CHICAGO — How do you know your store is performing up to expectations? Are you missing opportunities for service expansion? What about the potential for expanding your business to include a second store?
In order to make these types of determinations, you need two things: performance goals and performance data. Benchmarks can help a store owner decide if his/her operation is running well or if it might be time to make some changes.
This month, American Coin-Op polled representatives from several laundry equipment manufacturers and payment systems makers, all of which offer data collection and/or management tools, to review how store owners can crunch the numbers, then act on what they find.
USE DATA TO TAKE ACTION (CONTINUED)
Once the benchmarking data has been collected, how should a vended laundry owner put it to use?
Owners should seek to balance out traffic flow and eliminate bottlenecks through marketing efforts, suggests Kathryn Rowen, North American sales manager for laundry equipment maker Huebsch.
“They should continually review data and look for any changes in trends. That is the only way to determine what marketing tactics have been successful. We recently had a store owner who figured out an entire bank of machines weren’t being used, based on the fact that there were or, in this case, were not folding tables nearby. He rearranged the tables and immediately increased his utilization.”
Dave Richards, vice president of payment systems provider CryptoPay, says the trick is to understand what the data are telling you.
“For example, there are 15 30-pound washing machines and 10 of those machines are averaging between 3.5 and 4.2 turns per day, two are at 2.1 turns per day, and three are between 0.7 and 1.2 turns per day. What does this mean? I expect there are reasons (the low-use machines are dirty; poor lighting; there is no need for this many 30-pound machines; placement within the laundry; they are the oldest; and the list goes on). Further information gathering could be as simple as talking with customers or conducting a simple survey.
“The data are simply pointing to something that may require attention and/or improvement. Without data and investigation, the issue may go unanswered or the fix is, at best, a ‘shot in the dark.’ The owner’s challenge is to understand what should be done.”
Tom Weisheipl, a regional sales manager for laundry equipment maker Speed Queen, believes store owners should set goals as to what they envision the business doing in a certain time frame.
“They should be realistic, but make sure they have stretch goals. Once the goals are set, they should employ a strategy to reach the goals by a certain time. This includes methods such as adjusting time-of-day pricing or implementing cycle modifiers. It’s important to review those changes soon after they are implemented to ensure they are successful. Benchmarking the data and having instant access to reports aids them on the path to reaching the goals and if something in the strategy is not working, they have the ability to course-correct.”
“The best use of benchmarking data is to use it as a ‘control,’” says Steve Marcionetti, president of payment systems provider Card Concepts Inc. (CCI). “As the owner tries different marketing techniques, they can run comparable reports and see how they line up with the control data. This is effective in determining what works and what does not.”
“If you find that the utilization is low, particularly on weekend afternoons, then actions you might consider taking are advertising and enabling loyalty features, such as providing a bonus for repeat use,” says Oleg Stepanov, representing payment systems provider Mitech Integrated Systems (Laundroworks). “But if the utilization is very high or even at full capacity, then your actions might to be update the equipment mix in order to provide more in-demand machines or to experiment with price increases. Once you make changes, it is important to monitor the utilization metric (e.g, has the utilization evened out across the week?) and the profit metric (is this actually making me more money?).
“For an owner that has new equipment, pricing specials,” suggests Chris Brick, NE regional business development manager for Laundrylux, North American supplier of Electrolux and Wascomat laundry equipment. “For an owner that may be looking at retooling a store, this is critical information to help properly size new equipment based on demand.”
COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID
And unfortunately, when store owners start to benchmark, sometimes they make mistakes, such as...
“Discounting data and analysis when it leads in a direction where the owner is in disagreement or simply doesn’t like the potential outcome,” says CryptoPay’s Richards. “For example, data and analysis support the direction of replacing over-the-counter sundry availability with vended items. The owner doesn’t like the technology and prefers to have a counter person making the sale of these smaller items. While this decision is certainly the owner’s choice, the opportunity to improve the customer’s experience and/or effect revenue in a positive direction may have been missed.”
“They set goals but do not have a plan to hit them,” adds Speed Queen’s Weisheipl. “Many will set the goals but not market their business to help them hit these goals. Or, they lose sight of the reason they got into the business in the first place.”
“Only looking at revenue, rather than all the factors that influence profit,” says Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales and customer services for laundry equipment manufacturer Continental Girbau. “Not comparing data to external benchmarks.”
“Like any ‘control,’ it’s not valuable if the data being collected is affected by non-normal variables,” says CCI’s Marcionetti. “Best to use data from times that would be classified as ‘typical.’ If there is going to be a circus in town and all the employees are going to be using the store, that week will be skewed and not provide good benchmarking data.”
“Not continuing to collect the information to understand if seasonal weather effects demand,” adds Laundrylux’s Brick. “To think data collected in February can be used in July would be a mistake.”
Owners often make the mistake of seeing data in absolute terms, says Huebsch’s Rowen, meaning they don’t take into account how demographics impact operations.
“Talk to anyone who has multiple stores, and they can tell you how each is different and why,” she says. “Not all stores operate equally. Differences in clientele, ethnicities, etc. will drive different engagement within the various locations.”
And Amanda Konczal, director of marketing and customer support for laundry equipment manufacturer Dexter Laundry, says that ignoring the competition is a key mistake that many store owners make.
“You should know all your competitors and understand fluctuations in their businesses,” she explains. “When I talk about competition, I’m not just referring to other Laundromats. You should evaluate drop-off services, vended offerings in apartment buildings, dry cleaners, and even the laundry pickup services. Don’t be afraid to act on competitive changes, (because) it is easier to keep a customer than try to win him or her back.”