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Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Approaching Customers as a Relationship

Robert J. Renteria |

This is a pretty simple business, when it comes right down to it. The problem with the industry is not the industry, but rather the many operators who believe that it’s only about collecting quarters. I have spoken previously about romancing your customers, and that’s exactly what it takes in today’s marketplace to get the edge needed to gain new business and retain existing customers.It’s like dating — when you ask that person out, and you get ready and show up in your best Sunday duds, smelling sweet and looking polished, your date says “wow.”Take a brief moment and ask yourself, when was the last time you got excited about your customers? Very likely, you will have to admit that you can’t remember. That’s bad news and the wrong answer! Let’s talk about dating for a second. Everyone realizes that if you like someone, you put your best foot forward. Why? The answer is because you want to pursue a relationship with that person, and you want them to reciprocate.When running a major corporation, which is something I did in my past life, or managing a coin laundry, the bottom line is respect and maintaining a fruitful relationship. I realize that we are all busy, and we have lives outside of our businesses, but if you are not going to take care of those relationships/customers, your business will suffer. The divorce rate in America is at an all-time record high, and with so many options/choices that people have today there is no wonder why.You have to decide how you want to proceed. Either your business gives you whatever it can, based on poor business practices, or you can step up to the plate and get with the program. Putting your best foot forward is the key and an essential component to longevity and success in today’s coin laundry world. Regardless of how much or little money coin laundry customers have, it’s crucial to remember that they too want and deserve to be treated with respect and honor.The families who make a choice to wash and dry clothes at your laundry have many other options/choices, and you had better be aware of this when you go to bed every night and give thanks to God for your blessings. The laundry industry is growing, with bigger and better stores that are providing and accommodating customers with all the amenities and services they both deserve and demand. With the dollar tighter then ever and everyone competing on a level playing field, what is the one thing — if you care — that you can provide better than anyone else? Customer service and respect!MAKING PEOPLE FEEL GOODWith that being said, let’s talk a about a few common-sense tips for making people feel good. We all agree that probably no one likes doing laundry, so we must do our best to turn that frown around once we have the customer at your laundry. Let’s start by opening the door for your customer, the same as you would do for someone you were dating. How about helping them bring their laundry into your business and greeting them by name and with a smile, the same way you would a date. I realize most everyone reading this is an adult, but at the same time, these simple gestures of respect are the types of things that make a difference in determining whether or not the customer comes back again and again.Regardless of how much money someone has or doesn’t have, remember that everyone wants to be treated with respect. Elevating your game doesn’t always mean spending a lot of money to gain and retain business, but rather how we treat our customers. Back in the day in ice cream parlors, we only had two choices (chocolate and vanilla), but today, customers have choices. Treat them right or you will never have the type of financial base you could have otherwise developed.The old-school owners who merely collect quarters are a dying breed, so this allows you, the new-era Laundromat owner, to shoot for the stars by treating your customers like stars. If you follow my advice, you will have happy and loyal customers, which means more money in your pocket. Remember, the best type of advertising is word-of-mouth, but it’s also the worst type of advertising, so reach out and wear your heart on your sleeve and let your customers know that you do genuinely care. Running your business is a lot like marriage, if you don’t tell them and show them that you love them on an ongoing basis, you will find yourself as a statistic in the divorce column. 

About the author

Robert J. Renteria

Consultant

Robert J. Renteria is a national consultant based in Chicago. He has more than 23 years of industry experience, having helped develop more than 750 coin laundries nationally and abroad. The author of three books, he was named the 2010 Chicago Latino Professional of the Year and is the sole recipient of the 2011 International Outstanding Humanitarian Award. In 2013, he received two Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards for his work in civil rights advocacy and educational reform. He can be reached at 312-933-5619 or robert@fromthebarrio.com.

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