National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Over-promising, under-delivering
As many of you know, my route consulting stems from best practices in the industry. Sometimes what works for one cleaner may not work for another.
James Peuster
Demography, market price range, labor pool, climate, etc., all create variances in how we must operate. Unfortunately, many cleaners try other best practices hoping that they can build routes by going the extra mile for their clients when in reality they don’t realize they are spending extra time and money to service a client that doesn’t generate extra income, thus extra profit.
I get it. We must separate ourselves from the competition in order to out-feature/out-benefit our competition. The amazing thing is that we don’t always see the ROI of the extra stuff we do. But then you realize you raised the expectations of the customer and now you get stuck in the trap of continual over-servicing that leads to under-delivering.
The questions I receive are two-fold: Why did I do it and how do I prevent it from happening again?
The first question is easy. With routes you probably had the extra time to over-service customers; this is a typical response I get. “We had the time and this is what the customer wants.”
You set boundaries at your stores. Why don’t you set them on the routes? Granted, many are not stuck in this quagmire. They established their route systems early and stuck to them through growth, bad economic times and sales.
Others faced the fears of losing a customer and extended the boundaries while lowering their profit. It’s much like discounting. I’m all for it if your bottom line allows room to reinvest in your company.
Obviously the exception is the top 10 percent of your customers. You do go the extra mile for them, but not for the three- or four-times-a-year customers.
Drivers will sometimes over-service in order to work extra hours, make an excuse not to sell or just not be home. Some drivers work 60 to 70 hours a week by their own choice, then complain that they are overworked. Seriously, it happens.
The second question is the hard part. Since many are relying on their routes for survival purposes or salespeople are required to add customers weekly, we tend to say “Yes” to prospects’ requests before we know how good of a customer they are.
The worst part is when we offer the additional options before the prospect is asking questions. I’ve heard comments like, “Where do you want me to deliver your clothes?” and “What day of the week would work better for you?” Remember this slogan for profitable routes: “Route is short for routine”
The bottom line is this: customer service should not come at a loss. I’ve seen it too many times: a driver goes out of his way for a $10 order, spending two gallons of gas and 30 minutes of time for a customer who uses the service four times a year.
Believe me, I am huge fan of “raving fans,” but many times this gets misinterpreted and I advise everyone to be careful. Focus on your top 10 to 20 percent of your customers. They complain less and ask for less. Deliver consistency to them. You will grow profitably.

James Peuster offers onsite training and all aspects of routes. Management, marketing and maintenance are all key components in developing a million-dollar route.  You can listen to his radio programs on
He can be contacted at (816) 739-2066 or