PEMBROKE, Mass. — You view your attendant as a general factotum, responsible for keeping your facility clean, maintaining machines in good running order, handling customer issues, and possibly processing the wash/dry/fold work. But you also should add to his/her job description the role of “teacher.”
Teacher? That’s right, teacher. The staffer should be a font of wisdom to your customers. He/she should stop occasionally and ask customers if they have any questions.
Your staffer needs to point out when the customer is doing a job incorrectly. He/she can offer cleaning tips and suggest ways to remove stains. Your staffer can even provide advice about dry cleaning, whether you take in that kind of work or not.
FOUNTAIN OF KNOWLEDGE
To be a fountain of knowledge, a staffer must be educated. That’s your job. Appoint the person to be a teacher. Point out that, as the attendant of a Laundromat, he/she is the person in the building with superior knowledge and experience. Then provide that knowledge.
Teach your attendants the right way and wrong way to wash clothes – that it’s best to wash all white clothes in hot water, that big loads require extra amounts of soap, that more soap is better but that too much can clog the works, that stain sticks do help remove stains, and that even though one stain-removal attempt hasn’t worked, one should try again.
Explain what the dry cleaning process is all about, how solvent works on garments, and how cleaners remove stains by using chemical cocktails. Talk about how and why the finishing process really makes clothes look like new. Give the attendants reading material. Show them videos. Provide demonstrations. Take your attendant to a dry cleaner for a tour of the plant. By adding this job to your attendant’s other responsibilities, he/she will take on the role of expert with pride.
KEY TO LEARNING
Know the real key to learning: you describe the task first, have your student perform the task second, have your student describe the task third. Real learning occurs when the brain takes it all in, and this only occurs when an individual does it themselves.
How long should this training go on? It depends on your attendants and on your teaching. I suspect that devoting half a day to this training will do it.
Now that your attendants are teachers, how should they instruct their customers? If the customer has a question or problem, obviously they will shine because they know what they’re talking about and can help the customer solve the problem.
Teachers do more than answer questions. While moving around a facility, an attendant needs to be paying attention and offer assistance whenever the need arises.
A customer is holding up a sweatshirt with some kind of stain on it. The attendant walks by, stops and asks if he can have a look. After looking over the garment closely, he asks a series of questions. “Do you know what the stain is? How long has it been there? Have you ever tried stain remover? Would you want to remove the stain, or does it make any difference?”
Depending on the responses, the attendant makes a suggestion for removing the stain. Possibly he retrieves a substance (Gonzo?) that might work and applies it himself. If the process works, the customer is thrilled. Even if it doesn’t, the customer recognizes that this attendant can help with cleaning problems in the future.
Another example is the customer who overloads a washer. The attendant comes over and kindly suggests that the customer upgrade to a larger machine. He/she explains why overfilling a unit will not allow the garments to be fully immersed in detergent, and points to the larger machine that will do a better job. If the customer decides to ignore the advice, the attendant can then suggest that overloading is not good for the equipment.
Still another example is instructing people how to fold clothes. A lot of people don’t know the correct way to fold shirts. If they mastered the skill, they would better appreciate their garments.
So the attendant might stop and ask, “Would you like to know a better way to fold shirts?” If the customer says, “No, thanks,” the attendant smiles and goes about his work. If the customer says yes, the attendant demonstrates how to fold and then has the customer try. Your attendant might add, “You know, good folding helps preserve clothes. And you feel better about nicely folded garments. At least I do.”
By making your attendant a teacher, you’ll change the customers’ perception of them, plus boost your employee’s self-image. It’s a win-win.