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. Let’s continue:
DISCOUNTS & FREEBIES
Hank Nelken owns three Half Price Laundry locations in California’s San Fernando Valley. His position on discounts is right there in his laundry’s name: “Half Price.”
“Half price Thursday is like our big one. All day, so it’s busy. Imagine, $9 for a machine is now $4.50—that’s a big difference.
“We also do free dry Tuesday at both the stores, but I just stopped it at the second store last week because the price of gas has gone up so much. It’s gone up like 30%. I just felt like free dry at that point didn’t make sense. I still have it at the first store but I’m probably going to get rid of it.”
Nelken also sends mailers to targeted neighborhoods offering $15 off a customer’s first wash-and-fold order, and he’s tried circulating flyers with an offer of free soap and $5 pre-loaded on a loyalty card.
Todd Ofsink’s laundromat at Todd Layne Cleaners & Laundromat in New York City has also attempted a variety of promotions through the years but free soap—“We’ll give a free soap pod on Fridays throughout the day,” he says—has been one that’s hung on.
But it’s another freebie—free rewash—that’s aimed at making sure customers are satisfied with their service. Whether it’s self-service or wash and fold, if you’re dissatisfied with the appearance of your clothes cleaned by Todd Layne, Ofsink’s staff will wash them again for free.
“That’s both for people that do their own laundry, they do it themselves and they say, ‘Hey, it didn’t come out as clean,’ whatever it is, we don’t care, you could wash it again for free. The same thing with the bulk of our business, which is doing laundry for customers. Any kind of issue, the offer [of rewash] is always extended, and my staff are trained: ‘Let us redo it again for you for free,’ right off the bat.”
The incremental cost is higher if his staff washes somebody’s laundry a second time but he’s willing to accept that to keep his customers happy.
“It’s just a very easy policy to have, and everyone knows it,” Ofsink says. “If there’s an issue, even if it’s a couple of pieces within someone’s laundry that we’ve done for someone … we don’t care [what the cause is], we redo everything.”
Customers enjoying the benefits of a freebie or discount may not realize that some laundry owners use them in an attempt to control business volume.
“We use them as a way to incentivize folks to stick with us but, I’ll be honest, it’s also a way for us to smooth out our production,” says Kristyn Van Ostern, who co-owns Manchester, New Hampshire’s Wash Street with Laura Simoes. “We use our discount and loyalty programs to entice folks to let us pick up their laundry, or (for them to) come in, when times are slow. There are certain days of the week that are slower, they’re different from a coin-op perspective and a pickup and delivery perspective.
“We really use our loyalty and discount programs to try to get folks to have pickups, in the wash and fold case, on Sundays and Mondays, which happen to be slower days for us. On the coin-op side, those wouldn’t be the days that we’re enticing folks to come in, because Sunday is a busier day.”
“I hope the piece about finding ways to make this work for the business is amplified,” Simoes says, “because it’s not just about getting more business in the door, it’s about getting more business in the door at a time when you can handle it at the level of excellence that our customers expect and that we want to deliver.”
Check back May 17 for Part 3!
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].