Attended vs Unattended: The Pros and Cons

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Attended vs Unattended: The Pros and Cons

“You have to understand that there’s really only two ways of operating a business: more sales, or lower overhead.”
— Daymond John, Investor on Shark Tank and Founder of FUBU Clothing

 

Oh the wonders of customer service (or the lack of it).  Anyone who worked a summer or two at their local mall as a teen is bound to have some colorful stories from their days behind the counter.

But you’re the boss now, and you’re deciding who is behind the counter…or, should you choose, no one at all.  Employees mean overhead, and overhead cuts into profits.

So naturally one of the great debates when it comes to self-service laundries is whether it’s best to hire attendants or leave the store to run unattended.

However, this topic is less about one being inherently better or worse than the other and more about what best fits the store in question. Each has its drawbacks and advantages worth considering.

It’s easy to let your first thought be “Why spend extra money on an attendant if I can feasibly save the money?” And this is a logical question to ask.  But there is much more to the decision that that, so let’s consider the Pros and Cons, shall we?

 

Reasons to Go Unattended

The first and obvious perk to being unattended is the financial aspect.  Labor can easily be 10-15% of gross incomes, so with no employees, there is no labor expense.  (This is assuming that daily janitorial is performed by an outside contractor.)

It’s also been found that a portion of customers like the idea of unattended laundromats, disliking the awkwardness of feeling watched over.  With advances in modern technology, it’s fairly easy to keep a store secure and safe without anyone to watch over it; so long as you keep your equipment user-friendly and provide good instructional signage.

Also, being unattended is more manageable if your laundry is on the smaller side (less than 2,000 square feet).  Smaller stores have fewer things to be cleaned and maintained, so it’s much easier to manage without an attendant, and because smaller stores typically bring in less revenue than larger stores, they often can’t afford the labor expense anyway.

Be aware, however, that if your store has been attended for some time, and you are wanting to transition to unattended, you may get significant pushback from customers who have grown accustomed to having on-site help.  Be prepared for some customer attrition from the change.

Lastly, we can’t ignore the fact that having employees means more than just labor expense; it also means bookkeeping, hiring, training, budgeting and supervision of employees.  Attendants mean giving up time as well as income.

 

Reasons to Have Attendants

Having an attendant on-site has its own benefits, perhaps the largest of which is the ability to provide special services like wash/dry/fold.  While by no means necessary, these services help expand revenue, often generating enough income that the attendants pay for themselves.

It’s also important to keep in mind the constant push for cleaner facilities, better functionality, and stellar customer service – customers demand more these days, and these are best achieved by an on-site attendant.   Attendants can provide refunds or handle complaints immediately.  Not to mention customers also report feeling safer in facilities with employees.  People like having other people around, you know?

If your store has a loyalty card system, that’s another reason to be attended.  Customers may have issues loading their laundry cards, or want refunds of what is left, and without someone on-site, this could become a nightmare for an absentee owner.

You also might want to consider hiring an attendant even part-time for a while if you’ve recently installed new equipment.  Not all customers may transition well to using new machines, and having someone on-site to walk them through the process could be very beneficial, and keep phone calls to a minimum.

 

Final Thoughts…

Only you know what makes sense for your store.

Take your specific demographics and review them against what we’ve noted above.   Transitioning to unattended might make sense for a smaller store that needs to cut overhead costs.  However,  larger stores might do better to leave attendants in place, and consider additional income streams to pad the bottom line instead.

 

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About Laura Dobbins

Laura is the founder and co-creator of Laundromats101.com, and owner of two laundromats in the Sacramento area.  She’s a math geek (Calculus III was a breeze), and currently works as an Analytics Manager in the Healthcare Finance sector.  When she’s not busy analyzing something, she loves cooking French food and blogging.

 

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