By Ty Kiisel
Several years ago I was convinced the only thing I needed to know about my drycleaner was how much it was going to cost to get my suits cleaned and my shirts pressed. That was before I met Penny.
Penny is responsible for customer service at Red Hanger Cleaners. I must admit, I don’t know how they compare to other drycleaners across the country, but they have several locations around Salt Lake City, where I live, and have been responsible for how good my suits and shirts look since I met Penny six or seven years ago. When we first met, Red Hanger Hanger was a customer of ours and she was to give me a tour to teach me about what made Red Hanger different.
Penny showed me the washers and the pressing machines. She talked about how shirts flowed through their shirt laundry. She talked about how they looked for loose buttons and mended them when needed. She described how they went through pockets to make sure nothing that would ruin my clothes was left in my pockets and the process they went through to ensure that anything that did get left in a pocket would be returned to me.
Although I was impressed with what they did to ensure I looked my best, it was really Penny that won me over and has kept me a customer for all these years. As we walked through the plant she said, “I was born to work here. When I was a teenager, I used to save my babysitting money to buy spray starch.”
When I started to chuckle she added, “My sisters used to tease me, but they were all jealous when my white blouse and poodle skirt looked perfect for the school dance.”
Over the years, as I’ve thought about my conversation with this delightful lady, I have to put her enthusiasm for what she does at the top of my list of customer service lessons she, and her company, have taught me:
- You’ve got to have passion for what you do: Most people want to contribute to something meaningful. It was obvious to me Penny felt like what she’d spent her life doing was meaningful, and had a lot of passion for it. Like most people in a customer service-specific role, she’s usually dealing with people who are a little cranky and have a problem. Her desire to make sure every customer feels like they are important, that their complaint is heard, and their problems will be resolved is contagious. She’s still there, but I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with Penny since that time, but she taught me that great customer service starts with passion.
- Everyone in the company is part of the customer service team: Over the years I’ve frequented a couple of different locations (there are two that are reasonably close to my home). It doesn’t matter where I take my laundry, the staff is friendly and they seem anxious to make sure I leave happy. What’s more, the staff doesn’t seem to turn over as much as I would have expected, which suggests to me that one of the reasons they treat me so well is because the company must treat them pretty good too. If the only folks who care about customer service in your organization are the people with “customer service” in their title, you’ll never make raving fans out of your customers.
- They know me, they know how I like my shirts pressed, and it happens that way every time: I know it’s because I filled out a card they keep on file that tells them how I like my shirts, but it’s more than that. When I drop off my laundry and drycleaning, they act like they know me. They’re friendly, they’re professional, and they do it right every time. In fact, I can’t think of a time when my shirts weren’t starched the way I wanted them or the creases on my slacks were wrong. Part of great customer service is being really good at what you do.
- Doing a little extra is nothing special, it’s their modus operandi: I once had a pair of slacks I really liked, but had lost a button. I intended to mention it when I dropped of my laundry, but didn’t. Even though I didn’t request it, when I picked up my laundry a new button was mended to the pants. They didn’t mention to me they’d done it and I didn’t notice until I next wore the slacks. Giving a little extra is an important part of great customer service—even better if it just happens quietly in the background without a lot of fanfare.
- A little appreciation goes a long way: I know I’m part of a bonding/loyalty program and I receive periodic offers based upon how often I get my shirts pressed, but I don’t have to keep track of a loyalty card or otherwise count my visits. I know they’re paying attention to how often they see my laundry though. Periodically they tell me “Thank You” with a brief note from Penny and a special offer. Even though I know what happens “behind the scenes” to make sure I get my “Thanks” in the mail, I appreciate their note and it keeps me going back.
I originally started using Red Hanger because the company was a customer of ours, but it’s been five or six years since that was the case. And no, in case you’re wondering, I’m not being compensated by them in any way for telling you about their customer service practices, I just think they’re the best drycleaner I’ve ever used.
You might also be interested to know that there are two or three other cleaners that are closer with more convenient locations, but I continue to go there. In fact, my wife usually takes her drycleaning to someone down the street, but I won’t let her take my stuff there. I only trust my laundry to Penny—she was born to do this