Listen to your Customers
I have been basking in the glory of a very successful Laundromat renovation in my Briarcliff Laundromat. My team of employees and professionals worked well together and busted their butts to overhaul the entire Laundromat in less than 2 weeks. The Laundromat has been re-tooled and re-vitalized. Since the renovation, I have had occasion to stop by and ask the customers their thoughts and opinion of the renovation. I was waiting for rave reviews but instead I have noticed consistent comments with 2 themes: 1.) Where is the customer sink? and 2.) When did you increase the washer prices?
In one of the trade magazines (about 20 years ago), there were a series of articles written by the "Anonymous Laundromat Owner". The identity of the writer was anonymous so he could write about his "bonehead experiences" while owning a Laundromat. In one of the articles, the Laundromat owner performed a survey where he asked his Laundromat customers what improvement they would like to see in his Laundromat. The Laundromat owner has funds to invest into the Laundromat and he wanted to see what purchase would give him the best return on his investment. The writer actually paid each respondent $1.00 for their completed survey. (He observed that this was a waste of money, and all he had to do was just ask his customers and they would gladly express their opinion.) I remember he even gave suggestions to his customers like a new triple loader, new carpet, a couple of new dryers...
What surprised me and the writer was that a majority of the customers just wanted a sink to wash their hands. Not a slop sink for their clothes but a hand sink so they could just wash their hands. Before the Briarcliff renovation there was a small Stainless Steel bar sink with spring operated faucets and a roll of paper towels for our customers. I guess my "bonehead move" was forgetting what the customers wanted and doing what I wanted, which was to add an extra washer. So now I have a completely renovated Laundromat with No customer sink and what do I do? I am smart enough to listen to my customers, realize my mistake and to give my customers what they want (within reason).
We are in the process of getting a granite counter top made and we will be removing one of the 20 lbs. washers and installing a sink in the back of the store. We have already purchased a "touch-less" faucet with a large gooseneck spout. Customers appreciate the tall gooseneck spout so they can clean out their soap detergent bottles and also wash their hands. We also will be installing a paper towel dispenser. I still may make "boneheaded" assumptions, but I am smart enough to listen to my customers.
The other surprise to me was the comments about our new washer vend prices. As you may have read in previous newsletter articles, during the summer the local water department had quietly increased our water & sewer rates by over 40%. To compensate for the huge increase in water rates we performed a price increase on all of our existing washers. The old washers had the Keltner drop coin mechanisms which showed only the # of Quarters to start the washer. The new washers and the new card system now display the amount to start in dollars and cents. Before the renovation we increased our big washers vend price by 4 quarters and there was hardly a comment about the new prices. Our 50 lbs. washers went from 27 to 31 quarters to start. Four nothings (sorry 4 quarters). Who would of thought that when we raised our vend prices that the customers would not notice the increase in vend prices? We increased the washer vend prices about 6 weeks before we started our renovation, so the customers should have been use to the new washer vend prices.
With the renovation came the new washers and also the new card system. With the new system we are forced to display the vend price in dollars & cents. Now with the new 60 lbs. washers we display $7.75 on the front of the washers and our customers are getting a little sticker shock. We keep on hearing comments about the new price increase with the new washers??? But we kept the same vend prices from the old to the new washers. We increased the washer size and washer capacity and even added the high speed extract option to the new washers to reduce the drying time, but the customers focused on the vend price. We politely mention about the water rate increase and the cost of doing business to get our point across. No prices stay the same. Not gasoline prices, home heating oil, water rates and washer vend prices.
But the interesting point is they only noticed the price increase Now. I believe that this shows the strength and the power of confusion. When you show a customer the vend price in dollars & cents, the numbers are the numbers. When you show the customers the number of quarters, most customers don't do the math and won't calculate the vend cost of the washer. Ignorance is bliss. This re-enforces that if you can just show the number of quarters as a vend price, Do It. A majority of customer can-not or will-not do the math and you can raise your washer vend prices at will and start to re-gain a healthy return on your investment. When performing a vend price increase when only showing the number of quarters to start; you will hear minimal negative feedback.
When I produce my video about vending prices, I was prompted by the lack of complaints to build the case for showing the customers only the number of quarters. With my most recent experience in returning to vend price showing dollars & cents we have come full circle to show that there are clear advantages to displaying the number of quarters as the washer vend price. Maybe in the future, the washing machine manufacturers will help out the Laundromat community and allow an alternative option to showing the vend price. Maybe an option would just display "FILL" or "Available". I believe Maytag has this option available on their washers. It would be a benefit if the other manufactures also followed this optional display too. Any washer that has a digital display can be converted to display just the number of quarters to start the washer. The problem is that you have to show the dollars & cents with a card system. Check out my video for more information.
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