CHICAGO — What do laundry and linen service customers know about commercial/industrial laundry operations?
Probably not much.
So then, how can a service expect its customers to understand factors such as quality, linen abuse, costs, etc., so both can work better together to meet the customer linen needs?
The only way is through education.
To find out more about educating laundry and linen service customers, American Laundry News communicated with Jason Hartsell, director of operations for United Hospital Services, a cooperative healthcare laundry in Indianapolis, and Will Geissel, senior director of procurement and laundry operations at Marcus Hotels & Resorts and manager of the Wisconsin Hospitality Linen Service business unit in Milwaukee for Marcus.
How important has it been for your operation to educate customers about the laundry industry and your operation?
HARTSELL: Education of the customer is an essential customer-service task. It can be beneficial addressing the concerns that the customer has, such as quality, quantity or usage. It’s also helpful for the laundry to address linen abuse, loss or other issues, such as trash or sharps with the soiled linen.
GEISSEL: It is extremely important to educate customers about our operations and the laundry industry. We find that the more customers know, the better partners they can be because they have a better understanding of the services we provide—they know our strengths, limitations and challenges.
What benefits have you seen from providing laundry operation education?
HARTSELL: One of the most important benefits for us has been addressing the occasional complaint or concern about quality—bringing the customer into our facility to show them how their linen is processed by our operators and how the operator may have missed something that the customer has deemed unacceptable.
It’s important to remember that until someone sees an industrial laundry, the only context they have for processing linen is how they wash and fold at home.
Another benefit that has been helpful for us is stemming off concern from linen-related topics, such as a news story or an article that gets published.
If a topic comes up that we think will be generating interest in the hospitals, we try to get in front of it by providing all the information that we can find on the topic and providing our opinion. That can provide transparency to the end user and help build confidence in your operation.
GEISSEL: When customers are educated about laundry operation, they better understand our capabilities and the industry benchmark. It’s not surprising that it makes for stronger partnerships.
What methods do you use to educate your customers? What have you found to be most effective?
HARTSELL: We have used a variety of methods to educate our customers, from newsletters, e-mails, whitepapers to linen awareness days and tours of the plant.
I personally found that doing rounds in the hospital with a manager responsible for linen in the hospital gave me the most outreach.
I would put a small 12- to 15-slide presentation on an iPad and spend five to 10 minutes explaining the laundering process and the linen use in the facility. I would try to explain their usage to them on an individual patient basis by item and by cost. I would offer a few takeaways on how they could help their usage or help us (for example, reducing the trash in the soiled linen bags).
The one thing that I learned early on is that caregivers are much more willing to listen to you if you hand out candy.
GEISSEL: We do monthly, quarterly and as-needed business reviews with our partners. During these reviews, we discuss everything from total pounds cleaned and industry news to any points of pain the customer is experiencing.
We find that through transparency we are able to better understand the needs of our customers and help them understand how we can help them.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion as Hartsell and Geissel discuss education timing, examples of positive experiences.