During my many years as a distributor, I have seen plenty of Laundromats — hundreds, probably thousands of stores. When I think about which businesses stand out as exceptional, it is always the same handful of stores that come to mind. These stores have certain traits that make each one of them great.Let’s take a closer look at some of these stores.EQUIPMENT MIX, FLOOR PLANI’m extremely aware of how important the right equipment mix and space design are to a successful store. These are two areas where the distributor needs to be a valuable resource to the store owner.Sandy’s store, for example, is clean and attractive. She has installed a new ceramic floor with black and white tile around the windows. There are updated restrooms. She has a robust marketing plan, partnering with a nearby grocery to print laundry coupons on the back of its receipts.But where Sandy’s store really makes a statement is the equipment offering and floor plan. She realized that there was a deficiency with her drying capabilities, and that this was frustrating customers. She also knew that the dryers are the last stop for customers. A good drying experience would bring the customers back. So she brought in the proper utilities to support new equipment, adding five 45-pound stacks to her existing 30-pound machines. She knew that not only would her increased drying capacity make customers happy, she would experience increased revenue based on the higher margin of drying.To further enhance the drying experience, she removed some of the less-used machines. This opened up the traffic flow, a concern because folding tables were located in front of the dryers. Her customers now wrap up their drying experience comfortably and quickly.SALESDamon also owns a great laundry. Like Sandy, he has invested in the upgrade of his property with a new floor, improved parking, and the strategic reallocation of floor space within the store. But his real edge is his grasp of the power of marketing. He advertises in both English and Spanish to reach the most potential customers.When he opened his laundry, rather than hire someone to distribute flyers or hang door tags, he did it himself, taking the opportunity to meet his neighbors and personally convey the benefits of his store. He teaches his attendants how to represent the laundry and empowers them to act on the store’s behalf to promote services and resolve issues.Damon has built one of the most successful drop-off services I have ever seen by teaching his attendants how to appropriately let customers know that “we can do that for you.”AMENITIESMichael and Susan’s store services the “outdoor” community, and they have done a tremendous job of outfitting it for their clientele. The equipment mix reflects the needs of their customers — their laundry has a huge drying capability, featuring three 75-pound dryers that can handle a sleeping bag or tent.The store runs meaningful promotions, such as providing discounts to military and National Guard members. They have also employed some clever marketing partnerships, such as providing free laundry service to a pizzeria in return for laundry ads on the pizza delivery boxes.They have also paid a great deal of attention to the store’s décor. In my experience, customers rate the importance of appearance at about an 8.5 on a 10-point scale. This store is definitely a 10. The interior design is infused with their personalities; displays of antique skis and snowshoes capture the community’s love of the outdoors and mountain sports.BRANDING AND CUSTOMER SERVICEGreg and Joy have used high-tech marketing and outstanding customer service to create a strong brand for their laundry. They offer a comfortable, café-inspired environment and state-of-the-art equipment featuring the latest control technology and high-extraction washing.They have a robust website, publish downloadable coupons, and connect with younger, more tech-savvy customers on Facebook and Twitter.Each attendant has been empowered to represent the owner in resolving customer issues, building customer relationships, and adding value as a resource for laundry information.PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER What are the common features that characterize a great self-service laundry?
- The owners are willing to continue investing in their stores. They are astute business people who stay abreast of industry developments to retain a competitive advantage. They also understand that maintaining and upgrading facilities and equipment, along with developing marketing and public-relations strategies, are short-term investments that will provide long-term returns.
- These owners demonstrate a genuine desire to know their customers. They are hands-on and, if possible, live close to their investments. Even if they have stores equipped with sophisticated controls that allow them to run the store remotely, they are engaged in their businesses and are familiar with their customers. They know that listening to their customers will help them make the right equipment purchases and develop the most effective marketing strategies. They also understand that customers love to be on a familiar basis with a store owner and that individual attention builds strong brand loyalty.
- Owners of attended stores have excellent employee training programs. They have developed clear, written instructions with established guidelines for protocol and process. There are incentives for outstanding performance. Attendants are empowered to represent the owners when dealing with customer concerns.
- Finally, each of these great laundries is owned by someone who is passionate and loves the work. Every one of these owners takes great pride in his or her business and is focused on providing the best customer experience possible.
Now, spend a few minutes thinking about your laundry. Do you have any of these traits?