At Your Service: What Laundry Customers Really Want

By Bob Nieman, CLA Member posted 01-29-2015 10:48

  

  at your service

Orginally posted - Sep 11, 2013

Attracting and retaining more customers are the keys to any successful business.
 
As a result, figuring out just what it is your laundry customers really want or need to spend their money on – and then giving it to them – is
 the “holy grail” of doing business.
 
Each year, the Coin Laundry
 Association helps take some of the guesswork out this process by
 surveying laundry customers as to their likes and dislikes when it comes
 to choosing one self-service laundry over another.
 
With the 2013
 survey results in, a clearer picture of what your customers really want
 has emerged. Here are the leading factors that influence how customers
 choose a laundromat:

•    Feeling safe and secure: 83%
 
•    Cleanliness: 83%
 
•    Having enough machines available: 82%
 
•    Price: 80%
 
•    Distance from home: 78%
 
•    Store hours: 78%
 
•    Having large-capacity machines: 77%
 
•    Having available parking: 73%
 
•    Having an attendant on duty: 56%
 
Given these survey statistics, customers seem to be telling today’s store
 owners that now more than ever they want time-savings and convenience in
 a clean, safe environment that is close to home.
 
We shared these
 results with some leading laundry operators and asked them to discuss
 how their own operations were meeting these overall customer needs:
 
Richard Warner
 Laundry Express
 La Crosse, Wis.
 
Cleanliness:
 Although there are a number of wants and needs from today’s laundry
 customer, I would have to rank cleanliness first on the list. I base
 this on the comments that are made to my attendants and left in our
 “comment box.” The positive comments are overwhelmingly regarding the
 laundry’s cleanliness. This makes me believe that it’s important to my
 customers. Knowing this, we make it a priority in our business model.
 Not only is it important that we have a clean facility, but it is
 equally important that our customers see our attendants wiping out the
 washer drums after they have been used, checking the dryers for foreign
 objects and inspecting the detergent dispensers. It is important to be
 clean – and just as important that our customers see us maintaining this
 cleanliness.
 
Convenience: A close second to cleanliness in our
 market would be convenience. While a number of different factors play
 into this category, parking, store hours and payment options are the
 three that are paramount.
 
Because we are in a stand-alone
 building, we have the advantage of offering at-the-door parking, with no
 extra traffic passing by.

Our store hours are also important.
 While we are not attended during all of our open hours, we have the
 ability to open and close the facility through timers that automatically
 open our doors at 6 a.m. and lock them at 11 p.m. It is not uncommon to
 have customers already leaving the facility as my attendant arrives at 8
 a.m.; additionally, our customers are able to finish their laundry
 after the doors are locked for the evening.
 
Payment options
 generate a lot of discussion with laundry owners. In my case, we accept
 quarters, dollar coins and tokens. The tokens are dispensed from a
 credit-card-enabled changer, and it dispenses tokens valued at both 25
 cents and $1. While no payment system is perfect, my ability to accept
 coins (both quarters and dollar coins), along with the ability to cater
 to credit card users, has worked well for me.

Time Savings:
 Because our society continues to place a premium value on its time, it
 becomes a relevant factor for our customers. Our customers do not have
 to wait to use our equipment because our machines are maintained and
 out-of-order equipment is not the norm. We also offer weekday specials
 to entice value-hungry customers to visit us during the week versus the
 busier weekends, and we have instituted “upgrade pricing” on our
 washers. This allows our customers to choose a regular wash cycle if
 time is a factor, or upgrade to a more robust cycle if an extra rinse,
 longer wash or extra spin is desired.

Safety: While safety might
 be higher on the list in other markets, I am fortunate that my business
 is in a relatively safe area. That does not mean it is not important.
 For that reason, our parking lot is very well lit. We have a number of
 exposed security camera domes that are visible inside and outside of our
 facility, and we have an “emergency” telephone that dials directly to
 my cell phone.
 
Vend Price: I suspect that many first-time laundry
 owners would rank vend price higher than most experienced operators. I
 am the price leader in my market, and my business continues to grow
 because we take care of the other things that are important to my
 customers – cleanliness, convenience, a friendly staff with a caring
 attitude, and equipment that is reliable and available.
 
