Three Pieces By: Everett Childers

Communications

In a more gentle time, people would actually talk to one another, face-to-face, and even have a little respect for others. I saw a sign the other day that urged people to get their faces out of their cell phones and watch where they are going. The same could be true for other electronic devices that take one’s attention from what is safe and respectful of others. It seems that many are all very self-indulged and centered, that it is difficult to even be aware of others. This tends to make for some very upset people when they are walked into or run over by those who value most knowing what someone else is doing or what’s for supper.

We have all been victims of clerks who are in a texting or phone conversation and make us wait on them. This is a complete reversal of roles, as clerks are supposed to be at the beck and call of the customers who are spending money with the company and paying their salaries. Maybe it is time to evaluate what our plant and call office procedures are and see if it is compatible with the way we want to treat our customers and do business.

Let’s review some of the things that are important to customers. Among the top would be the cleanliness of the call office and close to being first would be an outgoing and knowledgeable counter person (CSR). Next would be a CSR who is cheerful and remembers your name. If the CSR is allowed to use their cell phone or other communicating device, the attention is not on the customers who supply the money to keep the business going. Just hearing another person’s conversation is enough to distract the thought process of another person, this can disrupt several people at once and is, at the very best, rude and inconsiderate.

For those who are not aware of an excellent learning device for drycleaners called the Fabricare Forum, it can be joined free by going to fabricare-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. It is a discussion forum for drycleaners and suppliers and probably other people interested in what the cleaning industry is either doing or what it is about. It is made up of some very knowledgeable and experienced drycleaners who are willing to share their knowledge and experience with others. The reason this valuable tool is mentioned is because frequently someone will ask the question about the use of cell phones or texting devices and asking what others are doing about it.

I guess I am getting of the old school and believe that when someone accepts a job they need to know what the rules are and what the pay is going to be. Accepting a job does not mean the employee will get paid for yacking on the telephone. They will get paid for producing revenue for the company for which they work. Very simple. Then the question comes up “If the employees cannot talk on their cell phones, how can they get emergency messages?” The answer is very simple. All calls for employees are to come through the businesses main telephone number and the message delivered to the employee. Just this one little rule, can save hundreds or thousands of dollars per year in lost productivity.

When a customer comes in with a cell phone sticking out of his face then they can be acknowledged with a wave, a smile or something, that they will be helped when they can find time to talk to the CSR. This also eliminates confusion for other customers that may be ahead of the rude talker and allows him to complete his very important conversation.

If a CSR is helping a customer and the business telephone rings it should be answered before the third ring. First, ask your customer to please excuse you while you answer the phone. Answer the phone businesslike and pleasantly then immediately say, ”Will you hold please” then put the caller on hold. If the customer will take more than a few minutes ask the caller if you may call them back; and do so promptly. While putting the phone down do not slam it or allow the receiver to make any noise. A one-foot square of carpet is excellent place on which to lay the phone down.

Production employees need to actually work without being distracted with phone calls as double creases can be placed by pressers, spots can be missed or fabrics damaged by the cleaner/spotter, inspection and assembly employees can miss imperfections in the garment and get tag numbers mixed up. A CSR can really tick customers off if he insists on holding cell phone conversations while going through the motions of helping a customer. Cell phones in public are similar to drugs…Just Don’t do it!

Business seems to be picking up around the country. Either because more people are going back to work, looking for work, or dressing modes are changing, or the clothes are getting filthy and need a good cleaning. Now is the time that those who have survived the downturn several years ago need to get their employees accustomed to working at a higher efficiency. Let them know that you have carried them through the downturn at great expense to you, the business has picked up and now it is their turn to get back in the groove of producing nice looking garments in an efficient manner.

Fighting The Heat

With summer already here heat fatigue will take its toll on good production numbers so it might be possible to shift production hours to five or six in the morning then shutting the heat off around noon or a little later. As the heat builds up so does the fatigue the employees feel and production will be better in the cooler part of the day. One thing I have learned is that if you can keep a person’s head and feet cool the rest of the body can tolerate the heat. A nice extra that really works to help people stay cool is the bandanna filled with a gel that absorbs water and as it evaporates over several hours produces a cooling sensation. These are worn loosely around the neck. I have only seen them in red and blue so the ladies could wear the red and the guys the blue.

Another thought is that if a blast of cold air is coming right down on top of a presser this makes for an uncomfortable workstation. There are different methods of deflecting slightly the air so it does not all come down in one spot but will still cool the employee. Over the years, I have seen people actually get sick from the cold air due to sinus problems, colds, etc. Every year the same questions come up asking about “swamp” coolers or evaporative coolers. Generally, these are only effective in dry heat such as in Nevada and Arizona for example. All other places tend to do better with refrigerated air.

Evaporative coolers have a bit of a drawback though in that they will add moisture to the air which can accumulate in the garments you have just pressed and will dull creases while refrigerated air will tend to dry garments and allow them to retain their creases and finishing details. Usually “spot” or moveable coolers have a water source that will evaporate the water and the garments will absorb it. This can be good for spotting though in that it will add some humidity to the drycleaning machine and reduce spotting, especially the ones that just blow off after cleaning or the crusty ones usually from food.

Finally Something For Fun

Don’t forget that the California Drycleaners Convention and Educational Conference will be held at the Long Beach Convention Center overlooking beautiful Long Beach Harbor on July 14th and 15th. It is always one of the better shows for the industry and one reason is the perfect weather, excellent food available and seeing a lot of old friends, and even new friends. There will be the latest in drycleaning and wetcleaning machines, chemicals to enhance productivity and finishing equipment for labor savings and upgrading the quality of your finished product. Numerous educational sessions have already been announced and they all look worthwhile to add to your knowledge base.