A Culture of Service
An Interview with
Jeff Sitz and Laura Loebick - City Cleaners Akron, OH
2016 winners of the
YES! Award – Year of Excellent Service
City Cleaners of Akron, Ohio, is the 2016 Winner of the YES! Award scoring highest nationally on overall customer service and cleaning in 2016. Owner Jeff Sitz is very clear about the service City Cleaners provides. “Creating good CSRs is all about how you treat your employees," he said. "They will reflect your same attitude back to your customers. If you treat employees like gold they in turn will treat our customers the same way. I made a commitment to my employees to deliver to them and they are willing to do the same for our customers. Some owners take advantage of their employees and think, "What is the least I can do to make you stay?" At City Cleaners we have created a culture that makes our employees want to stay." It's apparent - all of the four store managers have college degrees. "Our employees stay because they are a part of something more. I want our employees to grow as people, and that means that sometimes they will leave us. We have the children of our customers working here part time during school. And we also have had three sisters who, each in turn worked for us while they were in college."
The customer-first culture is important to Sitz. "It's our culture to be positive and outgoing," he said. "Our customers are guests, friends, and family to us. We want our customers to know that their visit to our store will be the best part of their day. We’re looking to be the Chick-fil-A of drycleaning! We work to make that happen. Everyone is empowered at any moment to go above and beyond. Team members have $100 to settle a claim or, for example, buy tickets to the movies and dinner for someone celebrating an anniversary. Look, we know we are going to lose customers. But we want customers to know what they are missing.”
Creating this type of service environment takes time. It’s taken Jeff and Route and Retail Manager Laura Loebick three years to see significant changes. They generally hire CSRs who are college age students with a friendly and upbeat attitudes. Like most drycleaners, City Cleaners will train folks in drycleaning. To see how a potential candidate will fit in, they will come in for what Laura calls a 'first date' to shadow an employee. Jeff says that the other team members are quick to say if the new hire will fit or not. Since each store has a manager who works from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., the newer employees will work the 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. shift. College students are expected to make sure their classes fit around the work schedule.
Training comes in the form of manuals for each of their four locations. Since each of their stores runs exactly the same, it’s easy for staff to move from location to location. Everyone who works at City Cleaners takes DLI's CSR self-study course. When they pass each course their certificates are hung in the lobby of the stores.
Asked about the value of mystery shopping, Sitz and Loebick were in agreement – it helped them face their problems head-on. "We re-directed our employees and retrained them, along the way we clarified expectations" Sitz said. "Our counter staff is expected to use the customer’s name three times during the transaction. Each month we share the mystery shopping results with everyone. The two hardest areas we work on are upselling and asking about spots and stains. All of our locations work as a team to get this right for the customer."
Of the value of mystery shopping Sitz said, "Everyone is being measured by the same measuring stick. A year ago we had good scores, our goal was to deliver the best service that we could. We grew with our service expectations – it pushed everyone to be better. We were not very good at upselling – the mystery shopping program really helped us. One thing we did was to create a ‘secret special’ for comforters and wash and fold. CSRs told customers at the counter only about the special and said it was only for our best customers. We held a contest to see who could sell the most. CSRs found that they could roll the secret special into the small talk requirement." Best of all, CSRs and managers increased sales in those two categories!
Thinking about a mystery shopping program? The advice from both was, "Do it! It changed our lives. We can’t imagine not having it." According to Sitz, Loebick wasn’t exactly excited about the program at first. Today it’s Loebick who is singing the praises. "It’s a great tool for a manager," she said. "It’s not a bad thing, it’s a positive thing. Each employee who receives 100% on their mystery shop gets $50.00 in cash at our staff meetings every other month."
With very little couponing and certainly not a low price leader, City Cleaners knows that the service they provide is a luxury. "I couldn’t be more proud of my staff and their dedication to excellence. In life you can be average or excellent. Our excellence has been rewarded," Sitz said.
MarketWise Consulting in
Appleton, Wisconsin, has been performing mystery shopping for drycleaners
through US and Canada since 1997. They publish overall mystery shopping scores
twice a year. For more information about how to participate in the Professional
mystery shopping program, click on http://marketwise.shopmetrics.com/iwr.asp?project=DLIRegistration
To be eligible for the 2017
YES! Award in the drycleaning industry the following criteria must be met:
- Minimum of three store locations
- All locations mystery shopped each month in 2017
- In addition to scoring Drop off, Pick Up and Cleaning Evaluation
the shops must include all four metrics of counter service:
- Use of name
- Use of conversation
- Asking about spots/stains
- Cross selling
- The cleaners with the highest OVERALL SCORE will be the YES!
Winner each year
Photo Caption: DLI CEO Mary Scalco (right), and Marketwise Consultants CEO Carolyn Nankervis present the 2016 YES! Customer Service award to Jeff Sitz at Clean 2017.