Lisa Varandas
 Plaza Laundry & Cleaners
 Hazlet, N.J.
 
Time
 Savings: My customers love our 50-pound washers. I monitor those
 machines because, if I see someone not filling up the machine to its
 full capacity, I direct them to a triple-loader and explain they can
 save money. This way, I ensure that the giant washers are available to
 those who need them, and we rarely have anyone waiting for those
 machines.

We also educate the customer on how much time is
 required for the dryers so that they don’t spend more time than needed.
 And we listen to our customers – when I hear someone complaining that
 they hate to do laundry and really “don’t have time for it,” I suggest
 our wash-dry-fold service as an alternative.

Recently, a regular
 customer was telling me she had to stop at the drycleaners before
 coming here to do her laundry, and I reminded her we have drycleaning
 services so that she doesn’t need to make an extra trip.

Convenience: Having an ATM is important, especially in older laundromats such as mine that don’t have card systems.
 
My store opens at 7 a.m., but I have several customers who like to come
 early, so during the week I will go in early and open at 6:30 a.m. to
 accommodate my "early birds."

In addition, some of my senior citizens who come every week have a hard time carrying everything, so I
 will store their detergent in the stockroom for them with their name on
 it and bring it to them when they arrive.
 
I also have some seniors who drop off wash-dry-fold loads and prepay – so when they come
 to pick up, I just have them to drive up to the door, and I bring their
 laundry out to them. And my attendants go out of their way to help
 anyone needing special assistance.
 
With so much competition, service is of utmost importance. Many of our customers look to the
 attendants for guidance on what machine to use, how to use them,
 temperature settings and so on. It’s important that attendants be
 patient and receptive to the customers’ questions and concerns.
 
Cleanliness:

Cleanliness is very importance to the customer – clean machines, floors
 and restroom. The customers also appreciate the washcloths we lay on
 top of each frontloader. If they spill detergent or need to wipe off
 their hands or detergent bottle, the washcloth is there for them. We
 also keep a broom and dustpan out in the open, so we can grab it quickly
 – and sometimes customers will use it if they spill something.
 
Rich Sodemann
 Beach Laundry
 Osage Beach, Mo.
 
Cleanliness:
 Our store has tile floors in the washer areas with carpeted floor mat
 runners in front of washers. The dryer area and lounge are carpeted
 areas. These are vacuumed numerous times throughout the day. The tile
 floors are wet mopped every night at closing. All door glass is wiped
 for fingerprints. The restroom is checked and cleaned numerous times
 throughout the day.
 
In addition, the washers and dryers are
 continually checked for soap, bleach and softener spills. Internal drums
 are checked for grease, pet hair and debris, and cleaned if necessary.
 Washers found to have been used for cleaning pet beds, etc. are
 immediately put through another cycle and cleaned with a sanitizer.
 Also, our folding tables and dryer glass are wiped clean continually.
 
Safety:
 Our store is very well lit. We have 16 motion-sensor security cameras.
 No public areas are hidden from our cameras – which record to DVR with
 video storage of nearly six months. We can view our security system
 remotely via the internet.
 
Also, we’re strict about not allowing
 children to run in store or ride in carts. Everyone must wear shirts and
 shoes, and no pets are allowed in the store.

Ken Barrett
 Washin’ Anniston
 Anniston, Ala.

Cleanliness:
 McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc is famous for saying, "If you've got time
 to lean, you've got time to clean." My attendants understand this
 policy, and I am very clear about it.

We have three levels of cleaning:
 
No. 1 is a quick sweep, wipe the soap trays, wipe the tables and check the
 restroom. This gets done at the beginning of each shift and at least
 once during the shift. We have a busy drop-off business, so this is all
 that can get done on some shifts.
 
No. 2 is a full sweep, mop the floors, wipe the soap trays, clean the restroom, pick up trash in the
 parking lot, wipe the tables and machines, and wash the windows on the
 doors.
 
No. 3 is typically on a slower day. It includes all of the
 tasks of No. 2, plus spending time on each machine to wipe down the
 cabinets using stainless steel cleaner, wiping the base, moving
 everything in the sorting room, and cleaning all the corners and edges.
 
