CHICAGO — How would your customers describe your coin laundry? Would they say it’s dependable? Clean? Secure? Comfortable? How about customer-friendly?
It stands to reason that customer-friendly stores—those that are welcoming, bright and offer a sense of security, for example—have a better chance of drawing business than the store down the block that’s dark, dirty and run-down.
But there are many levels of customer service, and thus customer friendliness. American Coin-Op reached out to some store owners, manufacturers and distributors this month and asked them for their analysis of the elements of being customer-friendly.
Q: SO, WHAT DOES BEING “CUSTOMER-FRIENDLY” MEAN IN THE CONTEXT OF RUNNING A COIN LAUNDRY?
Karl Hinrichs, president, HK Laundry Equipment: The basics of a “Customer-Friendly Laundromat” are clean, bright and safe, and are equipped with reliable, high-quality machines. These are the basic minimum requirements. However, in today’s world, owners should go above and beyond. Many Laundromats have added attractive décor that caters to their customers, like earth-toned colored walls with trendy art and clocks, comfortable seating with tables, entertainment that includes free Wi-Fi, high-definition flat-screen TVs, magazines and even children’s lounges that offer video games and computers.
Dave Phillips, national sales manager, IPSO: A customer-friendly store is one that is owned by someone who lives and breathes good customer service. And because of this, people want to come to their Laundromat and do laundry. The owner will monitor and be aware of and adapt concepts and ideas that customers want in a Laundromat to make sure the customers’ experiences are positive. Additionally, the Laundromat’s employees will embrace and be committed to the same customer-friendly principles.
Craig Kirchner, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service for Dexter Laundry: Customers and especially families are looking for a clean, well-lit environment where they feel safe for themselves and their children. They look for ample parking and sliding doors that make it easy to enter and exit with big baskets of laundry and plenty of equipment that’s available when they need it.
Dan Bowe, national sales manager, Speed Queen: The most customer-friendly stores are attended. When owners make the investment in good employees, they help elevate the customer experience. Attendants should be properly trained, friendly and helpful, but also feel confident in their position and enjoy what they do. Since attendants represent the store, they should be well-groomed, and greet customers, thank them for their business, help carry laundry out to cars if customers need assistance, and be there to answer general questions when they arise.
Ken Hebert, Deep South Laundry Systems: Being customer-friendly is defined by understanding your customer base and providing them with the environment/equipment they need to simplify their laundry time.
Q: WHAT RESPONSIBILITY DOES AN OWNER HAVE FOR MAKING HIS OR HER COIN LAUNDRY CUSTOMER-FRIENDLY? WHAT RESPONSIBILITY DOES A MANAGER AND/OR ATTENDANT HAVE?
Bowe: Customer friendliness starts with the management. If you don’t position your business to cater to your customers, you won’t be as successful as you hoped. Employees follow the examples management sets, so it’s essential that good customer service is an integral part in the business’ philosophy. For example, if a customer requests a refund, provide one without question. Offer to assist customers who are first-time visitors, and strike up a conversation to make them feel like they made the right decision in choosing the store.
Steve Koumaras, owner of four coin stores in Pennsylvania: Customers need to understand that although my stores aren’t staffed, the lines of communication are open. I have a way for customers to leave comments and suggestions, and I provide a phone number where I can be reached. If I miss a customer, I call them back and talk through the comment or problem with them. As an owner, I have to be customer-focused to really succeed in this business.
Hinrichs: Good customer service starts with management. If they want the store to be successful and generate revenue that will make them profitable, owners have to be customer-friendly. Otherwise, customers will go to another store that will provide them with the amenities they desire.
From an operations point of view, attendants should be welcoming, friendly and helpful. They represent the Laundromat and, indirectly, the owner. Attendants should greet all customers, ask if they need help, and if a problem arises they should help resolve it as soon as possible – whether it be soda spill clean-up or refunding money; if there’s a problem, they should do all they can to correct the problem and create a happy customer.
Jose Fernandez, owner, Mily’s Place Laundromat, Coral Gables, Fla.: It is imperative managers and attendants keep the store clean at all times. My attendants know it is a fundamental part of their jobs to pick up trash, clean up any detergent spills, etc. Also, it is our responsibility to maintain the equipment, check lint trays and ensure the washer and dryer drums are clean for the next customer.
Hebert: Owners are responsible for choosing the right location and equipment mix. They are also responsible for regularly updating/replacing paint, equipment, signage and furniture. The customer’s first impression of the Laundromat will determine whether they will use it in the future. The manager is responsible for keeping the equipment running and (for) handling customer suggestions/complaints. The attendant is responsible for keeping the Laundromat clean and inviting.
David Cabral, vice president, New England Coin Laundry: An owner should always want the customers that visit his/her laundry to feel welcome and comfortable. You can’t simply assume your customer feels safe and welcome. You need to make sure first-hand.
Kirchner: Managers and staff play an important role in attracting and maintaining a customer-friendly laundry. They need to work regularly to keep stores clean and attractive, handle maintenance issues or down machines immediately, and keep the store a pleasant place to do business and for customers to visit.
Check back Tuesday for more on The Elements of Being Customer-Friendly!