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: PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW A STORE CAN BE MADE CUSTOMER-FRIENDLY BY ADDRESSING THE FOLLOWING:
Exterior Appearance and Signage
Dave Phillips, national sales manager, IPSO: A store with glass frontage is more customer-friendly than one without. Customers appreciate being able to see through the windows before entering the store, especially at night – a glass front offers a sense of security.
It is important that the ingress/egress area and even the parking lot receive the same attention as the interior of the store. It should be clean, well-lit and provide ample parking spaces. As for signage, it should be lighted, simple and easy to read from a distance with no obstructions, and have colors that attract potential customers’ eyes to it.
Craig Kirchner, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service for Dexter Laundry: Having an external sign that features services your location offers can be a great asset to encourage new and potential customers to come inside.
Karl Hinrichs, president, HK Laundry Equipment: The Laundromat’s exterior and signage is where owners will advertise the store’s identity, strengths, and serve as a consistent reminder to the community that the Laundromat is available for their use. The outside of a Laundromat should be well-lit, clean and welcoming. Make the most of the store’s “street appeal” because it is a permanent billboard for the business.
David Cabral, vice president, New England Coin Laundry: The exterior of the store should convey a clean, safe and inviting laundry. If the interior is the best in the industry but the exterior looks less than safe or inviting, it will never matter how well maintained the interior is. Signage should be in working order and well-lit.
Days and Hours of Operation
Jose Fernandez, owner, Mily’s Place Laundromat, Coral Gables, Fla.: A store’s hours of operation should be determined based on customers’ needs. To be the most successful, a store needs to be open when its customers have time to do their laundry, which isn’t necessarily between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Initially, Mily’s Place was open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. After watching traffic patterns, I noticed a need to be open later and so we opted to extend the store hours. Now, we are a 24/7 operation, and the response has been extremely favorable.
Dawn Nagle, marketing director and VP of creative services, Laundrylux: Know your market. If your customers work shifts or need to come in early or late, make sure you are open to meet the needs of your community. Also, program special pricing and offers for slow days of the week and odd times to encourage customers to come when it’s not busy.
Dan Bowe, national sales manager, Speed Queen: This really depends on your demographics and market; however, the average Laundromat is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. But if the store is located in a college market, it should be open 24 hours a day, which will cater to the demographic.
Parking and Access
Kirchner: When you’re planning parking for a new retail location, make sure that you have ample parking to accommodate customers on the busiest day. If your parking lot is full, customers may pass by your location to go to another store that has available parking. Parking needs to be clean and free of trash, and also needs to be well lit so that customers feel safe visiting your business at night. Store entrances not only need to be handicapped-accessible, but they need to allow for large laundry carts to move in and out of facility without struggling.
Phillips: A dedicated parking lot or spaces, preferably off-street, are very important. No owner wants their customers to have trouble finding a parking space or fighting traffic to access the parking lot.
Fernandez: Ample parking is one of the most important aspects for a store. In addition to parking, a clean store front should be free of trash and wide enough for laundry carts and baskets to easily enter and exit. This simplifies a customer’s experience (and) helps reiterate the owner’s focus on customer satisfaction.
Cleanliness and Décor
Hinrichs: A Laundromat can never be too clean. Make sure the store is cleaned at least twice a day, which should include sweeping, mopping floors, cleaning out lint traps and washing windows if there are fingerprints on them. Bathrooms should be well maintained and stocked full of necessities such as toilet paper, soap, and paper towels or a working electric hand dryer. The store should also be spruced up at least once a year, especially if it has white walls. A fresh coat of paint or replacing carpet or tiles and worn furniture can make a significant positive impression to customers.
Nagle: A clean, comfortable store is critical. If your store is dirty, not maintained, has old rusty machines, soap on the floor or machines don’t shine – your customers will go somewhere else.
Ken Hebert, Deep South Laundry Systems: Again, cleanliness is important. The décor should be clean and simple. The color of the walls needs to be soothing and inviting – repaint if necessary. Indoor signage needs to be limited, simply stated and not negative. If all your customers see is NO or DON’T, they WON’T use your Laundromat in the future.
Kirchner: For store décor, simple things like updating lighting, adding mirrors or pictures, or a fresh coat of paint can make a world of difference with a small expense. Decorating for upcoming seasons or holidays can also be a fun and festive way to spice up your store’s décor on a budget; just be sure to change out the decorations as the season ends.
Check back Thursday for more on The Elements of Being Customer-Friendly!