Good Customer Service Starts at the Top (Part 1)

Panel-of-Experts.jpg

(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“How important is customer service to a laundry/linen operation? How can managers work to better assist customers and end-users?”

Commercial Laundry: Rick Rone, LaundryPlus, Bradenton, Fla.

rone-rick.jpg

Rick Rone

Rick Rone

As an industrial laundry, customer service is quite probably one of the most important features that sets us apart from our competitors.

Any high-standard laundry is capable of providing a top-tier level of quality but customer service seems to be a lost art at most companies. I have found that at most hotels, laundry is quite far down on the importance list until there is a challenge. That is when a really good company separates itself from its competitors through customer service.

One major area of focus is working with your customer to honestly understand that there needs to be a good working partnership between the two entities.

Helping a customer to realize that it must keep a certain par level for its comfort as well as the laundry’s is one of the many issues. Also, there is the need for the laundry to understand that inventory is expensive. Just because we are processing COG (customer-owned goods) laundry is not a reason for us to ignore the fact that if we control our wash-and-dry formulas, we can make our customers’ terry and linens last longer.

Managers need to be diligent in their approach to training. Whether it is the training of truck drivers, who see our customers on a daily basis, or line operators, who may never meet the customer.

A short customer-service survey should be sent to all customers each month. If there is no response to the survey, the salesperson or customer service rep should get in touch with the customer to confirm their receipt and obtain a response. This simple step serves to not only assist the customer but to help the laundry have a better understanding of a customer’s expectations.

Do not be afraid to be held accountable. We need to make sure that all our co-workers as well as our customers understand that no one is perfect. The longer your customer is with your service, the more likely there is to be some type of mistake or problem at some point. Honestly, who or what created the problem is not important. Our response to that mistake or problem is what sets us apart from our competitors.

As with most issues, customer service, good or bad, seems to be a trickle-down effect. Your efforts need to start at the top and filter down to every facet of your company.

Textiles: Cecil Lee, Standard Textile, Cincinnati, Ohio

lee-cecil.jpg

Cecil B. Lee

Cecil B. Lee

I have been in the service industry all of my working career. For me, customer service is a highly important part of what we do. Customer service is synonymous with trust. Customer service works to enhance perception and drive education and understanding.

Customer service (CS) allows the true purpose of the supply and use of linen to be fulfilled. CS is an important part of the energy around the mission of the laundry. Most laundries have a desire to deliver a quality product in a timely and efficient manner. CS personnel help to formulate and explain the holistic and specific quality expectation, as well as assist in the management of systematic ordering and linen utilization so that the timeliness of linen delivery is maximized with proper inventory levels.

When CS is regimented, it allows for the education of the customer base. It is able to see service solution through repetition.

It is necessary and important to develop good relationships with customers. It is also necessary and important to provide professional educational support. Whether the CS manager is assisting in inventories, in-house utilization, waste reduction, stain control or good, old-fashioned marketing, he or she is serving a practical, measurable function.

As our industry has trended toward keying on utilization, linen utilization numbers/statistics have been used to serve the customer, thus the levels of service and linen management have logically improved. I have experienced this personally.

I recall a time in Buffalo, N.Y., when we were in the midst of a startup. The daily input from our CS people allowed us to merge the needs of the customer with the functionality of the laundry. We received daily information that allowed us to make production decisions. Without this guidance, we would have worked overtime unnecessarily. We would have also made purchases for linen based on reactions rather than actual “mini” inventories.

Laundry operation managers can best assist customers and end-users by making greater use of the varied resources available. CS personnel from laundries and linen companies offer an abundance of information and assistance to help provide volume without waste. Managers can assist CS personnel by providing good data. Sometimes our customers believe they don’t get back what they send out, that their bill is too high, their deliveries are always late, etc. Managers can assist by arming their CS people with clean/soil ratios, on-time shipment reports and more.

Additionally, shared information allows flexibility for ordering systems, whether designed by CS managers or with linen management systems. System designs can allow for service flexibility and ordering methods that are responsive to census swings.

There is nothing wrong with allowing professionals to help you. At some point, all of us must learn to listen with a “soft” ear. I am amazed by what I see textile consultants provide by way of service to customers. I am even more amazed when the extra sets of eyes are not allowed to help assess something so basic and vital to individual laundries and our industry.

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Phil Jones, Sheraton Vistana Resort, Orlando, Fla.

jones-phil.jpg

Phil Jones

Phil Jones

With any laundry/linen operation, customer service should be at the top of the list. You can have the most advanced and best equipment in the industry but if the customer service isn’t there, sooner or later, you may find the customer is not your customer any longer.

One of the key factors in providing a high level of customer service is to spend time with the customer and ask many questions as to what level of service it requires.

Each customer’s needs are different, and you shouldn’t assume that you know what a customer needs until you have spent time learning about the operation. Developing that level of trust on your part will go a long way toward the desired customer service level being obtained. Even though our schedules seem to grow busier, never underestimate the power of a person-to-person visit as opposed to sending an e-mail.

Most operations have some type of customer service survey; it is important to review them on a regular basis as soon as they are returned. You want to be able to look at potential areas for improvement but also to recognize an employee who may be mentioned as doing a great job. The more recognition a manager gives his/her employees for a job well done, the more likely they are to see a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Our laundry has a monthly goal for achieving certain guest-satisfaction survey scores, and we will have a laundrywide celebration when we achieve that goal. This goal is updated daily and discussed in our morning meetings so we can adjust to what customers are saying about our service.

In the end, whether you manage an OPL and your customer is housekeeping, or you operate a commercial laundry servicing multiple accounts, the customers will give you feedback about your operation—both positive and negative.

How you and your team listen to the feedback will determine the tenor of the next set of feedback you will receive. Look at what the customer is saying from their perspective, then try to understand how you can work with them to resolve any issue and move forward.

Check back Wednesday for the conclusion, featuring input from our chemicals supply and uniforms/workwear manufacturing reps!

Advertisement

Latest Podcast

Guest Troy Lovins, founder and CEO of Performance Matters, talks about how opening the laundry plant doors and showing off what makes an operation great can turn potential customers into actual customers.

Want more? Visit the archive »

Digital Edition

Latest Classifieds