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: Does an attended store automatically have an advantage over an unattended store in being customer-friendly?
Karl Hinrichs, president, HK Laundry Equipment: Definitely – there’s no doubt about it. If you have a good attendant, they’ll be an asset to the store because they can immediately address any issues or problems. Some of the better-managed stores have attendants who are trained to really help the store. For example, some Laundromats offer a feature called “Mother’s Little Helper,” where the attendant will move the laundry from the washer to dryer. This allows the customer to take longer shopping errands and complete shopping and laundry at the same time. This is a huge, customer-friendly benefit that only takes a little bit of the attendant’s time.
Craig Kirchner, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service for Dexter Laundry: Both attended and unattended stores can be successful and customer-friendly if owners take care of the basics and make sure their stores are well-maintained.
Jose Fernandez, owner, Mily’s Place Laundromat, Coral Gables, Fla.: Absolutely. An attended store has a distinct advantage in being customer-friendly. In addition to 24/7 attendance, we have security cameras throughout, and I’ve arranged for the local police department to have patrol cars drive through the parking lot several times between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. These extra measures bring more and more customers from other laundries near and far.
Ken Hebert, Deep South Laundry Systems: Attended stores are generally kept cleaner and therefore are more inviting.
Q: Should a store owner poll his or her customers to determine what they like or don’t like about the store? If yes, how often should they approach customers, and how should it be handled?
Kirchner: Not sure what your customers are looking for? Ask them! Offer a suggestion box and hold a contest where submissions can enter to win a prize like free detergent, free washes, etc. You might just get some great ideas!
Fernandez: The best way to obtain honest feedback is via a suggestion box. Provide customers with the opportunity to anonymously make recommendations or respond to a specific question. This ensures more honest feedback, and it also serves as an incentive to keep the attendants alert knowing that their performance and attitude are being evaluated.
Hinrichs: Yes. There’s no downside to surveying your customers. It gives the owner an opportunity to correct any issues that might be occurring and enhance customer satisfaction. Customers like to be asked their opinion.
Dave Phillips, national sales manager, IPSO: Feedback from customers is always good, and I would suggest a personal approach. It offers the owner an opportunity to get to know the customers and to perhaps instill a sense of community. I am of the opinion that an owner should be constantly reaching out to the customers for feedback.
Check back next Tuesday for the final installment of The Elements of Being Customer-Friendly!