So many businesses today are screaming for more customers. It’s tough to find a customer, let alone BE one. With all the challenges the dry cleaning industry faces today, from supply chain issues, to extremely relaxed dress codes (I swear, most people are working from home naked these days), to competing against other drycleaners just as desperate to make sales.
And then many of these same drycleaners are throwing up road blocks in the paths of customers coming to their doors.
• Due to staff restrictions, we are only open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
• All orders must be received by 9:00 am for same day or next day service
• Fill in this form for pick-up & delivery (three pages long)…and we will get back to you
• We are only operating our plant 3 days a week
Never make it difficult for a customer to do business with you. Yet, it’s easier to say, than it is to do. How easy is it to do business with you? Have you tried to BE A CUSTOMER AT YOUR SHOP?
Seriously, yes, try being your own customer! It’s illuminating!
Do you send in orders to yourself? A self serving secret shopper? If not, you should try it. Fill a bag with your own clothes, drop a note with a name, address and phone number (or use your own name) and drop it behind the counter for counter staff to mark in. Wait a couple of days, then retrieve your order. Lift the plastic and check out your own quality.
Do you follow your own reviews on social media and review websites such as Yelp and Google Reviews? What are people saying about you? Are you responding to reviews left? Do you find yourself defending certain policies and procedures with customers that leave negative reviews? A negative review isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s really an opportunity to see your business through your customer’s eyes, and it’s a golden opportunity to discover serious issues as your customer’s see them. While it’s unfortunate that a bad review is posted, there are situations where you reach out to the complaining customer, make it right with the customer, some do log back into Yelp and report to other’s that you fixed the problem and satisfied them. Those rare moments are better than gold as they demonstrate your business is willing to change, respond and satisfy, which is really what all customers want.
Do you survey your customers? I mean, do you email, text, or send letters to customers inviting their feedback? When I had my shops, I would pull certain invoices at random from the picked up order slips, look up the customer in my point-of-sale system and compile a list of customers to send a survey too. The survey was fairly simple, touching on customer service, staff attitudes, appearance of the store, quality of the work. I even was so bold as to ask about pricing and open-ended questions such as: ‘What can we do better?’ and ‘Is there another service we could be providing you?’ Open-ended questions are risky as a customer can really bite you in the butt with nasty comments, but they can also bring opportunities because I had enough customers tell me they wanted a shoe shine service that nobody else in town offered, my customers told me they wanted a profitable service and were willing to pay. Slam, dunk!
How happy are your customers that you reduced service hours, or even entire service days? Reducing hours to fit your staffing, or reducing days your plant operates to keep your costs down to match reduced workflow due to Covid. Are they abandoning you for another service provider who is meeting their needs? Time to run the inactive customer report in your point-of-sale system and start calling, emailing and texting customers asking them: ‘Where have you been?’ If you are not asking and reaching out to your customers to discover what is impacting their decision to some into you or send it work, your entire operation is just careening through the market place blind.
How easy is it for a new customer to convert to your services? It’s hard enough to find people who need dry cleaning services these days, and those that do, are usually already locked in with another cleaner. People are people, they tend to stick with the tried and true, even putting up with the occasional problem rather than suffer the pain of changing habits, finding a new cleaner and then develop a new habit of using you. Yeah, there is pain in switching, real, or imagined. But, it’s real in your customer’s mind.
Most customers only seek a new cleaner when they are really, really and I mean really ticked off. So, these customers are bound and determined they are going to stick it to their current cleaner. They usually go to Google and search ‘dry cleaner near me.’ They get their list of search results. Then, the customer starts looking at reviews seeing what other people had to say. If they find a cleaner relatively near to them and don’t see a lot of bad reviews (notice, I said not a lot of bad reviews – bad reviews tend to be over looked, so a few is all right. Entirely a different story if there are a lot of bad reviews). The next step is, the customer prepares a ‘trial order’, usually their second-best clothes, the ones they may not mind so much if they get lost, ruined, or not serviced well. Then they take the order in, wait a few days and then pick up the order, lifting the plastic to see how you’ve done. If you did okay, you might get a second order, depending……
Now, keep in mind, this customer has been burned by another cleaner. The deck is already stacked against you. Any minor little hiccup in your operation is just gasoline waiting to be poured on that customer’s fire. You better have a very simple, but effective process in place to make sure that if this customer is going to become a regular, and grow, you capture the right information as well as have processes in place to lock in that customer to you.
For far too many cleaners, this is exactly where the wheels come off the bus. I’ve experienced online customer sign up forms that ask way too many questions. Seriously, what do you need more than my name, my address and my phone number? Sure, I understand that YOU (the Cleaner) need to know my preferred payment method, my credit card details and expiration date, but, do we really need to get into ALL THE SORDID DETAILS such as laundry preferences, work number, home phone number, email address, work address, which light post do you return my finished order on, the code to my garage door, birth date, marriage date and if I like pineapple on my pizza or not (yes, yes I do!) All this extra information is what follow up is all about. You know, that thing ALL DRY CLEANERS say they offer…..SERVICE. Yeah, really, service. Follow up is service. It’s the human touch customer crave. Want to really stand out? Offer, and provide service. It establishes relationships, builds relationships and people do love to deal with people, well, most people, that is. Develop those systems in house to follow up with customers, get those details, educate and train customers. Answer their questions and build rapport. This soothes the savage beast and goes a long way to establishing trust in a new relationship, more so after ending one with another cleaner.
Please don’t think I’m not without my own faults. I must confess, I screw up just like you do. I’ve developed the habit of checking myself. Like Ronald Reagan famously said: Trust, but verify’’. Yes, I confess, I’ve lost phone numbers, email addresses. I’ve failed at following up with both potential and active customers. And, I use these personal experiences as ‘moments of opportunity and growth. I’m learning from my mistakes and I trust that my mistakes and solutions to them, become examples, as well as products and services offered to you to prevent you from suffering losses and help you change for the better. The first step to recovery is, admitting you have a problem. The second step is, doing something about it. Soon enough, you’ll be running away with the market.