National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Let’s have conversation at the counter
Every cleaner wants more business. At least we haven’t heard of any cleaners complaining
about having too much business. But it seems many cleaners are overlooking an opportunity to
get more business, one that is standing right in front of you at the counter.
That’s right. We’re talking about the customer who is in your store right now. That customer
has already chosen to do business with you. How much business will he or she do? That
depends on how you and your CSRs deal with the customer.
We were surprised to hear some of the secret-shopper survey results presented by Carolyn
Nankervis at the Southwest Drycleaners Association convention in Ft. Worth, TX. In particular,
we were surprised that fewer than half of the secret shoppers were asked about any stains on
the garments they were bringing in.
That would seem to be part of the basic conversation that should take pace between
customer and CSR at the counter, maybe only slightly less important than identifying the
customer and noting the garments being brought in. Sure your eagle-eyed cleaner/spotter may
find those stains and get them out. If that fails, the stains may be caught in the final
That’s all well and good, but it’s not the point. Asking that simple question opens the door to
a conversation with the customer. Once you’ve shown that you actually care about the
garment, the customer will be more willing to hear about other services you offer. Alterations
and repairs? Comforters? Home delivery? Don’t assume that customers are aware of all the
things you can do. Tell them about it, and ask for their business.
As Nankervis puts it, you want to have an interaction, not just a transaction, with the
customer. “That’s why we have people at the counter and not just a lockbox,” she said. Failing
to take advantage of the opportunity for interaction could be tantamount to letting potential
business walk out the door. In this day and age, who can afford to do that?
Will the numbers add up in your favor?
Most businesses aren’t just about the numbers, of course, but it’s the numbers that
ultimately determine how long that business can stick around. Drycleaning plant owners know
this better than most, which is a good thing because the numbers can be depressing.
Depending on which source you believe, startup failure rates range between 30 to 80 percent;
most point toward the higher end of that spectrum.
Why do so many businesses fail? Certainly, an inability to maintain a profitable model plays a
part. Some of it is due to a leadership breakdown. Some of it can be attributed to a business
not effectively communicating its brand or unique selling proposition in a clear and compelling
manner to customers. Whatever the reason, the numbers simply don’t lie. Most new businesses
eventually fail and the tragedy is that it can often be avoided.
This month’s profile (page 6), Jeff Schwarz from A.L. Wilson, spends most of his time
traveling to drycleaning plants across the country (he estimates the count to be about 600
annually). He sees both successes and failures and this is how he sums up the state of the
industry: “…the drycleaners out there who belong to the associations and read the trade
publications and will actually go out to a seminar and try to get better… those people are doing
It can’t be that easy, can it? In order keep your doors open, you just need to avoid
complacency? Of course, that is much, much easier said than done. It takes a lot of time, effort
and drive to keep pushing your business to be better, but here’s the good news: if you are
reading this publication, you are already taking an important step, just as if you regularly
attend industry trade shows and seminars or belong to a trade association. You are proactively
working toward success.
In this issue, you have access to a lot of valuable lessons to keep moving your business
forward. James Peuster (page 10) will help you get more out of your staff.
Frank Kollman will
help you with potential hiring hurdles.
Don Desrosiers will remind you that if you hate common
shirt problems, you are not alone.
Bruce Grossman offers tips on how to fix drying problems
Dan Eisen has plenty of stain removal advice. Plus, Neil Schroeder shares five ways to
build engaging experiences with your customers. Last but not least,
Harvey Gershenson 
examines the importance of knowing your operating costs. After all, the numbers really are
important. Fortunately some of these columns will go a long way in helping you improve yours,
especially your bottom line.