incentive or reward statement incorporated into standard operating procedures.
Dixon: Providing a training checklist to new employees is an ideal way to remind both the owner and the attendant of all tasks that are expected to be fulfilled. This also provides the attendant with a reference sheet when they begin working on their own.
Hebert: Owners are not always on site, so it is important to provide attendants with reference material to troubleshoot situations.
Q: What operational aspects should these standard operating procedures cover?
Brick: Operational tasks, such as wiping down and cleaning equipment, picking up trash, welcoming customers, keeping the bathrooms and store clean, managing wash/dry/fold services, and writing down any store issues, equipment noises or concerns in a notebook should be part of the standard operating procedures.
Hebert: How to handle customer complaints, basic troubleshooting (of) machines, contact numbers, and protocol for emergency situations.
Maxwell: The best written procedures are measurable and attainable.
Q: How should an owner share his/her expectations with a new attendant?
Dixon: Attendant expectations should be set during the first interview. The owner should walk the attendant through all aspects of his or her job so that expectations are understood upfront and ultimately met. Introducing new employees to the company mission statement gives them an understanding of the core values that they will be expected to emulate.
Hebert: A good employee handbook—including signing an acknowledgment page that they understand what is expected—is indispensable.
Brick: The policies and procedures handbook should include all employee expectations. Open dialogue with an employee, and constructive criticism, will help to establish the best working relationship.
Q: How long might an attendant’s training last before they are expected to work by themselves?
Hebert: Mentor training is (a maximum of) two shifts.
Maxwell: Attendants should be able to work independently very soon after being hired. The key is regular follow-ups and reviews, with small adjustments moving forward.
Brick: Training should last approximately one week.
Dixon: On average, an attendant will require five training shifts before he or she will be able to fully execute their responsibilities within the Laundromat.
Q: Should a new attendant be given a trial period during which to prove themselves? If so, how long should a store owner be expected to give them?
Maxwell: Many operators hire new employees with a 60-90 day probation period to determine if the employee is the right fit for the laundry.
Brick: An employee should be given 30 days to prove that he/she is capable of the job. If a store has a wash/dry/fold component and the new employee has been brought on to help grow the business, six months is an appropriate trial period.
Dixon: Absolutely. As with all jobs, learning to be an attendant takes time. It is important to inform attendants of attitude, appearance and cleanliness expectations early on, so that the employee is given every chance to be successful. If after 10-15 shifts the attendant is still not meeting the pre-set expectations, it may be time to course correct or re-evaluate their role at the store.
Hebert: Probationary periods can be set for anywhere from 48 hours to 90 days.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!