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Just What Do Your Laundry’s Customers Want? (Conclusion)

Feedback collected can inform when deciding on service offerings

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Laundry owners, particularly those new to the business, have to be willing to put in the effort needed to know what type of people their laundry’s customers are and why they visit their store instead of others nearby.

Kristyn Van Ostern co-owns Wash Street. She and partner Laura Simoes purchased an existing laundromat that has evolved into a laundry services company offering self-service, wash-and-fold and dry cleaning plus pickup and delivery that will be celebrating its seventh anniversary here in April.


The varied services that Wash Street offers requires the business to take different approaches to customer communications, Van Ostern says.

“I think that the biggest difference for us is how we communicate with the walk-in customer—and that’s for both coin-op and our walk-in wash-and-fold and drycleaning customers—and then how we communicate with our customers who never will step foot in our facility (and) who will literally never have an opportunity to interact with a Wash Street employee other than maybe a driver.”

For the customers they don’t see face-to-face, Wash Street utilizes a variety of online communications: “With the folks who never step foot in our facility, it’s all online, email, social media, paid advertising,” she says.

Attendants have more of an opportunity to be a physical “touch point” for walk-in customers.

“We still collect their information from an email perspective, but it is a very different way of communicating with customers and getting to know your customers.”


Customer feedback has helped inform Wash Street’s offerings, including one that Van Ostern admits missed the mark.

“I thought we could offer a wash-and-iron service at the beginning, and this was primarily (targeted) at people who didn’t necessarily need a full press. This was, for me, blouses and pants,” Van Ostern recounts. “So we offered (it) for a while … and the feedback was quite poor. We did not do a very good job at that, and we have since realized that that’s not an effective service for us.”

How would you measure your information-gathering abilities today compared to when you started the business?

“We have definitely improved, in part because the point-of-sale system that we use integrated a touch point with customers where, after a certain number of orders, we reach out to a customer (about order quality and fulfillment). So that has really helped to scale that kind of feedback, but I still don’t think that we’re doing everything that we can do, and that’s because our number of customers has grown so much.

“I think you always have to come up with new tactics as your base grows because you’re not going to see them all in person, and your driver may not even see them all, and you have to figure out new techniques as your customers scale.”

In many cases, Van Ostern believes you must build a relationship with your customer first before they’re willing to give you feedback.

“I think there are some people that that’s not true for. Some people are very willing to give feedback to people they don’t know, often unkind,” she says. “And it’s just as rare, I think, to get unsolicited positive feedback.

“One of the things we’ve tried to impress upon our employees is that every piece of feedback we get from a customer is part of a relationship that we want to build on. If someone says they weren’t happy with an order, let’s dig into why.”

Do you think it’s possible to fully learn what the customer wants?

“Yes. If you have a relationship with a customer, or they’re very forthright, I do think you can learn exactly what they want,” Van Ostern says. “But I also believe that what they want changes over time. … What they need might change, or what you’re providing might change, so I think that it’s a very constant process that you have to go through.

“I want to make sure there aren’t people lurking out there who are, you know, a little unhappy and we can find ways to improve the service for them.”

This article was adapted from an episode of the American Coin-Op Podcast. We offer many episodes on a variety of topics of interest to self-service laundry owners and operators. Check them out HERE.

Just What Do Your Laundry’s Customers Want?

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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].