Many of my readers are marketing professionals so stick with me on this post until the end. Although it looks like a post reviewing local dry cleaners it was actually inspired out of seeing first hand how performance directly impacts a brand image.
I despise ironing. There – I said it. I feel much better. I ironed my shirts for many years but as my use of button down shirts grew, it seemed like I spent most weekends ironing. I also dislike spending money on something I can do myself. But, like plumbing and electricity, I decided it was time to outsource. (side note: plumbing and electricity were outsourced as it was determined that I couldn’t do that myself )
My wife and I had heard that there were actually dry cleaners that picked up and dropped off at your home and after a quick price comparison we felt the few extra cents might justify the efficiency in this service.
So we searched for Minneapolis and St. Paul cleaners that delivered and we went with Total Care Cleaners. After a few months I was sold. The service was excellent. I put my shirts in a bag and hung them on the door where they were picked up. All the shirts came back in perfect shape ready for wear. We also found the customer service to be very good. No matter when we called or emailed, we always had a live response or one shortly after. Never a lost shirt and never a missed delivery.
Then came some tempting PR for a local competitor – Mulberrys Garment Care. They advertise 100% toxin-free cleaning. From their site:
“At Mulberrys, our award-winning dry cleaning and stain removal experts use pressurized, naturally occurring C02. The use of odorless C02 enables us to return your clothes cleaner and without the chemical smell. Also, because no heat is used, your clothes are finished without the fading, shrinking, pilling or stain-setting common to all other dry cleaning methods.”
We thought it couldn’t hurt to give them a try. I was sucked in by what came back on that first order. The shirts came back on nice wooden hangers and [drum roll please] they had collar stays already in the shirts. Wow! What a great perk for essentially the same price. Although my wife and I are loyal consumers it looked like we’d been lured and had found a new service for my shirts. This was just too good – they’re environmentally friendly and offer some nice value-adds.
Then, the wheels started coming off. First, it was a lost shirt then a lost suit and then a handful of shirts on one order. (Note: all the items were found and returned within a week). It wasn’t so much the temporarily lost shirts that bothered us as much as the lack of response to our emails or voicemails. We actually ventured into their store in a local grocery because we couldn’t get a response and we found chaos. There was no explanation or reason for the lack of response and we got vague answers as to the location of my shirts. For the record, all the people were pleasant and when they got the clothes right, they did it very well. But, we were using up the time we hoped to save by using this service in chasing down lost items.
We also found out they were expanding to other cities. What?! It seemed they were struggling to serve this city. That’s when the analytical business side of my head kicked in.
Total Care Cleaners understood the core needs of their consumer. Clean, pressed shirts delivered on time and the complete order in tact. Not only did they understand, but they did it well and delivered responsiveness when their customer needed it. No big value-adds – just dependable service. Mulberrys already had expanded to nice perks and value added features they knew their customers would like. But, they were missing that reliability and service that makes the extra features nice to have. In the end their brand is suffering because they haven’t mastered their core business the way the competition has.
Hopefully, we all supported Small Business Saturday this last weekend and we all got the chance to see some small businesses in action. I love to support small, local businesses that understand their target markets and the needs of the consumer. Who wouldn’t want to support that? Understanding your core business and executing on that before expanding is key in my opinion.