CHICAGO — Laundromats generally share many similarities, so how and where such a service business differentiates itself from its competitors carries great importance.
Part 1 of this article addressed some sure signs when a laundry business isn’t setting itself apart in the marketplace. Part 2 examines where to focus differentiation efforts Let’s conclude:
BUILD TRUST TO BUILD IDENTITY
So where does customer trust fit in when trying to build a unique business identity?
“Without customer trust, there cannot be any business identity,” Todd Ofsink, founder and CEO of Todd Layne Cleaners & Laundromat in New York City, states. “A laundry business is very different from (other) types of businesses, specifically because a customer is entrusting us with taking in their personal garments.”
“Customer trust is a two-way street and critical for our identity, especially around cleanliness,” says Kristyn Van Ostern, who co-owns Wash Street in New Hampshire. “In order to have a clean facility, customers trust us to clean regularly and completely, and we trust customers to help keep it clean by respecting our facility.”
“Trust is earned slowly and lost quickly (and recovering trust is very hard),” James Radovic, owner of two self-service laundries in Florida, says. “You need to be consistent in your operation, where customers can rely on your operation and not get surprised by changes in your practices. If you have to change your practices, be sure to explain why you had to do so.”
“It is paramount in the service business,” believes Randy Roberts, who partners with a cousin in operating Columbus Express Laundry in Ohio. “Work to ensure that the customer feels you care for them, and about them, and they will be a customer for life.”
“You have to earn trust by doing what you say you are going to do and then do it,” says Tim Gill, a multi-store owner with locations in Florida and Georgia.
“If you do what you say (hours of operation, services offered, etc.), the trust will come,” adds Michael Finkelstein, whose Associated Services Corp. operates a large chain of laundries in the Southeast. “Also, if you have other stores, then the name of your laundry transcends and whatever positive (or negative) feelings are transferred to this location.”
NEVER TOO LATE TO TRY
Is it ever too late for a laundromat owner to start trying to set his or her business apart in the marketplace? Bill Corbett Jr., chief strategy officer for Corbett Public Relations based in New York state, doesn’t think so.
“The owner needs to take the lead, and they may have to greet people, help them, talk with them, or simply be present and watch the operation,” he says. “An added bonus of having a well-known or respected owner is talent acquisition. People want to work with leaders who lead, businesses that are growing, and businesses that are great places to work.”
“Never too late if you are willing to change,” according to Gill.
“If your point of differentiation will be a new strategy (lower prices when you had been high or spiffy new digs when you had been worn down), expect to have to spend some time communicating and advertising your changes,” Van Ostern says.
“It is never too late to start looking at ways to separate yourself from your competitors,” Radovic believes. “Think about things like adding dollar coins and/or (accepting) credit card (payment), expanding to doing pickup/delivery service, creating a website, make special pricing for packaging bedding sets, (or) advertising locally. Use your imagination!”
“No, it’s never too late. As neighborhoods and markets change, and by adapting to the needs of the area, you set your business apart,” Finkelstein believes.
“It requires creativity, innovation, willingness to try new things, research on other laundry businesses, and a positive attitude,” Ofsink says. “If something doesn’t work, that’s OK. It’s just practice and you move onto something else.
“Eventually, you develop the mindset of an entrepreneur and find a way to stand out amongst your competition.”
Miss earlier parts of this article? You can read them here: Part 1 – Part 2
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].