GLENDALE, Ariz. — The majority of Laundromat patrons are steady, loyal customers. This behooves you to make sure they are happy and satisfied. It is also a great opportunity to hear the good and bad so you have a better understanding of how to “steer your ship,” so to speak. If they have a complaint, this is your magic moment to resolve it (if possible) and turn that customer around.
In the early years of my mat career, I looked at complaints as a pain in the butt. My body language, tone of voice, and choice of words all showed it. My mats were screaming-busy back then, and my initial success went to my head. Boy, was I wrong!
After a couple of years of not listening to my customers and losing them, I realized just how important it is to communicate well and engage customers in a positive way.
In Part 1, we looked at some ways that you and your business can communicate with customers. There are more than a couple, and they range in value depending on the circumstances. Let me conclude today by sharing the rest of my list:
Use Languages Besides English — When you post signs either inside or outside, make some of them in the first language of your customer base, or bilingual using the predominant language spoken in the neighborhood. I also liked hiring attendants who spoke the predominant language in my area.
Survey Your Customers — All businesses need customer feedback so they can understand how they are performing in the eyes of the customer. As owner, you’re naturally biased, so you could very well miss a few important things that may be causing you to lose customers.
In my early years, I had “report cards” printed up, with a mail slot for customers to submit anonymously. Nowadays, with review sites such as Yelp, a customer feedback survey is less important, but it can still be useful if you are seeking customer opinions in certain categories. A survey could be added to your website, or there are third-party services that will conduct surveys for you.
Install and Use a Public Address (PA) System — This turned out to be a great tool for us. When every machine was taken on a busy day, and a customer needed to use a couple machines that had stopped, we’d use the PA to announce, “Washers 16, 17 and 18 have finished. Please remove your laundry.” Not only does it make it easier to keep things flowing, the customer who left their laundry in those washers might be just outside.
Also, if a customer who was absent has a hissy fit when they discover their clothes have been removed, your attendant can inform them of the announcement and other customers will sometimes confirm they heard the message.
Use Custom Packaging for Finished Work — Use printed shoulder guards for hanging items, printed sock wrappers, things like that. It’s a rare business that can have its name displayed inside a customer’s home, even if it’s just inside their closets. The more someone sees your business name and logo, the more your business will be ingrained in their memory.
Post a Dryer Light Board — Back in the 1970s, one of my competitors had 25 dryers in his mat. He built a big board with 25 lights, each with a number matching a corresponding dryer. When a dryer was started, the corresponding number on the board lit up. When the dryer went out, so did the number on the board. He placed this board within full view of the seating area. Doing something like this today would make your mat unique and give people a “selling point” when they talk to their friends.
Offer Your Cellphone Number — My plumber in New York City was very successful. His business was so big, he and his sales reps actually dressed in suits to look at jobs! We once had some big work done to divert roof rainwater to some catch basins that his crew installed in the parking lot. I learned a lot from how he treated his customers, but the one thing stood out: he gave me his personal cellphone number and told me to call anytime. I was very impressed by that.
It took me about two years to get up the courage to try that myself. When we had a drop-off complaint, I would go through the standard steps to correct the complaint: call the customer, listen as he/she described the problem and vented, then take steps to correct it. If they complained about a certain employee, I gave them the names of my best employees to ask for the next time they came in. If I felt they still weren’t totally satisfied, I would finish by giving them my cell number.
If you already have a dedicated cell phone for business use, trying this will come easier. My customer was so that they had a “hook” to the owner’s phone, they rarely abused it. Once in a while, someone would call just to see if the number was legitimate. After that, I rarely got another complaint from them. It was one of my best customer relations ideas.
Don’t worry, you can always block someone’s number if they get out of hand. But I never had to do that, which still amazes me.
Above All, Listen! — Think of you and your employees as bartenders. How do smart bartenders keep their customers coming back? They listen to them! Many customers come on a regular basis, and they will get to know your crew.
Some just want to gripe about a subject, some are a little lonely, some have good news, and some are just friendly. A few of my employees joked about it, saying they could have charged a fee for being a psychotherapist!
Being a good communicator leads to good business.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.