What’s Next?

 

This month, I want to write about procrastination…but first, let’s talk about trends.

I love trends; trying to figure out who or what might become more popular. And I think I’m pretty good at recognizing ‘what’s next.’ Back in 1989, I created LaughTrack Magazine, which was a Rolling Stone about stand-up comedy handed out at every major comedy club in the country. My favorite section was called “Breaking Through,” where I profiled four or five comedians a month who I thought were future stars. LaughTrack was the first magazine to publish a picture of Tim Allen holding a tool; the first national publication to write about Drew Carey; and maybe the first, long before Seinfeld, to call Larry David the funniest comedy writer of our generation.

Later, as a personal manager, I believed enough in the writing talent of a 16 year old standup from Vancouver, Seth Rogen, I got Judd Apatow to read Superbad, which led to Seth’s being a writer and performer on the TV show Undeclared and later Judd’s getting Superbad produced. And I believed enough in a recently sober comedian from Scotland, that I told him that if he came to the United States for ten days, I’d make him a star. He did, and ten days later, Disney offered Craig Ferguson a development deal. A year later, he started a six year run on The Drew Carey Show which led to his being the host of The Late, Late Show on CBS after David Letterman. Clearly, I was right with those two, among others.

And it was me, and my wife Jennie’s belief, perhaps prematurely; that the future of drycleaning packaging was reusable, which led us to leave our show business lives for a new life in this industry. We’re more sure than ever that we’re on the right track, mainly because we feel we’re right in the sweet spot with so many of the current industry trends.

The March meeting of the Southern California Drycleaners Association included a presentation by marketing consultant Carolyn Nankervis about some of this year’s biggest customer service trends. It was interesting to hear how delivery services has become such a growing facet of drycleaners’ businesses; to the point where some cleaners require their counter people to invite their in-store customers to make the transition.

The discussion was ignited by Carolyn’s talk about the different ways a drycleaner can upsell and learning how the various drycleaners approach it. We heard about success stories relevant to putting posters up and wearing buttons heralding a store’s UGG-cleaning business; another talked about how its emphasis on comforters lead to an increase in that arena.

Carolyn talked about how and why McDonald’s started asking everyone who bought a burger if they wanted fries. That’s the upsell that we’re all now used to… “You want to make that a combo?” As someone who sees a lot of different drycleaners’ e-mail blasts, I noted how more and more drycleaners, recognizing that while a customer could say yes to fries right there in the store, are trying to reach the drycleaning consumer when it most matters – before they come in. In their communications, especially for those who send out notices that the clothes are ready, more and more owners are heralding their shoe repair, wedding gown service or other ancillary service or product. And the result, predictably, has been an uptick in the use of those services.

This not only solidifies the trend towards e-mail/digital communication with clients, but leads to the conversation about the trend of the drycleaning app. Los Angeles-based washio uses app technology to allow consumers to get their drycleaning picked up within 15 minutes and their business model has the drycleaned clothes back in their customers’ hands the next day. A group of Silicon Valley investors believe in this trend so much they’ve given washio a seven-figure capital infusion.

washio also is on the forefront of another trend: the rise in delivery of fluff & fold/laundry. Washington DC-based Soapy Joe’s is another new company who sees the fluff & fold trend as sustainable in the long run.

But for whatever’s new, as Carolyn continually pointed out in her presentation, what will always remain paramount is the drycleaner/customer relationship. How do you satisfy them; what do you do to occasionally delight your customer? The best customer to invest in is the one you already have – keeping them is the best way to guarantee long-term success.

Okay, the need for terrific customer service is not really a trend, but an evergreen, an idea that started with the very first store and one that will be relevant until the last. And worse, I’ve run out of room before I got to talk about procrastination… maybe next issue.