GLENDALE, Ariz. — A better title might have been, Why Does a Customer Choose One Laundromat Over Another?

Since different people are attracted to different things, there are quite a few factors. Some reasons are obvious, others much more subtle. For instance, a clean, well-run Laundromat in a great location should appeal to most people. However, no store captures everyone.

Exactly what drives customer choices is something that has been studied by nearly all retail industries for many years. It is usually related to how much value, or perceived value, a customer can get for his/her money.

Again, not always. Sometimes a customer will choose a store simply because it is the closest, or most convenient for them, despite their experience being less than stellar.

Let’s take a look at the factors that may attract a customer to your Laundromat—or drive them away:

LOCATION NEAR HOME OR WORK

Convenience is extremely important in our industry. So much so that some people will endure an undesirable Laundromat simply because it’s so close to their home or job. A great example of this is how apartment house laundries capture the vast majority of customers even though their laundry rooms could be dirty with poorly functioning machines.

EYE-CATCHING SIGNS AND STOREFRONT

This is also known as curb appeal. Your storefront should look clean, modern, bold, and inviting.

This is one of the first impressions to get a customer into your store, so let it be a great one. Your storefront is great advertising for you 24/7 over the course of many years. It creates a subconscious impression in the minds of everyone who passes by. It’s actually the least expensive advertising after you amortize it, so it’s money well spent.

Add a nice convenience such as automatic doors. Of all retail businesses, Laundromats need automatic doors more than any other, to ease a customer’s burden of carrying heavy loads both into and out of the store.

CLEAN STORE WITH EQUIPMENT THAT LOOKS AND WORKS LIKE NEW

Everyone prefers new, clean machines over old ones. If you need to rent a car and are looking over a company’s inventory, are you going to choose a car that is dusty, has a couple of dings, and smells like cigarette smoke? Or will you choose the car that looks and smells like new?

This is a no-brainer, yet so many Laundromats do not keep their stores looking modern and new. If your equipment is old and tired-looking, it’s time to upgrade, lest you risk a downward spiral. If you can’t afford new equipment, at least make an effort to keep it looking new! Replace old decals, overlays, door gaskets and soap lids. Remove water stains, fix what’s causing strange noises, and keep your equipment operational.

If a customer sees just one roach walking around, don’t expect them to come back.

It goes without saying that Out of Order signs are evil! More than one or two will be a turnoff to most people and will make them question whether “their” machine is working properly as well.

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM FRIENDS AND ONLINE REVIEWS

Good reviews will come automatically if you keep your store looking and working like new, with attendants who are friendly. Bad reviews are poison for your business, so pay attention to unhappy customers!

GREAT WEBSITE

Nowadays, people expect to be able to look your store up online, so just like a great storefront, make sure you have a great website. Your online presence is now just as important as your storefront, so do it up good. Again, first impressions go a long way.

WATER LEVELS

Most customers want to see the water in your washers. If they don’t, they will feel cheated and go somewhere else. Your water level should be high enough to stop customer complaints. If you must save water, you are better off cutting a rinse that they won’t notice. 

WATER AND DRYING TEMPERATURE

Customers want their laundry clean. You can’t get away with going cheap by cutting water temperatures. If your water is not hot enough, they will know, and again feel cheated and go somewhere else. However, not too hot to burn their hands. A good temperature is 120 F at the machines.

The same goes for having adequate dryer heat. Customers want hot dryers that dry their clothes quickly.

STORE LAYOUT AND EQUIPMENT MIX

Most of this applies when building or retooling your store, but some things can be tweaked without too much trouble.

You want wide aisles: at least 6 feet in a high-rent urban setting, but 8 feet or more if you can afford the space. People bumping into each other is a big turnoff. Too many stores are built to maximize machine income. In many stores, if all the machines are going at the same time, and all the laundry carts are taken, there’s not enough room for customers. Customers need “people room.”

Big stores seem to attract more customers, but being too big can generate heavy expenses.

Also, big washers attract families with big loads of laundry and help make your store stand out among the others. If you have the biggest washers in your market, promote them. They will even draw people who don’t use big washers, simply because your store is unique.

If you can locate your drop-off service counter near the front door, you will draw more drop-off customers. Drop-off customers are attracted even more so to convenience. A drop-off window in your storefront is even better. Customers don’t want to lug laundry any farther than they have to.

DROP-OFF SERVICE QUALITY

Speaking of drop-offs, a lot more people will choose a high-quality drop-off service than a low-priced one. These customers are people who have the money to buy themselves time off from doing laundry, but they want to know that you’ll do a great job. You need to gain their trust because you are handling their property. Employ great workers, and give customers discernible perks such as sock wrappers. Use high-quality detergents, a pleasantly scented softener, and a nicely packaged finished product. A store that’s clean will also attract more drop-off customers than one that isn’t.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!