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Ways to Build Laundry Customer Loyalty (Part 3)

Payment options, getting word out are some keys to creating regulars

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 of this story examined loyalty programs, and Part 2 discussed discounts and freebies. Let’s continue:

PAYMENT TYPES

Can accepting payment options beyond coin influence customer loyalty? The store owners interviewed saw a lot of positives in offering payment variety because they can boost business in different ways.

“In this day and age, people use credit cards a lot, so it’s just easier to do that than to carry a bunch of coins,” says Hank Nelken, who owns three Half Price Laundry locations in California’s San Fernando Valley. “But some people still want to do their quarters. I think offering multiple (payment) options is key.”

Customers visiting Lloyd Silver’s Sage Laundry in Woodland, Calif., can pay in several ways: “Our machines do accept quarters and we have typical bill changers in there. All of our machines are Dexter, so we use the … DexterPay system.”

He stopped short of placing card readers on every machine due to the expense, he says, but there’s an alternative.

“We accept credit cards at our cash register,” Silver says. “People load the machines and tell our attendants they want to use machines 19 and 21. Our attendants add it to their tab and start the machines for them. When they’re all done, they pay for it with a credit card at the register.”

“From an owner perspective, it is a much easier system to keep track of when (the software) is keeping track of it for us,” co-owner Kristyn Van Ostern says of Wash Street’s cashless payment component. “We can go in and see how many customers are using their loyalty points and then send out things like emails or text messages to remind folks when they aren’t using them.”

GETTING THE WORD OUT

Keeping customers and prospects informed about what’s going on at your store can help build loyalty, and social media has made that easier than ever.

“I’m using all of it now,” Nelken says. “Facebook and Instagram are kind of what I use the most. The other big one is (my company) website itself. I also put on a … live chat on the website … and that goes right to my cellphone, too. As I scale, it’s going to be someone else but for now, it’s not that many texts I get.”

The screenwriter creates short videos for his store’s Instagram followers: “I have one every couple of days and it’s just fun for me to do. What I can’t do is quantify how much that really affects my business. … But I just feel like it’s out in the world, people are sharing it, more people see it, it’s got to help.”

Wash Street uses Facebook, Instagram and Google Business (now Google Business Profile), the latter of which Van Ostern says “isn’t really social media but you post on it. You post specials, you post pictures.” The owners recently started an Instagram video series to help answer frequently asked questions about their service.

“I’ll say that social media is good but email is where we get the greatest uptake of people using our discount codes,” says Van Ostern, who adds that she gets a thrill sending a message containing a code and then watching to see how long it takes for someone to redeem it.

“Sometimes it’s within a half-hour and that makes me very, very happy.”

“Those social media channels, they play a small role,” says Todd Ofsink, CEO of Todd Layne Cleaners & Laundromat in New York City. “Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, at the end of the day, these laundry businesses, they’re not the sexiest businesses out there, where people are really eager to follow you. But we’re out there.”

The more experienced marketer, Silver finds Facebook organic posting to be fairly ineffective because of the small percentage of your followers actually seeing your posts. He does use Facebook advertising frequently.

But the channel he’s found to be most effective is Google Business Profile: “When you post updates there and people are searching for your business, those updates will show up in your company’s knowledge panel.”

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!

Miss earlier parts of this story? You can read them here: Part 1Part 2

Ways to Build Laundry Customer Loyalty

Hank Nelken’s position on discounts is right there in his Half Price Laundry’s name. Things are busy there on Thursdays when vend prices are cut in half. (Photo: Half Price Laundry)

Ways to Build Laundry Customer Loyalty

A view of the bank of dryers at Sage Laundry. Rather than place card readers on every machine, owner Lloyd Silver accepts credit card payments at his register. (Photo: Sage Laundry)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].