Survey: Vendor Visits Vital Tool in Producing Laundry/Linen Success

Bruce Beggs |

Customer service, discussing new products/technologies often reason for visit

CHICAGO — Visits from industry vendors is a vital tool in producing a successful laundry/linen operation, according to the results of this month’s American Laundry News Your Views survey.

How important is it to have representatives of vendors—whether equipment, chemicals, textiles, or other—visit your operation? For our survey respondents, 50% say it’s “highly important” and 39.1% say it’s “somewhat important.” The remaining 10.9% say it’s “neither important nor unimportant”; no one taking the survey said it was “somewhat unimportant” or “highly unimportant.”

The biggest shares of respondents say that general customer service visits (37.0%) or introducing or discussing new products/technologies (34.8%) is the primary reason that vendor representatives visit them.

Other reasons cited were to help identify and fix a problem with a product/technology (17.4%), advise on operational improvements (4.4%), or “other” (4.4%). Just 2.2% of respondents said that vendors don’t visit their operation.

There are other ways that vendors can help their operations, say respondents, who were given the option of checking any or all from a list of five suggestions. Sending information about new products/technologies (72.7%) garnered the most votes. Half of respondents (50%) would welcome the sending of educational/informational materials.

“Checking in by telephone or e-mail” (36.4%) and “touching base at industry meetings and events” (31.8%) also gained significant support.

Representatives of chemical companies visit most often, says 52.2% of respondents. Next are textile vendors (19.6%), followed by “other” vendors (15.2%) and equipment vendors (13.0%).

So what do laundry/linen managers gain from talking with vendors during these visits?

  • “I learn that I am not alone in the challenges I face each day. Others are experiencing many of the challenges I face each day, and there are solutions out there. I just need to ask for assistance.”
  • “Vendors often know what is happening in other plants and even other cities. I like to see what products are coming and any new innovations.”
  • “Good vendor relationships are key to the organization. Oftentimes, it’s the vendor that gives us the edge over the competition, with differentiated products from the competition.”
  • “I wish more vendors (especially equipment reps) would visit. There isn’t a heck of a lot that separates manufacturers, and a relationship in place would make purchasing simpler.”

But these managers have certain expectations of vendors:

  • “My time is so limited that I do not need visits unless requested. If it’s important to my company, e-mail me and request a visit.”
  • “My plant buys all the linen and rents it to our hospitals. We have a linen committee which makes these decisions. Some vendors don’t respect that. I hate when linen vendors try to up-sell directly to nursing.”
  • “Vendors are important when they bring new products and information. Routine visits with no new information are a waste of everyone’s time.”
  • “I wish I had a dollar for every time a vendor called on me just once and then never returned. I want to work with someone who is willing to earn my business, who takes the initial ‘No’ as a challenge instead of a ‘Do not ever darken my door again.’”

While the Your Views survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific. Due to rounding, percentages may not add up to 100%.

Subscribers to American Laundry News e-mails are invited to take the industry survey anonymously online each month. All managers and administrators of institutional/OPL, cooperative, commercial and industrial laundries are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and identify industry trends.

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

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