Building a Better Customer Experience (Part 1)

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Jim Hohnstein |

What makes coffee at Starbuck’s better than coffee at McDonald’s?

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.

Can I make money and be successful by throwing washers and dryers in a room and flipping on the open sign? We can all agree, yes (and many of us can admit we have shaken our heads at the guy down the street employing that strategy, silently wondering how he stays in business). The flip side to this is, can I command a premium for my services by focusing on presenting a higher-level customer experience? Again, the answer here is yes. But how do I get there?

GETTING STARTED

I firmly believe we are making great strides in changing the perception of what a vended laundry is. However, owners often do fall down when it comes to the customer experience. We all have to view this as a business that truly emphasizes this experience. This is how you will get a leg up on the owner down the street, who thinks he basically bought an annuity and doesn’t need to do anything.

I believe the key to getting started in building a better customer experience is to always be in a growth phase. Be as pliable as when you started. Never stop learning and growing as an owner. Seek out new ideas and ways to give your customers more than just basic tools that wash and dry. We have to get beyond just a “cleaner and brighter store” mentality. A clean store with good lighting is not enhancing the customer experience; these are basic prerequisites to being in this business.

BIGGER IS OFTEN BETTER

The vended laundry game is trending toward larger equipment. This is what customers want. It gets them in and out faster. If you don’t offer 40-, 60- and 80-pound washer-extractors, your store isn’t giving customers what they want (and you also are missing out utility savings and profit potential). The ROI on larger capacities sometimes is quite surprising, even to veteran laundry owners. But if we are truly creating a better customer experience, bigger shouldn’t stop at machine capacity.

Let’s start at the front door. Our customers are lugging giant bags into our stores; large automatic doors definitely help simplify things for them. I have the push-button handicapped variety and don’t have any issues with children opening and closing them. Bottom line is if we are focused on a truly exemplary customer experience, it starts from the first interaction with our stores — the front door.

Likewise, what about making this task even easier? Ever think about why, when we are selling larger-capacity equipment, we are using the same size in laundry carts? Me, too. Upsize your laundry carts and customers will appreciate not having to balance bags and baskets overflowing with laundry on carts too small for their needs.

To take this customer experience to the next level, print stickers or implement a cart color-coding system that ties to your machine capacity. Customers often have a tough time knowing just exactly how much they can put in a 60- or 80-pound washer-extractor. Simplify it for them by creating a system that basically says, “If this cart is filled, it’s a perfect 60-pound load.”

This certainly isn’t a bank-breaking idea, yet it greatly enhances the customer experience by taking guesswork off the table and making things easy and intuitive. I will take this a step further and say these bigger carts are an advertising opportunity.

Think about that customer with bulky things at home driving by your store and seeing a customer in the parking lot filling one of your giant laundry carts. They now have a visual connection to the scale of capacity your store has: They have equipment that can wash that much laundry? Seems like an easy way to clean all those blankets, quilts, and bedspreads I have at home.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!

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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