Safety:
 I have a lot of cameras – some in plain sight, some hidden. In fact,
 one of my hidden cameras recently took a picture of a car some vandals
 were driving, which lead to their arrest. They had parked near the back
 of my store.
 
All of my stores have big windows, and I don’t post anything on them except for my store hours and an emergency phone
 number. Anyone can see my entire store from outside. This helps the
 police when they do a drive by.
 
When I renovated my stores, I looked at it from the perspective of the small children who would be
 walking around while their parents did laundry. So, I made sure there
 was nowhere they could walk or reach into and get hurt. I also put the
 entrances to the kids’ area far away from the front door.
 
I have a lot of lights. My stores are bright on the inside, and I installed
 lights under the exterior canopy in front as well. If you are not
 running T-5 florescent lights, you need to put a plan in place to
 upgrade, even if you can only do one or two a month.
 
I would suggest installing T-5 4100K Cool White bulbs over your folding tables
 and T-5 3200K in the rest of the store. The 3200K feature warmer light,
 but the 4100K are bright white, so the clothes will look brighter at
 your store.
 
Vend Price: I have no concerns being the highest
 prices laundry in town. I have the cleanest stores, the biggest TVs,
 kids’ areas, free WiFi, a great staff, plenty of parking, covered
 entrances and air conditioning.
 
Tyler Blair
 The Washboard Laundry
 San Diego, Calif.
 
Time
 Saving: We have several large machines. Customers love that they can do
 a whole week of clothes in the same time it takes to do one load of
 laundry at home. We also offer fluff-and-fold for customers who don’t
 have any time for laundry. San Diego is a popular tourist destination,
 so we get customers from all over the world. We encourage these
 customers to use our fluff-and-fold service so that they can free up
 time to explore our beautiful city.

Convenience: We are open seven days a week, from 7:00 a.m., with the last wash at 9:00 p.m. The
 early hours are popular for those with 9-5 jobs who want to utilize the
 fluff-and-fold service; plus customers can come in early on the weekends
 to avoid the crowds.

We offer free WiFi, which is convenient for customers who want to do work while doing their laundry. And we also
 have current magazines and HDTVs for entertainment.
 
Safety: We have a 24-hour security system, which records for two weeks, plus we
 have a TV with a live feed of the store so that customers can see the
 security in action. This is a huge comfort for women who are doing
 laundry alone. Although we have attendants on site most of the time,
 issues can arise – and the security system is a great way to deter
 theft, vandalism or any other unsavory behavior. It’s also nice to
 remotely view the store to see how things are going

Art Jaeger
 Santa Clarita Laundry
 Santa Clarita, Calif.
 
Convenience:
 Our most important aspect of providing service has always been the
 availability of a helpful attendant. Attendants are usual the source of
 our greatest number of both compliments and, unfortunately, complaints.
 It goes almost without saying they are our frontline representatives,
 and how they respond and act will reflect upon us. No matter how much
 training we do, we must constantly reinforce how we want them to respond
 to customer problems, and we are prepared to take phone calls from both
 our attendants and unhappy customers to solve all types of situations
 that may arise.

Cleanliness: “Laundry 101” dictates that we must
 keep our laundry clean – as well as set and maintain those standards
 for all of our workers. The first measure a prospective customer will
 react to is how clean your store is. I will go further and state that
 part of maintaining cleanliness is having a well-lit store, equipment in
 working order, a clean and working restroom and trash cans emptied when
 needed.

Safety: As our primary customers are women, we make
 sure they feel safe in our stores. Having a storefront that allows
 full-store visibility is helpful for both safety and marketing purposes.
 Having security cameras, attendants and a well-lit store – with all
 fixtures and bulbs working – help keep customers feeling secure.

We also visit our stores at different hours of the day and night to ensure
 that features that activate in the evening are operating properly. If
 you only go during the day, you might not realize that timers aren’t
 correctly set, that the parking lot is not well lit, that your automatic
 door locks aren't working or that your channel letter sign is missing a
 few letters.

