Building a Better Customer Experience (Conclusion)

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Jim Hohnstein |

Look outside your laundry business for inspiration

DENVER — Let’s be honest. Is the coffee at Starbuck’s really that much better? If we do a blind taste test, how many of us can pick out the $4 Starbucks cup from the $1 McDonald’s cup?

Now, let’s take the blindfold off and explore that sip of coffee within the full context of the surroundings. We can all agree that the Starbucks experience is quite different than the McDonald’s. That difference is rooted in the customer experience.

I think this is a nice parallel to our business. We can all agree the root of what we present to our customers isn’t all that different from store to store. My store offers washers and dryers for clients to launder their clothes. Likewise, competitors in my market have the same basic offering. Similar to the coffee example, what separates us is our approach to the customer experience.

GIVE THEM CONTROL

That guy down the street with the rundown shop and a bank of dated top loaders isn’t delivering a great customer experience in many areas, and he’s definitely falling short in wash cycle options.

So you think your store’s 27 cycle options are overkill? Well, I have machine operations reports that show me just how much customers like having the ability to tailor their wash to what they want. They want to choose how they care for their clothes. To me, having a variety of cycle options and modifiers is a must in delivering a great customer experience. Why not utilize all the technology we have available?

DRY-SIDE THOUGHTS

If we are offering greater wash capacity, a better customer experience obviously requires more dryer capacity as well. Big, 45-pound stacks are the way to go. But again, a better customer experience sometimes is about the little things.

We all know it can be a pain bending over to load and unload that bottom pocket, so think about installing stacks on platform to make loading and unloading easier on the back. Raising the stacks up by as little as 4 inches can actually make a difference. I have done this in one location and usage is pretty balanced between the top and bottom pockets.

I think the drying side is an opportunity to further enhance customers’ experiences and resulting perceptions of our stores by trending to one-price starts of 50 or 75 cents. It gives the maximum amount of heat versus forcing clients to keep going through cool-down cycles with 25-cent prices.

HAVE A SNACK

People often come to your laundry hungry and thirsty. Adding soda and snack machines ensures you are meeting more than their laundry needs – that’s being customer-friendly. It also opens the door to additional revenue; some laundries are pulling north of 10% of gross monthly revenue from soda and snack offerings.

You can reinforce your commitment to a better customer experience by surveying them on their likes. The message here is that we care about your needs and want to create an atmosphere of comfort.

Comfort also applies to space. While larger-capacity machines are the trend, don’t eat up every extra square foot. Larger equipment plus larger carts should equal more space overall, so make sure the store is airy and easy to navigate for customers. Stores that are crammed full of equipment and make it hard to move around are not customer-friendly.

PARTING THOUGHTS

Obviously, it’s up to individual owners and new investors to determine what will improve the experience for their own customers. Think of it as equal parts innovation and adaptation.

In exploring the adaptation theme, look outside your business for inspiration. Franchises such as Wendy’s and Panda Express are doing things in store designs that we may want to consider replicating. Even my McDonald’s observation at the start of this column may not be persuasive, as their store décor is rapidly changing, including elements such as fireplaces.

As consumers ourselves, ideas are all around us. Look at your grocery store, car dealership, restaurant, etc., and identify little things that make your task easier or make you feel more valued as a customer. Then bring these ideas to your store and adapt them.

Often, small investments in improving the customer experience can have returns.

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.

About the author

Jim Hohnstein

Martin Ray Laundry Systems Inc.

President

Jim Hohnstein is president of Martin Ray Laundry Systems Inc., headquartered in Denver, and servicing Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and West Texas.

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