Originally posted – Jun 20, 2014
[This is the second in a two-part series on fine-tuning the wash-dry-fold process.]
In my previous article, our focus was three-fold: consistency, sorting and washing. This time, we will complete the wash-dry-fold process by targeting drying and folding… as well as finishing the job with an awesome presentation.
Most self-service laundries have two dryer sizes – the smaller ones can handle about 30 pounds of laundry, while the large ones can accommodate 50 to 75 pounds. The proper drying of clothes requires more attention and action compared to the washing procedures.
As mentioned in last month’s article, items to be dried should be separated by texture, not color. For best drying results, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, if available. Otherwise, the following are simple and safe guidelines to follow:
Dryer lint traps should be cleaned daily so that the dryers operate at maximum efficiency and there’s little opportunity for the machines to malfunction.
A word of caution prior to placing items into the dryers: stains are “set” once the heat cycle is complete. Therefore, make certain stains have been removed during the wash cycle; if they’re not gone, re-treat the stains and re-wash the affected areas before placing these garments in the dryer.
Typically, heavy items should be grouped together, using a longer “hot” cycle. Examples of heavy items include jeans, blankets, comforters, pillows and so on. Also, towels create a lot of lint; therefore, if you have several towels to dry, place them in a separate dryer on “hot,” which will prevent the lint from adhering to other items.
Permanent press and synthetic materials should be dried on “medium” heat for a shorter period of time. And delicates, such as lingerie, are often placed in net bags with the temperature setting on “low,” again for a short period of time.
Depending on the amount of your daily wash-dry-fold production and your store’s space restrictions, there are some items that customers prefer to have placed on hangers for air drying. It’s a nice touch if you have the time and space to do it at your location.
If there is a large number of T-shirts, I like to dry them separately and remove them immediately after the cycle is complete. (I have a major aversion to returning wrinkled shirts to my customers.) When the shirt is removed, I use both hands to hold the shirt in front of me, then “snap” the shirt, which helps to “de-wrinkle” it. I’ll then drape the shirt over the side of a laundry basket and continue to stack the draped shirts until it’s time to fold them.
To remove excess wrinkles from clothes that may have remained in the dryer too long, place a clean, damp white towel in the dryer and run one cycle on permanent press. In addition to using liquid softener in the wash cycle, I also include dryer sheets (scented or fragrance-free, depending on the customer’s preference). There are three reasons to add those dryer sheets: (1) to reduce static, (2) to minimize wrinkles and (3) to add an additional light fragrance boost.
However, some customers oppose the use of dryer sheets, so we always ask their product preferences when taking in the order.
Here are some additional drying-related tips:
• After removing clothes from the washers, re-sort and shake vigorously to remove any “clumping” or smaller items hidden within larger ones – such as a washcloth inside a blouse.
• Be certain socks are fully extended so that they dry completely.
• Overloading dryers will cause excessive wrinkles. Conversely, underloading your machines will waste energy and require longer drying cycles.
• Toss in several clean tennis balls to help separate “clumps” created in wet comforters, pillows, sleeping bags, etc.
• Place large Velcro curlers in your dryers to act as magnets to remove pet hair. (Men, ask the women in your lives where to buy this item.)
• When removing items from the dryers, I sort them one more time by placing them in baskets by categories: jeans, towels, linens, underwear, lingerie and delicates, etc. in preparation for packaging.
The primary reason for folding is to have laundered items neatly folded, organized and put away; then when needed, they can be quickly located.
There is a wide variety of folding procedures. A common customer strategy is the “bachelor fold” – a large laundry bag is placed below the dryers, and all of the contents (regardless of category) are jammed into the over-stuffed bag. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, we have attendants meticulously organize and fold everything in a systematic way. Many drop-off laundry customers opt for wash-dry-fold services just to avoid this part of the time-consuming and tedious task.
Before putting clean laundry on the folding table, wipe it thoroughly with a clean cloth. And it should be obvious that no food or drinks, which could easily soil the clean laundry at hand, should be nearby.
On the market is a simple plastic folding device that is used to create uniformed stacks of T-shirts in minutes. Use molded plastic hangers (which avoid making shoulder imprints) when air drying delicates.
Personally, we always use long, clear plastic bags to cover all items on hangers. When everything is folded, we create a pyramid effect: the largest and heaviest items are at the base and the smallest items are on top.
A good rule of thumb is to have the linens stacked together and color-coordinated. The next bag should have clothes, heavy jeans and pants at the bottom and socks and underwear at the top. Finally, you should have a bag of miscellaneous items. Each bag and each group of hangers should be marked accordingly so that everything is returned to the same person.
Presentation – The Niche Creator!
As I drive around Los Angeles, I’m astounded to see so many signs that read, “Fluff and Fold – $1.00 Per Pound.”
Unfortunately, many laundry owners believe huge volume at low pricing is a better business plan than raising prices and having fewer customers.
I beg to differ with this line of thinking. My laundry business has always been a price leader and can easily justify (if necessary) its higher charges.
Recently, I went to Nordstrom to buy a pair of shoes and was amazed to experience the same exemplary customer service for which they are known. The sales associates were friendly, informative, polite and professionally attired. No one was yapping away on a cell phone, gossiping with other staffers or standing around looking bored. In fact, it was almost a pleasure to give them my money.
By contrast, later that day, I stopped at the local low-priced, big box store. As I passed the “shoe section” (actually, it was just stacks of shoeboxes), no salespeople were in sight and no questions could be answered. There was literally no customer service – and nobody seemed to care.
One can buy shoes at both stores. But, in my humble opinion, the Nordstrom “niche” includes its focus on customer service, the store’s ambiance and an attention to every detail – all of which overshadow the higher pricing for the retailer’s loyal customers.
When your wash-dry-fold customers retrieve their completed orders (unless preferences were discussed in advance), they have no clue as to the products you used, whether or not you combined their order with others, how many washers you used, etc.
In fact, their assessment of the job will be determined by just two things: how the clothes look and how they smell.
So, how can your service stand out from the crowd, thus enabling you to raise your prices – without raising any eyebrows?
• Create a “WOW” effect when the customer picks up the order.
• If the order arrives in a laundry bag/basket and you can’t “wash it,” place everything in see-through plastic bags.
• With one-time customers (such as hotel guests), we place the smaller orders in frosted tote bags, include our business card and tie the handles together with ribbons denoting our color scheme.
• A paid-in-advance invoice with detailed information is stapled to the laundry bag.
• At the time of pickup, tell customers about any problems you encountered – don’t wait until they get home to be surprised and angry. A negative Yelp review is not a good thing.
• Exceed customer expectations by accommodating any special (and reasonable) requests, such as allergies, only cold water, etc.
• Always contact the customer if an order will not be completed when promised.
• Share with your customers any specials, coupon discounts, new services and so on.
• Most importantly, hire outstanding sales attendants who can promote your services, which will substantial increase your bottom line.
The rest is up to you. Will you be the niche creator in your area?