CHICAGO — Everyone of us is a customer. We buy goods from big box stores and neighborhood groceries. We dine in elegant restaurants or grab a bite from a fast food drive-thru on our way home. We try to burn off those calories during trips to the gym. And the list goes on.
So, when you visit one of these businesses, are you more likely to have a good experience and plan to return in the future if Company XYZ is a) warm and welcoming or b) cold and indifferent.
Indeed, stores that are welcoming, bright and secure draw more business than their dark, dank competitors.
American Coin-Op reached out to several industry experts and asked them to share what they think it takes for a self-service laundry to be customer-friendly through and through.
Q: Please describe how a store can make itself customer-friendly through the following:
EQUIPMENT SELECTION AND RELIABILITY
Kevin Hietpas, director of sales for equipment maker Dexter Laundry: Laundries are a “peak period business” and owners need to make sure that they have enough equipment to handle those busy times. It’s not enough to have some equipment available, it’s having enough of the right equipment available – like large-capacity washers, for example. This is where having a management tool like DexterLive comes in handy. Having both real-time and historical information on which machines are getting used the most is a great way to guide future equipment investment decisions, and for unattended stores, having equipment connected via the cloud is also a great way to provide immediate customer support in the event of a problem.
Randy Karn, global service manager for equipment manufacturer Whirlpool Corporation Commercial Laundry: Selecting the right equipment in terms of type and size of the machines goes hand-in-hand with location selection. Whether investing in a new store or retooling an existing location, there are a few factors to consider, such as the demographics of the neighborhood, the size of the store and the socioeconomic climate of the area. Are there more families with small children, more apartments vs. houses, or is it more of a senior residential neighborhood? These are just some of the questions to ask when considering equipment and how it affects the customer.
If taking over an existing store, evaluating product layout can help influence the environment of a store. When considering a mix of equipment, these tips can help encourage good workflow:
- Arrange washers and dryers to be opposite each other and 6 feet apart for easy transfer.
- Put front-loaders close to the entrance, near a window to make them more visible and quickly accessible to those with heavy loads.
- Provide folding tables and carts to help with transfer. Some tables are designed with shelves to take maximum advantage of space. Items such as carts and folding tables are added conveniences that go a long way to making the task of doing laundry more simple and keep customers coming back, too.
Michael Mastorides, owner of Electrolux distributor Masters Laundry, and a multi-store owner: What the customer is interfacing with has to be very easy (to use). They have to be able to walk up to the machine—whether they speak English or not—and understand how it works, what they have to do to get this thing started.
Kathryn Rowen, North American sales manager for equipment maker Huebsch: Equipment must be operational, easy to use, intuitive and clean. Quick and efficient processing of dirty clothes into clean and dry wares is a glorious thing. This is the reason that customers are increasingly gravitating toward larger-capacity machines. Equipment mix should generally include 60-, 80- and even 100-pound washers, with drying capacity to match.
Steve Bowie, national sales manager for equipment manufacturer Speed Queen Commercial: Cornerstone elements in this category include providing a variety of capacities to cater to customers’ unique needs, as well as controls that are easy to operate. Reliability is a must.
PRICING AND CYCLE TIMES
Karn: When it comes to determining pricing and cycle times, information is key. Once again, looking at the neighborhood and understanding the size of the area, the socioeconomic climate, and the number of families vs. individuals can help determine the ideal number of machines. Also, knowing what the store can handle in terms of size and traffic will help an owner decide pricing and cycle options.
Technology advances continue to impact how owners run their stores. Machines with remote connectivity capabilities are now equipped to help owners do things like adjusting pricing, rates, or cycle modifiers, and providing credits from a computer, tablet, or smartphone. With this type of functionality, owners can run reports on individual machines and use that information to make effective business decisions. Taking reporting from the machines and monitoring the data, store owners can identify the types of cycles customers are most using along with determining the busiest machines and times of day. This type of reporting can boost a positive experience by helping to decrease bottlenecking or offering customers pricing specials such as half-off afternoons.
Rowen: For the most part, customers will pay more for fast, reliable equipment that gets their clothes clean. Value is important though and any type of loyalty program that will reward them for their commitment to you is a wonderful way to show your appreciation for their patronage.
Hietpas: With many stores getting larger and larger, it has provided owners with the opportunity to add more washer and dryer capacities, and with management tools they can see which machines are being used the most. Armed with better information, owners can make informed decisions on equipment pricing to improve overall equipment utilization and improve store profitability. That might call for a promotion on certain models or during certain times of the week, or it might call for a change in price between certain models. Regardless of what management action is called for, such changes are getting easier and easier to implement.
Bowie: Your pricing structure is a reflection of your store’s overall commitment to being customer-friendly. That means, if you are doing well in all the areas listed, you can charge more for your service. Fast cycle times and fast, efficient dryers also help make your store a destination. In addition, having a rewards program will inspire loyalty and help you better sell a premium laundry experience – that’s being customer-friendly.
Look for more Being Customer-Friendly later this month!