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Motivating Employees

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(Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/-MG-)

Howard Scott |

CHICAGO — You might have one or two employees. They’re not highly paid. Advancement possibilities are low. Most staffers do not view their job as the most important part of their life. The work is tedious. The service provided — cleaning clothes — is neither exciting nor earthshaking. Few customers go home talking about their experience at your store.

How many of the above statements apply to your Laundromat? Here are some questions: How can you create a motivated work force? How can you transfer your motivation to them? Simply, how do you nurture the culture of doing well?

It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But every store owner can and must find ways to transfer some of his/her energy, enthusiasm and pride to the staff if the laundry is to succeed.

Start by thinking about employee needs, and then figure out how to integrate those needs with the success ethic. Of course, if you run a chain of stores, you can tempt the employee with the prospect of a managerial role. But let’s assume you own one or two stores, and the chance for advancement is low.

The employee wants a job. He/she wants to be paid, and would like to achieve some satisfaction. Finally, the employee wants things to work out well.

The worst part of the job will be dealing with upset customers. The employee will dread this the most.

MAKING A GOOD IMPRESSION

When you hire the employee, talk to him/her about your business, its history, and its role in the community. Explain how you’ve been able to stay in business, and how you intend to be going strong for years.

Point out some things employees have done to keep customers happy, such as calling them when their clothes are ready or finding missing items.

Talk about the competition, and how easy it is for people to switch stores. List several reasons why customers switch stores. Suggest that good employees are the key to building customer loyalty and retaining customers.

Explain the role your store plays in the community, and how a certain percentage of people are renters who must use Laundromats to clean their clothes. Mention that after flooding, people depended on your store to clean soiled clothing. Cite a few more examples to demonstrate your value.

Sure, this is a pep talk, but you can make it a meaningful one by being sincere. The key phrase is “show, don’t tell.” You are telling them things, but you are also showing them by providing specific instances of helpfulness. Choose your examples carefully.

The second thing you must do is to illustrate how attendant work relates to the survival of your business, and thus, to employment, meaning a weekly paycheck. For example, you might say that if one customer is annoyed enough to switch Laundromats, your business stands to lose $50 or more a month, which translates to $600 a year.

Take this example further. If a customer is annoyed enough to leave your store, you can bet that person will badmouth you to neighbors and friends, creating a ripple effect of discontent, meaning more customers may be lost. State that your business cannot absorb many of these losses before employee hours are reduced and salaries are lowered. Let the employee know that there is a fine line between success and failure, and that can affect their job situation.

Employ Benjamin Franklin’s dictum to show the importance of attending to details: “For want of a nail, the shoe is lost; for want of the shoe, the horse is lost; for want of the horse, the rider is lost; for want of the rider, the battle is lost; for want of the battle, the war is lost, the nation is lost.”

Create scenarios that demonstrate this point. For instance, showing up 20 minutes late could mean three customers found a messy store and complained. Because the staffer was in a bad mood, he/she didn’t accept the complaints well, and two of the customers walked out. One of the customers was related to someone who had a commercial account with the store. But because the disgruntled customer felt insulted, he/she convinced the boss to take his business elsewhere. A simple situation leads to the loss of one customer and commercial revenue. All of this was the result of a little employee laxness.

Over time, get the employee to think in terms of success, both personally and professionally. Sure, the staffer is not going to win any awards on the job, but he/she will be taking care of peoples’ needs and keeping your store running smoothly. That’s commendable. If an politician could do as good a job with his/her constituency as the staffer is doing with your customers, the country would be in better shape. Point out that every day is a victory when all problems have been solved. Comment that when all the customers walk out reasonably happy, that is success.

Pound home the point that attitude is much of the battle. If the staffer is cheerful, confident and knowledgeable, problems can be overcome. If a machine malfunctions, and the attendant speedily switches the load to another machine free of charge, the customer will almost always be satisfied. That’s because a good attitude is contagious.

Always review both problems and solutions with the staffer. If a customer complains to you, catch the staffer and privately review the incident. Do this in a factual, noncombative manner. The goal is to prevent such a mistake from happening in the future, not to denigrate the staffer.

Although customer comments touting attendant success aren’t common (“He did a great job getting the dryer going”), find some good deeds and compliment the staffer for a job well done.

For those of you who don’t think training the attendant is important, just check out some of American Coin-Op’s past State of the Industry surveys. Even though most stores have just one or two employees, “dealing with employees” always ranks as one of the industry’s top headaches.

Work with employees, and you’ll impart a success ethic.

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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