CHICAGO — Relationship building is key to the success of all businesses. Customers and vendors must create a strong relationship built on trust to ensure the relationship continues to run smoothly over the course of time.
This could not ring truer in the laundry industry.
The relationship between a laundry and its chemical provider is absolutely critical and should be that of a “true partnership.”
“Building a solid relationship with a chemical supplier in an industrial laundry business is vital,” says Amanda Genthe, CITY Laundering|Clean & Simple in Oelwein, Iowa.
“It can take time and research to find the right suppliers for any business. Once you’ve found the right fit, it’s important to develop a productive and professional relationship. Each day we strive to provide our customers with responsive and dependable service.”
If that trust and strong bond between the laundry and the chemical provider is not there, both parties are at risk. The laundry is at risk of not being able to properly clean the linens, and the chemical provider is at risk of losing the account to a competitor. It is this partnership that brings increased value to the account.
“It’s not just a relationship; it’s a strategic partnership,” says Kevin Minissian, founder and lead innovator at Norchem, a clean-technology engineering firm based in Los Angeles. “We value our customer’s trust and work hard to show that Norchem can provide value in more than one way to their operation as a whole, start to finish.”
But how does a laundry/linen service provider and its chemical provider create a true relationship, a successful partnership? American Laundry News reached out and compiled success stories from several laundries and chemical companies as examples.
Brunson Laundry and Low Country Medical Linen in Brunson, S.C., has been in business since 1946. Russ Bullard’s—current owner of Brunson Laundry—great-grandfather started the business, which originally catered to the hospitality industry.
However, when Interstate 95 opened, Brunson Laundry started looking at other types of linen services to provide, from uniform rental to its main focus now as a medical linen provider, serving outpatient surgi-centers, doctor’s offices, assisted living facilities, hospitals and other medical facilities in the surrounding areas.
Brunson Laundry focuses on quality products and services to their customers—these same key values are the foundation of U.N.X. Inc., a chemical detergent and specialty provider based in Greenville, N.C., according to the company.
Since 2005, U.N.X. has been the chemical provider to Brunson Laundry and has watched Bullard and his business grow to close to three times its original size.
When asked how important the relationship between the chemical provider and the account is, Bullard says, “It is super important—if I don’t have U.N.X., I don’t have customers.
“The No. 1 thing that sold us on U.N.X. was the service. If I have a problem, U.N.X. is Johnny-on-the-spot. Any chemical company can get it clean—soap is soap—it is the service that comes behind the product.”
The knowledge of the U.N.X. team has helped Brunson run more efficiently and decrease its labor costs through the years. Bullard says his U.N.X. representatives analyze the formulas used and adjust when needed. The efficient wash formulas used allow Bullard and Brunson Laundry to “rent the linen” again without worrying about re-wash.
When asked if U.N.X. had been able to help solve problems at his facility, Bullard says, “Absolutely. We started having these ‘brown stains’ pop up, and we didn’t know why. But when I called my U.N.X. representative, he knew what they were and how to correct the issue. The formulas/product selections were adjusted and just like that, there were no more stains.”
When an account continues to grow such as Brunson Laundry has over the decades, knowing that the chemical provider has the ability to grow with them and continue to provide the quality products, dispensing equipment and service is key.
Bullard recalls the need to purchase a brand-new washer and told his U.N.X. representative when it was planned for installation. Before the washer installation was complete, the U.N.X. team was there “waiting on us.”
“When we started with U.N.X., we had the smaller dispensing equipment, but as we have grown, we now have two U.N.X. DeltaTron dispensing units in our facility,” Bullard says.
“The dispensing equipment and the reporting capabilities of the DeltaTron are an integral part of the operation. You know what you are injecting into each load. You know each load is receiving the proper amount of chemical, and the reports I receive from the system are great. I can look at the end of each day, week and month and know exactly what my costs are.”
Another example of the importance of the dedicated relationship between a laundry customer and chemical supplier is in the case of Topper Linen in Toronto, Canada.
In early 2017, Topper Linen experienced a plant fire that lost the company its chemical delivery system, which was manufactured by Norchem. Once notified that Topper was in desperate need of a replacement, Norchem took immediate action.
“We were proactive in getting a new system ready to their specifications, shipping it out on a plane and sending a technician to install the equipment,” says Leo Gastelum, Norchem’s director of national accounts, technical service and customer care. “Within five days of the fire, Topper was back up and running and able to resume normal operation.
“I’m passionate about my customers, and I give my customers 24/7 support. Without my customers, I wouldn’t be here. What I do as a manager is make sure I take care of my customer’s needs. What’s their priority is my priority. No matter where I am, I keep my phone on me because I know how important it is to keep a [production] plant running.”
“Their team of experts is always available to answer any questions and provide us with feedback on the best formulas to use for specific textiles,” says Genthe from CITY Laundering|Clean & Simple. “Any concerns are addressed in a timely manner, and their monthly service reports offer great insight and recommendations to improve quality and sustainability.”
When fostering a customer relationship, Gastelum says the service team builds upon Norchem’s commitment to sustainability, reliability, integration and innovation with a formula of its own: Dedication + Communication + Collaboration + Investigation + Customization + Solutions = Quality (and Savings).
“An open and active communication channel allows for constant collaboration, informs of issues that require investigation and allows for customization that leads to solutions,” he says. “All of this is not possible without first understanding the expectations of the customers and then applying the expertise and technology that generates the right formulation programs for them—first by trial and then fully implemented.”
“While there may be something we can call the ‘right’ wash formula, that does not necessarily mean there is ‘one’ right formula,” Minissian says. “For example, the right formulas for one facility may not or will not be the best fit for another. There are many factors to consider that contribute to creating a right formula.”
He says that because there really is no “standard” right formula since every customer has different quality needs, it’s important for the operation and chemical provider to go over key factors in creating the right formula, like equipment type, soil characteristics, fabric type, water quality, chemicals and water temperature variation.
“We do our best to ensure that no detail about the facility is left unknown because ultimately this knowledge informs and impacts what makes for successful formulas, consistent quality, operational savings and compliance,” says Gastelum. “It is my responsibility to ensure this information is gathered at the start with every customer we onboard and continues throughout the relationship.”
Miss Part 1 on the importance of patience and validation? Click here to read it.