Vend Price: Vend price becomes most important to customers when they don’t feel they are receiving proper value for their
 expenditure. Therefore, we make certain we are able to check off for a
 customer that all of our equipment is in working order, that we are
 providing a fair wash cycle, that our dryers heat properly, that a
 helpful attendant is on duty, that are restroom is clean and working,
 and that we have amenities such as TVs and WiFi; this all makes it less
 likely that a higher vend price will result in customer complaints.
 
Also, with the availability of multi-vend pricing, we are in the position to
 provide customized wash cycles that we promote in-store, which the
 customer can elect to utilize and pay additionally for.

Patti Fielding
 Embassy Laundromat
 Manchester N.H.
 
Time Saving: We are always on top of any machines that are out of order to
 minimize downtime. This includes learning how to fix as much as I can on
 my own, rather than waiting on a vendor to come in. We try to order new
 machines when older machines are starting to fail too often. When
 ordering new machines, we always consider the mix, as different sizes
 appeal to a wide range of uses.
 
Cleanliness: This is huge for us. I like to joke with customers that during the hiring process, I ask
 about any “OCD issues with cleaning,” since they make the best
 employees.
 
After all, people come here to clean their clothes,the bedding, etc. They want a clean place. And one of the byproducts a
 clean store is that your machines look a lot younger than they may be.
 Customers are shocked to find out that some of the most used machines
 are actually 15 years old. A new laundromat can only look new for a
 short period of time if cleaning isn’t a priority.
 
Safety: Beyond being attended the majority of the time we have a great surveillance
 system, and we have two signs near our entrances that say, “For your
 protection…” We have two entrances – one in the front of the building
 and one in the back, which also help make customers feel safe.
 
Vend Price: I’m not the highest priced store in town, and I’m not the
 lowest. My philosophy is: “If you offer a great product and people like
 you, they will do business with you.” That is their priority, not the
 price.
 
Michael Finkelstein
 Associated Services Corp.
 Danville, Va.
 
Vend Price: Customers will look at price, but only if you’re unable to
 satisfy the other factors they want in a store. If I go to a store where
 three-quarters of the machines are tagged out and it’s dark and dirty, I
 can’t expect to go head to head with them on price, especially when I’m
 offering working machines in a clean, safe environment.

You try to be somewhat competitive, but I’m not the cheapest guy out there, nor
 will I ever be. You have to decide what it is you want to be when you
 grow up. And you can’t be afraid to be higher than the other owners.
 
Tom Benson
 World’s Largest Laundromat
 Berwyn, Ill.
 
Cleanliness: Our store is clean – that’s the most prevalent comment customers will
 give us. I think that’s No. 1. The main thing they want is cleanliness;
 after they see that, they can kind of put up with anything else.
 
Usually, we have two attendants at a time cleaning, and we supervise it.
 Supervisors are expected to walk the floor during their shifts and make
 sure the cleaning is being done.
 
We’ve always had employees who worked hard. With customers, they understand that at a certain point if
 you’ve got 175 people in the store at one time, it’s hard to keep
 everything cleaned at the same level – but as long as they see the
 attendants working, they’re happy.
 
Kip Carroll, General Manager
 Martik Properties
 Pittsburgh, Pa.
 
Time Savings: Each of our five stores is equipped with a wide variety of
 commercial laundry equipment. The equipment mix we decided on ensures no
 matter what the time of day or load requirement, our customers can
 complete their wash in an efficient manner.
 
Convenience: There is no such thing as a 9-5 world. Our customers have busy lives and
 sometimes it isn’t feasible to schedule a trip to the laundromat during
 the day or early evening. For this reason, we operate all of our stores
 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Each of our stores is centrally located and easy for customers to find. In our newest
 locations, we’ve realized the value of locating within a strip mall that
 includes a convenience store, as it enables customers to complete their
 laundry and fulfill their shopping list in one trip.
 
Parking is just as important as location. Our rule of thumb is to provide
 one-and-a-half times more parking spaces than what the city requires for
 stores of similar size. This ensures that no matter what the time of
 day, our customers will have a place to park and can easily carry their
 laundry door-to-door.

