National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Developing the habits of winners
September is here and that means it is time to kick off the football season. Vince Lombardi, one of football’s greatest coaches, said the following: “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-the-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately so is losing.”
Those are very powerful words that can be brought to your place of business.
How do you create a winning habit in your business? If you have more than one counter sales representative, how do you create consistency? How do you create winning habits? Do you care if there is consistency at your counter? Do you care if Mary handles a complaint one way, and Jane handles a complaint another way?
The following question is what brought this subject to this article. “DLI offers a secret shopper program to members. Do you think I should participate?”
That is a great question because most cleaners do not, or will not, participate in a secret shopper program, whether it is with DLI or done privately. Do you know why?
The first reason is the cleaner would be forced to train the employees. That means putting policies and procedures together on how to take care of customers and customer issues. These procedures would be for counter service, carhop service, route service, and telephone answering.
The second reason is the cleaner would be forced to have training meetings with the counter and route staff. Those two things — written procedures and training meetings — are the only way to create consistency by your counter and route sales staff.
The mystery shopper program offered by DLI is a multi-tiered program. DLI offers secret shopping by telephone so that your staff answers the phone consistently, with the same responses. The DLI telephone program is free to Premier members.
A new program that was recently instituted is having a shopper visit your place of business. The cost for that service is $50. You can create the questions to be asked over the phone or by the person who visits the store.
My response to the question was, “Yes you should participate in the DLI program. If you want your business to stand out from the competition and become professional, by all means avail yourself of both the telephone and store visit programs.”
This man next asked, “Did you have a secret shopper program in your business?”
My response was, “Yes, and I wish it was in place for a longer period of time.”
DLI members are fortunate to have the DLI shopper service available. They do not have to interview mystery shopper companies. I wish DLI had the program when I was in business. During my two terms on the DLI board, the subject was never brought to the table.
Then the business owner asked me, “What did the shopper look for in your place? What questions, if any, did the shopper ask?”
I had to dig into some files and found secret shopper reports for each of my locations. The locations offered both counter and carhop service.
Before I get into the details of what the shopper looked for, you should know that I held monthly training meetings for the counter staff. The route drivers were required to join the meetings as they were confronted with many of the same issues that the counter staff faced.
In addition, the policies and procedures for dealing with customers were written so there were no misinterpretations.
My counter staff was incentivized with a $50 bonus to learn the correct policies and procedures. To earn the bonus, the mystery shopper had to give the employee 100 points on the score sheet. Each of the areas being scored was rated on a scale of 1 to 10.
At the time of drop off, the shopper looked at the building and parking lot exterior and answered the following questions:
Is the parking lot clean and litter free?
Are there enough parking spaces?
Is there easy access into the parking lot?
The next subject was Customer Greeting with the following questions answered:
Was the customer acknowledged promptly?
Did the CSR smile and give a warm and friendly greeting?
Did the CSR show enthusiasm and make good eye contact?
The following questions were addressed under the subject of Customer Service Rating.
Was the CSR neat and appropriate in appearance (white shirt, tie or scarf)?
Was the customer asked to point out any stains or repairs?
Did the CSR wear a name tag?
Did the CSR use the customer’s name three times during the visit?
Did the CSR smile and say “Thank you?”
Was the customer offered a hanger caddy?
Was the customer told about another one of the store’s services?
The grading on the second two sets of questions determined whether the employee received the $50 bonus and scored the necessary 100 points.
The final area of inquiry for the drop-off was Efficiency. The time entered and the time the visit was completed were recorded and the following questions answered.
Was the wait time was acceptable?
Was the overall assessment a favorable experience?
At the time of pick up there were two different questions.
Instead of asking whether the customer was asked to point out stains, the question was whether the order was located promptly.
And instead of asking about the hanger caddy, the secret shopper answered whether the number of pieces being picked up were counted to the customer. Everything else on the shopper’s questionnaire remained the same at the time of pick up.
This format of waiting on customers in their car or at the counter brought tremendous consistency and professionalism to my company. The $50 incentive bonus was a great motivator.
Look back at part of the Lombardi quote, “you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.”
There is no shortcut to doing things right all the time. If you want a winning company, you must train your employees. It is not easy, but most good things in life do not come easy. You have to work to get them and once achieved, the reward is wonderful.
Should you need a question or questions answered, do not hesitate to contact me by phone of email as shown below. As you have read, I will respond to most questions, no matter the subject matter.

Harvey Gershenson operates Sterling Drycleaning Consulting and is a former owner of Sterling Dry Cleaners. A second-generation drycleaner, he has been in the industry since he was in high school. He has served as president of the Cleaners and Dyers Guild of Los Angeles and has served on the boards of directors of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute and the California Cleaners Association. He is also a guest lecturer for the California Department of Corrections. He can be reached by e-mail at or phone at (310) 261-2623. His web site is