Cell Phones, And Other Distractions by : Everett Childers

Today we have a lot of “stuff.” But there is something missing.

Today we have long commutes, cell phones, ear buds, CD players, Blackberries, Blueberries, cameras built into cell phones, the ability to send text messages and listen to the radio while driving or walking. All of these things we do alone, while we are not surfing the internet from our computer or “berries.” As a result the texting has increased traffic accidents, it is reported that texting while driving is 29% more dangerous than driving while drunk!

What possibly could be so important that we cannot take a little quiet time and enjoy it? Most of the cell phone conversations start with “Where are you?” then go into “Can you hear me now?” followed by “Are you still there?” then, darn it, another dropped call. And the process starts all over again. Really important stuff.

Even the police in our town are frequently seen driving down the road with a telephone sticking out of their ear while they are laughing. I asked the police chief about the danger of his officers talking on the phone while driving and on duty. He tried to convince me that all of the cell phone calls the police were taking on the phones was official police business. I asked why they couldn’t use the two-way radio like they have been doing for 80 years, or so. Again, he tried to convince me all the conversations were confidential and too sensitive to go over the radio – because the bad guys were also listening in.

It is becoming apparent that the “cell phone society” is taking us away from gentle one-on-one conversation. Go to a restaurant and watch a couple – too busy checking their e-mail and texting – to even talk to each other. This could also be the reason that children are being neglected, the parents are too busy looking and punching the phones and other communication devices. Perhaps this is why people are getting rude while driving and even walking in a shopping mall. We, as a society, are rapidly losing our gentleness with each other because it is usually all about “me.” Kids don’t play outside anymore, you guessed it, they are too busy on the couch on their cell phones. We have lost the ability to be civil with each other. Now kids play with whatever they can find, rather than structured learning programs. Again, eliminating other human interaction.

What does this have to do with drycleaning? Very simple. It reduces the congeniality of doing business that we once had. This reduces face-time with customers to ask about their families and get to know them. It reduces the information we get about their wardrobes they are leaving for cleaning, such as that big stain we find after they are gone and on their phones. If we cannot talk with our customers we cannot build a relationship in order to make them a lifetime customer.

We live in a hit-and-run society, which often means that other humans are simply a distraction and something to get away from as soon as possible. No longer is there simple visiting, which creates bonds. Bonds create lasting friendships. One way to help reduce this is be a friendly haven for your customers. Do this by having a pleasant and cheerful place to do business (the call office), bright with no odors. Customer Service Representatives who speak in whole sentences. The terms “like” and “you know” are not in their vocabulary. One of the main things a CSR needs to do is be friendly, concerned and knowledgeable. They need to be someone who is interesting to be around and make a good appearance. They should be able to suggest alternative methods of cleaning even for the most difficult garment and make the customer feel comfort. Convincing about the cleaner’s ability to handle it professionally and it will be in much better condition when it is returned to the customer. An ideal situation, but how do we get there?

The first thing is to hire the right person for the job. They should make a good impression, speak intelligently, and have knowledge about life and their surroundings. They should know the cleaning and stain removal process so they can detect problems and, above all, be friendly.

Another thing that is readily noticed by the customer is if your CSRs are all in nice looking uniforms. It gives the impression that they are dealing with a team instead of an individual person in case they have unusual questions or requests. Women CSRs should look like women and dressed accordingly.Nothing extravagant is necessary, but consistency is the key. Perhaps a white or green pullover. Skirts for summer and khakis for winter. For the male CSRs the colors could be the same except…no skirts!

It should go unsaid that there will be no cell phone usage during working hours – no exceptions. Work is for work. not crawling into one’s shell and shutting everything else out. This rule should be throughout the plant, paid employees need to follow the rules. For emergencies the caller needs to call the plant or office and the message can either be relayed, or in the case of a non-emergency the call can be returned during break, time.

Friendliness to the customer does not stop with the CSR, everybody in the plant is responsible for pleasing the customer and listening to their wishes regarding their garments. Of course, in addition to being a friendly place to do business the customer is always looking for the best value for their money. The cheapest place is not always the best value for the money, whether it is a drycleaning store or a restaurant. So, the very simple road to success is having the right product, at the right price, served by friendly people with the orders ready on time. Being on the right side of the road, in a stand-alone building, with good visibility, consistency in quality with easy in-and-out are necessary for the very best chance of making a business successful.

Oh yeah, did I mention the following: Ban all cell phones for your employees during working hours – and have great patience with customers who can’t go a minute or two without getting in contact with someone.

Be their friend and they will come back.