While our equipment is coin-operated, we recognize that many customers are more likely to carry plastic than
 dollars or quarters. For this reason, we installed ATMs in several of
 our stores. Customers also have the ability to use vending machines that
 we stock with sodas, snacks and laundry-related products such as
 detergent and fabric softener.

Cleanliness: Whether it’s their first time visiting one of our locations or the 100th time, our goal is
 to have them say, “Wow, this is a great store!” Keeping facilities clean
 is a big part to getting this reaction. Routine tasks such as clearing
 lint screens, mopping floors and garbage removal are part of our daily
 checklist. For stores that offer drop-off services, these tasks are
 completed by attendants during their shifts, while part-time employees
 visit our other locations daily.

Safety: As attendants are only present during the day at two of our stores, it’s important we provide
 customers with a safe environment around the clock. Each location has a
 state-of-the-art video surveillance system, which is something I highly
 recommend to any owner.
 
I also recommend owners visit their stores and meet their customers. Meeting the store operator will provide
 customers with a sense of ease, as they know someone is accountable for
 providing safe and secure facilities. In addition to my regular visits,
 I earmark one day each week to complete any preventative or necessary
 maintenance on the equipment or building fixtures.
 
Vend Price: While our equipment enables us to easily change the vend price, in our
 market we’ve found a flat-rate pricing structure to be the most
 successful. We charge 10 cents per pound for our washer-extractors with
 no extra charge for hot water.

John Henderson
 Liberty Laundry
 Tulsa, Okla.
 
Time Savings: Our equipment mix and custom cycle times allow us to achieve a
 relatively quick turnaround for our customers. Because of our ability
 to modify cycle elements, we have programmed most cycles with one wash
 and two rinses for maximum customer throughput. Most customers want to
 be quick and efficient while they are here. Our machines make sure their
 clothes consistently come out clean, which is their greatest
 expectation.
 
Another time-saving feature our system offers is full-cycle dryer pricing. We have adapted our cycle times based on our
 own experience and have discovered the optimal time for drying a normal
 load. Because the customer is not paying per-quarter and instead for a
 full-cycle dry, they are less likely to open the dryer while the cycle
 is in progress, providing further time savings.
 
Convenience: Our guiding principal is customer convenience. This includes installing an
 on-site ATM and providing dual coin drops for quarters and dollar coins,
 as well as credit/debit card acceptance on every machine.
 
The stores are always staffed for the convenience of our customers and to
 service our drop-off laundry service. The stores offer plenty of parking
 and are also equipped with automatic doors; WiFi; and soda, snack and
 soap vending.
 
Cleanliness: Our attendants perform a complete cleaning of the store daily, including vacuuming the dryer lint traps,
 sweeping, mopping and shining our stainless steel machines. They also
 clean the restrooms, the service counter areas, take out the trash and
 dust the bulkheads.
 
Additionally, we have a monthly checklist of areas that need only occasional cleaning or attention, such as the dryer
 vent rooms.
 
Safety: Our stores are equipped with video surveillance cameras, as well as watched by an alarm monitoring company.
 In addition to the constant presence of an attendant, our glass
 storefront also adds a feeling of security for our customers. And, in
 the unlikely event of a fire, we have extinguishers available at each
 location.
 
Vend Price: We believe in being the price leader in any market we are in, supported by being the best laundromat and providing
 the most reliable and efficient equipment.

We use multi-level vend pricing in our second store. After realizing the value of cycle
 modifiers and multi-level pricing, we are installing similar options in
 our new store that is currently under construction. Our full-cycle dryer
 pricing is also unique in our market. After using the “per-quarter”
 pricing strategy, we found that full-cycle is the better option.
 
Keith Griffin
 Super Suds Coin Laundry
 Searcy, Ark.
 
Cleanliness: It has been my experience that the single most important factor to
 keeping customers is a clean, well-lit store with good working
 equipment.
 
You can offer all kinds of other things – like a wash-dry-fold service, a kids’ area, TVs, coffee bars, etc. – but we are
 in business to wash clothes. A good clean store will always do more
 business. Clean, clean, clean. It is usually the least desirable task –
 and the most important.

 



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