Give The People What They Want…So What Do They Want?

My family used to frequent this particular restaurant in the heart of Greenwich Village, the corner of 7th Avenue South and Bleeker Street. The interior was rundown, the service was terrible, hostile even; and the atmosphere was at best mediocre. It even had a hit of an unidentifiable smell.

But the food… the food was terrific and at acceptable prices. For years we would go there, just waiting for a bad meal so we wouldn’t have to suffer through the indignity of eating at a place that, save our palates, we hated. Perhaps the only really good thing about going there – the laughter we would share with the others waiting in line who shared a common love/hate with the place.

Per the old saying, “Give the people what they want” and you will succeed. Here’s the thing: people want their restaurants to have atmosphere, look nice and provide quality service. But using the Greenwich Village restaurant as a guide, you can give your customers just some of what they want and still succeed.

Which makes me wonder… do you know what your customers want? And how do you know? Do you concentrate on some of what they want, being so good at one or two things that your clients don’t mind your shortcomings in other areas?

We know people like to spend less money, but only a small minority of people insist on seeking out the cheapest drycleaner they can find. I live just up the hill from Milt & Edie’s, and I love walking in and having to decide between the popcorn, candy or chocolate chip cookies, all while watching something interesting on the TV. But that can’t be the end-all, because as good as their customer service, quality and add-ons might be, and as successful as they deservedly are, there are also three successful cleaners within a half-mile tops of Milt & Edie’s Burbank location.

Based on the biggest growth trends I’m seeing in drycleaning – lockers, delivery and apps – customers will happily forego the cookies and popcorn for the drycleaner coming to them. But how often do you ask your regular walk-ins if they would prefer delivery service?

Every once in a while a drycleaner will tell me, “I love your bags, but I know our customers won’t like them.” Yet I’ve never met a single consumer who I’ve introduced The Green Garmento to and have them say, “No, we prefer fighting with twist-ties and having mountains of paper and plastic in our closet.”

Chances are that whether at a shopping mall, on-line or over the phone, at one time or another you have been asked to participate in a marketing survey. This is because the largest marketers are willing to invest thousands, sometimes even millions of dollars to find out just what consumers want.

I ask consumers what they want from their drycleaner all the time. And you know what I’ve learned? Most people don’t know anything about drycleaning. They know they have wrinkled and spotted clothes and want their drycleaner to take out the wrinkles and spots, but they have little idea of what separates a good drycleaner from a lesser competitor. I know I didn’t – I had no idea that if my drycleaner couldn’t get the spot out, the drycleaner across the street could have. And I only changed drycleaners when I couldn’t find a piece of clothing and figured they must have lost it (only to find those clothes three months later).

We as an industry have work to do. There are over 30,000 drycleaners in America, and if you are among the minority who read the trades and go to the trade shows, you’re also almost assuredly creating the best product you can for your price points. So the more educated consumers are on why they need to seek out the best – not necessarily the cheapest – drycleaner, the better off you are.

My business is synonymous with sustainability. Good drycleaning sustains the life of one’s clothes. Good drycleaning should be synonymous with sustainability. Last year DLI was talking about creating an education campaign for consumers; hopefully they will revisit that idea soon.

My wife has truly beautiful eyes… especially the left one.

Everyone knows how important eyes are; they allow us to see. But in business, it can be equally important to look at the things you do and the way you run your company by trying to see how your customers view it.