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Knowing About Drycleaning Can Make Your Extra Services Stand Out

Howard Scott |

If you offer drop-off drycleaning or are thinking about handling commercial accounts, you must, to a certain extent, become a drycleaner. At the very least, you must understand the process in order to be knowledgeable. Simply saying, “I will call the drycleaner, find out, and get back to you,” is not acceptable. Customers say to themselves, “I might as well deal directly with a cleaner — there’s one on every street corner — rather than deal with this clown.”How would you deal with the following customer situations?

  • A stained dress is brought in. You recently processed the order, and now the customer just wants the stains removed without recleaning the garment.
  • A customer asks if you clean comforters, and wants to know how you do it.
  • Someone brings in a set of draperies, and wants to know what it takes to deal with sun and water exposure.
  • What do you say if a customer wants to know if the dark perspiration rings under the arms of a blouse can be removed?
  • The customer claims she was charged a different price the last time her dress was cleaned.
  • The customer is irate because you have charged her more for laundering a lady’s shirt than for a men’s shirt.
  • A customer wonders if a raincoat should be drycleaned and waterproofed.

YOUR RESPONSEI know you’re not actually doing the drycleaning, and you may be somewhat limited in how you handle commercial work. However, if the customer wants an answer at the time the work is brought in, you have to know something about the process.You should have a basic understanding of the drycleaning machine, how it works, how garments are pressed, and what finishing entails. You must know fabrics.For example, suede, which is leather, is not handled in the traditional drycleaning process. A leather specialist handles suede. If your attendant promised a quick turnaround on the dark green pigskin suede coat, the customer will be disappointed.The best way to learn about drycleaning is to spend some time at the plant of the drycleaner with whom you are working. Watch the counterperson mark in clothes. See how the cleaner batches clothes into lights and colors. Stand alongside the operator as he/she spots to remove stains. Watch the presser iron slacks. (You might even try your luck with a pair of slacks yourself.) Stand by the shirt unit, taking in how shirts are processed. Walk with the inspector as finished products are reviewed. Watch customer interactions. Simply, get a feel for how the work is done, the limits of the process, and the extremes of quality.By doing this, you can distinguish between high-quality and standard production, and know a sharp crease from a ruffled one. When you see a dangling button, you realize that the drycleaner with whom you’re dealing doesn’t take pride in his work.OK, once you get a basic grasp of the drycleaning process and why garments come out the way they do, you must share some of this knowledge with your attendants — you will not always be around to answer questions. Lecturing your staff is not enough, because they will forget 80% of what you tell them. Instead, devise a tutorial program. Don’t get alarmed — it’s not a major production.Write up a synopsis of what your attendants must know. Put down on paper, in organized form, your knowledge and understanding (they are not always the same thing) of drycleaning. It might be a couple of pages, or it might be 10 pages long. Title the document, “Drycleaning Basics.” It will make a great reference and help attendants deal with customers seeking immediate answers.It helps to gather props. Find a shirt with an irremovable stain. Find material that is sharply creased and material that is sloppily creased. Look at a jacket that has been drycleaned, and at one that hasn’t been cleaned.Once you have all of this, figure out a timetable and a way to teach your attendants. The tutorial may take five hours, and the staffer could come in early for a day or two to be taught. Do the teaching in your office or in the store before it’s open.The student should follow along using a copy of “Drycleaning Basics.” Ask the attendant to repeat what he/she has learned. It’s up to you to make sure the students grasp the material. Encourage questions. The experience should be pleasant, not a battle. Inject a little humor into the situation. The attendant will come out of the program appreciating the learning experience.To make sure that you’ve accomplished the mission, you must follow up with some type of test. That’s right, all good teachers give tests. Give your attendant a week or so to digest the material, then give the test. You might want to use some of the customer situations I’ve mentioned as test problems. Set a standard. If your attendant doesn’t answer 75% of the questions correctly, make that person retake the test.For example, if you ask about what the response should be to someone asking why blouses were more expensive to process than men’s shirts, a good answer might be: “It’s more expensive because women’s shirts require more treatment, such as handling the ruffles and pleats. Plus, there’s more careful pressing and finishing required. These items are often made of a more delicate fabric, and must be handled carefully, especially if stain removal is required.”You might have your own question right now: Do I need to do all of this work just because I offer drop-off drycleaning? Well, do you want to keep your customers happy? Do you want their continued business? Do you want to look professional, even if you’re not doing the work yourself?In addition, if you’re doing commercial work, having some drycleaning knowledge can be vital. If you’re taking in restaurant linen, how do you deal with the tricky stains you see on a consistent basis? If you’re constantly experimenting with cleaning practices, you’re wasting time and not being effective. 

About the author

Howard Scott

H&R Block

Industry Writer, Drycleaning Consultant, and H&R Block Tax Preparer

Howard Scott is a longtime industry writer and drycleaning consultant, and an H&R Block tax preparer specializing in small businesses. He welcomes questions and comments, and can be reached by writing Howard Scott, Dancing Hill, Pembroke, MA 02359.

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