GLENDALE, Ariz. — In the never-ending quest to draw more customers, laundromat owners are advertising online, outdoors through great signs and banners, and inside with perhaps a special deal or two. With pickup and delivery evolving into a more professional business, we wrap our vehicles with even more advertising.
Many mats are seeing the benefits of keeping the place “hospital clean.” Ideally, the equipment should be operating like it did on day one, and looking mostly new.
All of this is great and par for the course to run a successful retail business like a laundromat. It does, and will, help draw customers.
But there are other, more subtle ways to reach people, and most of them don’t cost a whole lot of money!
There are a few areas in the realm of customer comfort where you can find some little things to attract them.
Children’s Play Area — Do you have a “Kiddie Korner” in your mat? Families with kids have far more laundry than a single adult. If you can attract, entertain, and keep kids busy, they will ask their parent(s)….”Can we go to the place that has the Kiddie Korner, mom?”
Wi-Fi Available — Having Wi-Fi available is a no-brainer. It’s become a big draw.
Comfortable Temperature — Your mat should be kept at a comfortable temperature year-round. Not too hot, not too cold.
Store Furniture — You want the chairs to be comfortable, durable, and attractive. Make sure they have armrests so people won’t sleep on them.
Phone Charging — Install some USB ports around the store so customers can charge their phones. Either at the folding tables or built into the benches. Make sure you can quietly shut them off at the breaker panel if you need to coax someone to leave the store.
In lieu of USB chargers, you can put in a GFCI outlet. No “low-battery anxiety” at your mat!
Space to Move — Do you have enough space in your store so people can move about comfortably? I saw New York City mats that were terribly small and packed full. What good is cramming a mat with washers and dryers if there isn’t enough “people space” to allow all the machines to be used? I’ve seen mats that took a couple machines out to make more space. Stack units are a gift for small mats.
Parking — I know this sounds obvious but some mats could use more customer parking. If this is your case, ask your employees to park a little farther away to allow customers to get the closest spots. If you hear grumbling, explain that since the customers carry heavy laundry to and from their cars, we don’t want to hog all the best spots. Set a good example by parking farther away yourself.
The Nose Knows — Your mat should have no unpleasant odors. If yours does, it’s so easy to correct. Make sure the drain lines and slop sink are free of wet lint, which can release methane gas when fermenting. Make sure there are no drips under washers.
If your dumpster is too close to the building, the putrid smell of rotting trash can be unpleasant, especially during the summer. Either move it or pour a 50/50 solution of bleach in it, as needed. Usually once every three to five days, depending on how hot the weather is.
We sometimes hung a wet towel with softener on it to enhance the fragrance in our mats.
GIVE MORE THAN IS EXPECTED
This, to me, is very powerful. When I go shopping, I’m a bit jaded. My own disappointment in other businesses where I shop keeps me on the lookout for a possible ripoff. After all, whenever we buy something of decent value, there always seem to be disclaimers or “terms of service” written to benefit the seller, not the customer.
Let’s say I just bought a high-quality $10 paintbrush. I go home to begin painting, only to find that the bristles are coming out onto the painted surface. The brush is obviously defective.
There are two scenarios here:
1. I bring it back to show the retailer how the bristles are falling out. This retailer says, “Sorry but you already used the brush. The receipt says ‘No returns if opened.’”
So, this retailer has checkmated me, and I’m not happy. I’ll never return to that store.
2. I bring it back to a different retailer whose employee says, “Oh, so sorry about that. Yes, I see how the bristles are indeed loose. We’ve had a couple of other complaints about these brushes.”
The rep adds, “How about we give you a better, more expensive brush to replace it? Would that be OK? I’m thinking, “Are you nuts? I might just break down sobbing with joy.”
In scenario 1, the business will likely lose the customer and everyone he talks to about the incident. In scenario 2, the business will likely keep the customer, plus gain everyone he talks to about the incident.
Retailer 2 just gave more to the customer than they expected!
What did it cost, $5 wholesale? I’d pay $5 all day long if it means turning every customer into a fanatical cheerleader for my mat. You can chalk it up to advertising. After all, the average laundry customer can easily spend $20 a week, which becomes over $1,000 a year.
Speaking of paintbrushes, doing a little painting now and then will make customers happy that you’re keeping “their” mat in good shape. Let them see you carefully paint some trim, or putting new decals on your machines.
If “the boss” is doing the work, add five stars to that because customers love to see the boss fixing things up.
Remember, sometimes it’s the little things that keep ’em coming back.
If you missed Part 1 of this article, you can read it HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].