CHICAGO — Attracting someone to try your self-service laundry business or wash and fold service for the first time is good.
Convincing that one-time customer to return a second or third time is better.
Captivating that semi-regular customer so they won’t go anywhere else is best.
Boosting customer retention relies heavily on building relationships, including your ability to understand your customer’s needs and to create a consistently excellent experience each time he/she interacts with you. Mutual regard and understanding can lead to what every smart laundry owner strives for: customer loyalty.
In pursuit of this goal, laundromat operators often employ assorted tools to create a customer base of regulars. Part 1 examined loyalty programs, Part 2 discussed discounts and freebies, and Part 3 touched on payment types and social media promotion. Let’s conclude:
EASIER OR HARDER TO GAIN LOYALTY TODAY?
Does gaining a customer’s loyalty come easier or harder today?
“I think it’s definitely gotten more difficult, and I’m speaking more to the New York City market,” says Todd Ofsink, CEO of Todd Layne Cleaners & Laundromat in NYC. “There’s a lot of new competition. There’s a lot of money-backed operations that are really nothing more than a technology platform that then outsource all of the work to other places. There’s at least five new ones here in New York in the last couple of months, so I think it does make it more difficult to keep that loyalty.”
“From my perspective, it’s far easier,” believes Wash Street co-owner Kristyn Van Ostern, based in Manchester, New Hampshire. “It could be that we’re better at it now than we were five years ago. I will say our customer base seems to be more adept at using (our discount codes).”
“I think part of that is we’re better known, too,” adds partner Laura Simoes. “We’ve built up a lot of trust with our own customers and then they, in turn, have endorsed us to others.”
“I don’t know that it’s changed in my three or four years,” says Hank Nelken, who owns three Half Price Laundry locations in California’s San Fernando Valley. “I really think customer loyalty is all about the service. You can do the promotions and all that stuff but at the end of the day, it seems like people come because you have friendly attendants, (your store is) clean, machines are working, it’s taken care of.
“That’s in terms of the stores themselves. Then the pickup and delivery is a whole other level of service. If it’s responsive, on time, the clothes look good, that’s what keeps people coming back.”
WHEN IT’S ALL SAID AND DONE...
“If you’re willing to create the right experience, then it’s easy to create that kind of customer loyalty,” says Lloyd Silver, CEO of Sage Laundry in Woodland, Calif. “If you’re providing the same experience as everybody else, then I think it’s going to be really challenging, because now you’re just battling for the lowest cost.”
“Loyalty is as much about setting up that communication channel and making sure (your customers) know how to access it as it is about discount codes,” says Van Ostern.
“If you’re providing good service, good customer service plus a good product, the service that you’re providing, a clean environment, at a fair price, I think that’s always been and always will be the key to success for this type of business,” Ofsink says.
Miss an earlier part of this article? You can read it here: Part 1 — Part 2 — Part 3
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].