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Just What Do Your Laundry’s Customers Want? (Part 1)

Wash Street stresses communications, acting on feedback

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 next month.


Van Ostern and her husband were raising two young children, working full-time jobs, and found themselves in a spot familiar to many parents.

“We, every day, found ourselves exhausted and our to-do lists were not even half done—and those were work to-do lists and home to-do lists,” she recalls. “And so I took a deep breath and did what I like to do when I face a challenge, which is create a spreadsheet of everything that was taking up my time. And when I did that and looked at the home tasks especially, laundry was the one thing I had to deal with almost every day.”

She tried outsourcing the task but was dissatisfied with the service provider’s quality or reliability. That experience led to the birth of Wall Street.

And from the start, the owners have placed a great deal of importance on getting to know their customers.

“We really connected with the customers that were at our existing laundromat,” she says. “We wanted to get to know the people who were coming in every day. At the time, we had one employee, but Laura and I were working all the shifts along with this employee, so we really got to know our existing customer base. And we had to understand from them what kind of changes they wanted to see.”


The Wash Street team distributed flyers in the local community and spoke to neighbors who weren’t yet using the laundry in hopes of better understanding what Wash Street needed to do to get them in the door.

“Over time, as we grew the different services, we realized they were different customers,” Van Ostern says. “Especially when we started working with more online services, where folks would place online orders, that’s when we started communicating in a different way with our customers through email, social media, paid advertising, etc.”

The primary message received was that customers wanted the laundromat cleaned up.

“It needed to be rehabbed,” Van Ostern says. “It had a bathroom, but it was not a bathroom that you or I would want to use. Some pretty basic changes that the customers wanted to see. They wanted to have—not surprisingly—a clean facility to bring their clothes into that they were going to clean.”

Next up was amending the laundry’s operating hours. The previous owner didn’t open on Sundays or stay open after 6 p.m. any evening.


The Wash Street staff has grown, and the ownership team makes a point to train employees in how they can best connect with customers.

“All of our employees are trained first in a basic, online customer-service training,” Van Ostern says. “Some of them have worked in the retail industry before, fast food, but we wanted everyone to have a baseline knowledge of what we expect from a customer service perspective.”

She screens for that aptitude when interviewing candidates for new openings.

“I’m very clear that this is a customer-facing position,” says Van Ostern. “If that makes you anxious or nervous or that’s not something you’re interested in, this is not going to be the right place for you.”

During team meetings, ownership talks about customer issues and wins, and sometimes even role-plays to demonstrate difficult customer situations the employees might find themselves in.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion

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.

Customer Relations - Building Loyalty by Understanding Needs

(Photo: © creatista/Depositphotos)

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