CHICAGO — Through hard work and determination, you’ve been able to cultivate the self-service laundry side of your business.
With attendants in place and a laundry business up and running, many operators follow the progression of exploring the extra-profit center of wash-dry-fold/drop-off service.
Taking on this amenity, on top of your self-service laundry business, entails a new set of responsibilities and considerations—Do you have enough capacity to process orders? How can you avoid liabilities when processing customer-owned goods? What are the best packaging techniques for drop-off service work?
American Coin-Op reached out to various experts in the industry to weigh in on these questions, and more, to discover the do’s and don’ts of managing drop-off laundry service.
‘DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS’
With a schedule and price structure in place, how can operators and attendants best manage the process of taking in customers’ laundry for drop-off service?
“Don’t make assumptions with customer clothes. Ask if they want hot or cold wash and separation of colors from whites. Ask about detergent allergies and special care needs,” says J.D. Johnson, president of LaundryRx, a Milnor vended laundry equipment distributor based in Atlanta.
“Always collect the cost of the drop-off up front,” he adds. “This encourages the customer to come back to get their laundry and not leave it for weeks in your storage room.”
From his experience, Brendan Ristaino, sales manager at Barrington, N.H.-based distributor Yankee Equipment, has encountered customers who, in an effort to save money, will try to have all garments washed in one load, including those that require special attention.
“You’ve got to look for the ‘dry clean only’ [items like] wool sweaters. Look for items that you’re not going to wash in just a normal load of laundry, or can’t be washed in a normal load of laundry,” he says.
Tony Regan, vice president of global sales, American Dryer Corp. (ADC), agrees with this, saying, “Be careful to make it clear that standard laundry is not dry cleaning and that those garments requiring dry cleaning should be removed.”
“All delicate items need special attention, as well as dress shirts and pants that may require ironing/pressing,” adds Chris Brick, regional sales manager, Maytag Commercial Laundry.
He advises operators and attendants to always ask customers questions about their order, such as if their laundry load needs to be separated by color, or if any of the linens require ironing.
Asking such questions as part of a checklist is a best practice when receiving customers’ laundry, according to Brick.
“The checklist should detail the services provided, along with the charges for each,” he says. “This step helps to ensure complete customer satisfaction and no surprise charges for the work.”
Handling customer-owned goods can present liabilities.
“There will be customer claims for damage and loss,” says Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales and customer services at Continental Girbau.
“Automated systems for photographing all items before processing are out there and [are] becoming more practical,” he says. “This can help negate false claims of stains and rips, etc. Be sure you’re insured for these possible losses.”
For Ristaino, being upfront about rips and problem stains from the get-go is paramount.
“If you notice certain stains as you’re taking in the goods, mention it to the customer [and] mark them,” he says. “Anytime it tears, rips … just point them out.”
“Let them be aware of what’s going on with their clothes, because that will help remediate any issue down the road,” adds Ristaino. “If you’re processing clothes, things do get lost, things do get damaged from time to time. But being open up front about them … is important.”
Brick and Regan believe that establishing policies will help in remediation.
“Having a policy beforehand usually sets what the responsibility of the laundry is,” says Regan. “There might be disclaimers for damage and a maximum value assigned to lost items.”
“It is mandatory for store owners to have clear policies and procedures in the employee manual that outline the complete laundering process—including all liabilities that may occur,” says Brick.
To avoid mixing up customers’ goods, or ultimately losing a garment, Ristaino explains that one of his store-owner customers utilizes a spreadsheet to jot down special notes about a customer’s order.
“With certain point-of-sale systems, you can make customer notes and allow little reminders, because they may not come in while you’re there all the time,” he adds.
Regarding point-of-sale systems, Regan advises operators to ensure that each drop-off customer is registered in their system.
“Always have an account set up, even if it is a one-time customer,” says Regan. “This can include minimal information—name, telephone number, e-mail. This way, accountability to the goods is available.”
While sophisticated technology is available to help operators and attendants manage drop-off service work, many of the experts stick to the “one washer, one customer” approach when processing loads.
“Don’t try to mix customers’ clothes,” says Ristaino. “If you know that’s 20 pounds of clothes, you put it in a 20-pound washer, and you tag that washer so you know it’s that customer’s, and you’re not going to put anyone else’s in there.”
“Process [loads] separately and advertise that fact—‘We don’t mix your laundry with other people’s laundry!’” advises Jorgensen.
To avoid mix-ups, Brick suggests that “The laundry ticket should remain with the load at all times.”
“Color-coded magnets or magnetic clips attached to the ticket should follow the load from washer to dryer, dryer to folding area, and folding area to storage,” he says.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!
Missed Part 1 of this story? You can read it now HERE.