I’m in the process of building a self-service laundry. I have never been in this type of business before, so I’d like to know what laundry customers want, what attracts them and what keeps them coming back.

In my opinion, there are six main elements that your new laundry business should have if you want to be successful at attracting and retaining customers. They are:

1. Parking. Parking is critically important to the success of a self-service laundry. If your parking lot is too small with respect to the size of your store, you might not be able to do enough business on your busiest days, which are typically Saturday and Sunday. If customers can’t find a parking space at your store over the weekend, they’ll simply drive to the next-closest laundry that does have parking availability.

2. Equipment mix. You must have the proper quantity and size of washers to satisfy the variety of laundry loads you plan to accommodate, given your market’s demographics. You also need enough dryers in relation to your store’s overall washing capacity. In addition, your laundry should provide customers with an ample number of folding tables and laundry carts to satisfy their needs during your business’ peak periods.

3. Attendants. Your attendants are on the frontlines of your laundry business. They are the face of your store, and they represent you when you’re not there. As a result, they can help in building your customer base and retaining current customers – or they can drive people away from your laundromat. To ensure that they do the former, they should always be clean and neatly dressed. Also, they should be courteous, respectful and helpful to your customers at all time. Train them to never argue with a customer, whether the other person is right or wrong. In addition, be sure that your staff is taught to relay to you any likes or dislikes customers may have about your business.

4. Refunds. Customer refunds should be given out as soon as possible. The longer it takes, the angrier the customer will become because he or she gets the feeling of being cheated. Of course, it also creates a negative feeling toward your business. When refunds are disbursed quickly and hassle-free, the customer will get the feeling that you stand behind your store, your products and your service.

5. Clean and well maintained. Your customers want a clean laundromat and working equipment. If they start to notice a lot of out-of-order tags on your machines, they may start to wonder whether or not a washer or dryer is going to work for them – and you never want put that feeling of doubt in their minds. As for cleanliness, it should go without saying that you need to keep your store spotless. After all, you’re in the business of getting things clean. A dirty store is well on its way to going out of business.

6. Lighting. Laundry customers much prefer bright, well-lit stores. It gives them a feeling of safety and security. This is especially true outside of your laundromat, in your store’s parking lot. And, during the winter months, when it get dark earlier, a bright, well-lit parking lot is a major factor in attracting customers. Also, 24-hour laundries need to focus heavily on lighting as well.

Keep these six elements in mind when building your store, and you should have no trouble attracting customers.

I recently picked up an account to wash 500 pounds of plastic shower curtains. Any suggestions on how best to wash them?

I would suggest washing them in cold water, using a mild liquid detergent. If there is any lime present on the shower curtains, you can add some Lime-A-Way into the wash cycle with the detergent. Do not use bleach or softener.

After washing these items, line-dry them. Do not dry them in a dryer.