GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are times that Laundromats are so busy that customers must wait for machines to open up, making them angry and frustrated. Other times, there are no customers in the store.

While it can be a great feeling to come in and see your mat operating at full capacity, most likely this is occurring only a few hours a week. And more importantly, it’s likely that you’re losing customers due to their unpleasant experience of having to compete for machines!

Worse, fights between customers can break out. I’ve seen some really bad fights that required us to call police and ambulances. It’s something that no normal person likes.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could smooth out these peaks and valleys?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could shift some of the “herd” from these busy times to the slow times?

Wouldn’t it be great if your mat operated consistently at, say, 75% capacity for much of the time it’s open? (That would be a win for you and a win for your customers.)

To come anywhere close to achieving this requires more than just one solution. Here are my suggestions:

OFFER A POLICE/MILITARY/FIRST RESPONDER DISCOUNT DAY

If any group besides seniors deserves a discount, these heroes do.

When people learn that they can get a discount that is tailored only for them, they will feel more inclined to use it. And because these police officers, military personnel and first responders are considered by most of society to be special, your other customers won’t complain to you about their discounts.

Many of these heroes work on rotating schedules, so many of them will have the flexibility to come to your mat during a slow day that you pick (but don’t offer it on the same day as your senior day, so you can fill in two slow days instead of just one).

You stand to gain other benefits when offering this type of discount. It’s not all about money.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have more of these high-quality people in your mat? Word of your discount offer will spread amongst these groups just like it will with seniors … maybe even more so! Your business will be looked at by your local police as being “police-friendly,” for example.

Note: Another idea for a possible discount day is “Ladies Only.”

POST SIGNS STATING LIGHT AND PEAK PERIODS

Post signs stating your slowest hours and your busiest hours (we posted ours right at the entrances). This is a simple, near-zero-cost solution that helped me shift some customers to less busy times.

It’s important to put them at the entrance because if a customer walks in and sees your mat is overcrowded, they will often walk right out, and I don’t blame them. Some of them may choose to go to a less crowded competitor. Before any of that happens, you want your signs to tell them when they can come back to your mat.

If they’re aware of your busy and slow hours ahead of time, and they love your mat, they will have the information they need to know when it’s best to come in.

Your sign could read: Too Crowded in This Laundromat? Our slowest hours are (insert your typical slow times, including rain or snow days). Our busiest hours are (insert times when your store is typically crowded).

Speaking of rain or snow days, you can also post a sign or two inside your mat with some kind of simple deal for those days: “If it’s raining outside, ask us for a free plastic bag to protect your laundry when you leave.”

This helps give some customers the confidence to brave the rain, conditions that create a slow day for you, and what does it cost you? A nickel a bag?

And don’t forget to smile when you hand them that free bag. A smile is more important than you may think.

You create a little goodwill for your business. People may decide to choose your mat, the “friendly mat,” on a rainy day instead of your competitor for this reason alone. You may even get a few rainy-day customers to become regulars.

OFFER A DEAL FOR ALL CUSTOMERS ON SLOW DAYS

Offering a deal to everyone on slow days to shift the herd and bring in new customers is an obvious, age-old technique … but what kind of deal? Free soap, a buck off, two-for-one — basically, it’s up to your own imagination.

Don’t forget that you can also shift your drop-off customers to slower times with a deal like 10% off during weekdays (and you raise your drop-off prices slightly before or after that to compensate).

Now, be mindful that offering a deal for all customers is the last solution I suggest you try because it involves a more serious discounting approach that may prompt your competitors to respond in kind, triggering a price war. No one wants that!

Just keep your offers to one or two slow days of the week and you may be able to get by without triggering your competitors.

I would stay away from offering “free dry,” even if it’s just one day a week. It will bring in customers, but it’s an expensive deal, and is the riskiest as far as generating a response from competitors.

Here’s to “speeding up” those slow times, to the benefit of you and your customers.

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.