CHICAGO — Gathered at the roundtable of self-service laundry industry expertise, a group of seasoned professionals engages in a virtual conversation that delves into the heart of current industry trends and future forecasts.
In this exclusive assembly of minds, American Coin-Op brings you a front-row seat to insights, analyses and predictions that may shape the trajectory of your business realms; responses were edited for length and for magazine style.
From cutting-edge technologies to capitalizing on shifts in consumer behavior, thought leaders from some of our industry’s equipment manufacturers and distributors offer a kaleidoscope of ideas and concepts, providing you with a compass to navigate the uncharted waters of tomorrow’s marketplace.
Q: For each of the following key aspects of a self-service laundry operation, a) kindly name at least one way that any store owner can seek improvement, and b) offer a general plan or course of action for them to achieve it. How about marketing and promotions?
Mike Hand, vice president, North America Commercial Sales, Alliance Laundry Systems: Leverage technology. Knowing who your customers are and how/when they interact with your laundromat is imperative, and technology helps owners tailor marketing and promotions to individual customers, increasing the likelihood of success.
David Hoffman, sales manager, Gold Coin Laundry Equipment: This is one area most laundry owners overlook by doing very little or no marketing and/or promotions. There is so much digital marketing available these days that owners should be taking more advantage of to promote their businesses. Some of the available card systems and payment options can also help with promoting the laundry by offering incentives such as loyalty programs and bonuses.
Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales, Girbau North America: Evaluate whether or not your marketing is effective, then make changes accordingly. If you don’t market your services, you should get started with a website and social media.
King Lee, senior regional sales manager, Dexter Laundry: Localized internet marketing works to get new customers who may not know about your store to give you a try. Paying for marketing in areas too far outside of your primary zone doesn’t make sense, as the vended laundromat is still a very localized, regional business.
Matt Miller, president, Coin-O-Matic: As a marketer with many years of experience, I’ve never seen the advertising landscape more crowded and complicated than it is today. Make it easy and outsource your advertising to an agency you trust to get your brand known. They are experienced in this business, and a good agency is on top of all the trends and algorithms, which change by the hour these days. You can’t afford to go this one on your own.
Don Tomasian Jr., vice president, DT Equipment Co.: A store owner can increase their business through a strong online presence. This can include a website containing pictures and store information; active social media marketing on Facebook; advertising in local publications, including those in languages that resonate with their demographics; mailer programs; loyalty programs; and becoming an active participant in local community-support efforts.
Al Adcock, vice president of sales and marketing, B&C Technologies: Customer relation programs keep your business name in front of the customer and allow you to generate traffic on slower days. Don’t forget non-traditional means like social media advertising and other creative methods.
Joe Fleming, national sales manager, Yamamoto North America: I’d argue it’s too easy not to. Unlike the old days when it was direct mail, radio and Yellow Pages (remember all the AAA “businesses”), customers can be reached effectively and oftentimes for free today. Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, the same things your customers are scrolling through while they judge the store’s condition, are free outlets for you to reach your market and stay top of mind. Did I mention they’re free?
Gary Gauthier, national sales manager, vended laundries, Pellerin Milnor Corp.: Simple is best when it comes to marketing and promotions, and I recommend that my owners tie everything back to their brand. Strong signage, online business listings and social media are the most basic ways to build a brand with vended laundry customers.
Q: Now, how can a store owner seek improvement where customer service and relations are concerned?
Hoffman: Spend some time getting to know your customers and your neighborhood. Be part of the community and get involved in local events. Also, if a customer posts a positive or negative review about their experience at your laundry, you should respond to the post, as this shows that you care about what they have to say, and keeps you informed of what your customers are saying about your business.
Jorgensen: Prompt, immediate attention to customers is the cornerstone of great customer service. Having a positive attendant onboard at all times will go a long way in pleasing customers.
Lee: Even if you run an unattended laundromat, we are still in the customer service industry. So, if some of your machines are out-of-order, or your store hasn’t been cleaned regularly, what is the message you are conveying to your prospective customers?
Your attendants also become the face of your business. I know of a multi-store operator who refers to their attendants as managers because what they actually do is manage their stores. I always felt that was a great empowerment tool. Even a self-service industry will thrive with great customer service. There’s a great book by an award-winning restaurateur, Will Guidara, called “Unreasonable Hospitality” that chronicles how doing the little things with great intent can drive your business to greatness.
Miller: Clearly, customer service has taken a massive downturn since the pandemic. Only staff your laundromat with people who genuinely appreciate people and demonstrate kindness toward others. They are out there, and you can find such staff. One more thing: Demonstrate the same from yourself, as it’s contagious.
Tomasian: One of the best ways a store owner can seek improvement is training staff to provide excellent customer service and address customer concerns promptly. Implementing feedback such as suggestion boxes, your contact information and/or online surveys is a very nice way to give your customers a voice.
Adcock: If you’d like to keep customers coming back to your store, treat them well and help them when they ask. Keeping your store and equipment in good shape shows that you are interested in creating a safe and comfortable space for the customer to spend time in while their laundry is processing.
Fleming: This can be tough! The phrase “passive income” has swept across the news and grasped the interest of young entrepreneurs seeking a doorway into the laundry industry. Blinders block them from seeing the troubles that come with equipment failures, staffing issues, customer complaints, and more.
Let’s face it, you’re bound to have your fill of overloaded equipment, underperforming staff, and certainly way-too-much soap. How you handle these types of situations almost always sheds light on the long-term success of your business. Owner/operators who face these troubles with solution-oriented minds (and patience) almost always win. The latter … well, they eventually get bought out.
Gauthier: The customer might not always be right, but they are always the customer. Having well-priced machines that are available at peak times with enough space to move around in the store are the best ways to keep 90% of customers in our self-service businesses happy. That other 10% needs to know how to contact someone with your team. And, that person needs to communicate with diplomacy and tact.
Hand: You can seek improvement by employing a well-trained attendant. Setting a laundromat apart in this area is all about setting expectations with staff and ensuring they follow through. Seemingly “little things” like opening doors, helping carry baskets, walking them through controls/apps, etc., can pay big dividends in building customer loyalty.
People who appear in this series of articles:
People who appear in this series of articles:
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].