StainSolver App Eases Stain Removal, Customer Relations
Association’s newest member benefit offers complete spotting strategies for hundreds of common stains, plus a range of technical bulletins.
By Ian P. Murphy
During the 2015 Clean Show in Atlanta in April, DLI debuted its latest member benefit—a mobile app offering step-by-step instructions on removing common stains, information on problem garments, and more. Now available for both Apple and Android mobile devices, the app is yet another added value of membership.
The DLI app won raves from Clean patrons and logged 750 downloads before the Android version was released in mid July. “People are happy with it, and we’re excited,” says Jon Meijer, DLI’s membership director. “It’s a product that’s designed to strengthen the package we offer to members at no additional cost. It’s a benefit that’s hard not to like.”
Solving Hundreds of Stains
Designed for use by staffers in the back of the plant and at the front counter, the app’s most distinctive feature is the Stain Solver, an easy-to-use, comprehensive guide to the techniques required to remove hundreds of common stains.
“DLI typically works with the owners or managers of plants, but we never really have any interaction with the staff—the people pressing and removing stains,” says Ricardo Gonzalez, who built the app as DLI’s web developer. “The idea was to create something that would be useful to them while they’re working in the plant.”
“What we are trying to do is get deeper into organizations,” adds Mary Scalco, DLI’s CEO. “We frequently know the owner of the store, but we wanted something employees would have access to readily at the spotting board, so they can get the training they need when they need it.”
The Stain Solver offers a selection of more than 40 staining substances, grouped into Beverage, Food, Pets, Oils, Cosmetics, and Personal categories. It cross-references users’ stain selections with 17 base fabrics—including angora, metallic, mohair and Spandex in addition to cotton and wool—to produce complete stain-removal instructions.
App users simply pick the stain type, substance and base fabric, and get step-by-step directions on removing it. A staffer might pick “Beverage” from the first menu, for example, “Wine” from the second, and “Acetate” from the third, and the following screen automatically generates instructions.
“Step 1: Flush the stained area with steam or water,” the instructions say for the sample stain. “Step 2: Apply a neutral synthetic detergent to the stained area and work the spotting agents into the stain with a bone spatula, or lightly tamp with a stain removal brush to break up the stain,” and so on.
“The most difficult part is that you could write volumes on stain removal,” Scalco says. “We had to design the app for the device you’re using. You have to know some basic skills, otherwise it would be 20 pages long—and nobody is going to scroll through that.”
DLI is already updating the Stain Solver with Spanish-language
instructions, more staining materials, and other features. “By the end of this
year, we plan to incorporate video of Brian Johnson, DLI’s director of
education, doing these steps, so that people can visualize what they’re doing,”
Easing Explanations at the Counter
DLI has also incorporated archives of its popular Technical Analysis Bulletin Service (TABS) into the new app to explain potential garment failures and other problems that can occur in processing to customers with questions and complaints.
“People love the TABS section, so we decided to incorporate that into the app as well,” Gonzalez says. “We want this to become a regular part of the drycleaner’s life; that’s how we wound up choosing TABS and the Stain Solver. We wanted to deliver many benefits and services, [and] create an app that helps them succeed on a daily basis.”
All TABS appearing in the app have been checked for accuracy, updated, and rewritten when necessary, he notes. And if the first two functions of the app don’t answer every question, there’s an additional option at the bottom of the screen: a “Contact” button members can click to call or e-mail directly from their tablet or smartphone.
Operators and employees who have tried the app are excited
about it, Gonzalez says. “I can’t believe the response. They don’t always have
access to a computer. They can just pull their phones out and open the app. You
want to give the members what they need, and I think we nailed it with the
first version of the app.”
Houston-based MW Cleaners is testing the app in two stores. “I don’t know how you could get the interface to be much simpler,” says Mike Nesbit, company president and DLI treasurer. “If we have a stain we’ve identified, and there’s a question whether to go at it on the acid or alkaline side, it’s easy to come up with the answer.”
Paper stain-removal charts tend to get worn and thrown away, he notes, but the app is not going to disappear. And following initial download and log-in, it can be used without an Internet connection, untethering employees from stores’ point-of-sale (POS) systems or networks. “We can put it on people’s phones, and the information is there,” Nesbit says. “The great thing about smartphones is that they make you smarter.”
"My partner and our General Manager, Brad Ewing told me about the app before it was announced at Clean 2015,” says Jim Nixon, operator of Nu-Way Cleaners in Greeley, Colorado. “I immediately shared it with our plant manager, Emily Dempsey, and we introduced it to one of our stain-removal trainees, Rachel Myers, who was quite impressed. I think her actual comment was ‘Wow, way cool!’ ”
Nu-Way now uses the DLI app at the main plant to assist in stain removal and at several dry stores to help explain problem garments to customers with complaints or questions. “I find it inspiring that DLI has gone this direction,” Nixon says. “For the young people in our plants, iPhones are their life, so there’s no learning curve.”
Taking Technological Leaps
The app is the first tech tool DLI has released since the Encyclopedia of Drycleaning Online debuted in 2011. “We are actively moving DLI’s technological level up to today’s standards,” said Gary Maloney, the operator of Nu Yale Glacier Cleaners in Jeffersonville, Indiana, who helped spearhead app development as DLI’s District 4 Director and chairman of its Technology Committee.
“Our goal was to make it essential,” he says. “Even at the counter, if someone asks you a question, you can pull up the TABS and show it to them or email it to them. If you’re spotting in the back, you can pull it up and say, ‘Here’s the fabric and the stain.’ It’s a quick reference, and you can use it without going to the computer. I talked to some people who have used it, and they are impressed. It’s very effective and easy to use.”
In addition to Spanish-language stain-removal instructions, DLI released the Android version of the app in July. “We are also adding a print feature,” Meijer adds, in response to member requests. “This app is just the first of many things in development to help members.”
Next up are an app to assist with garment analysis, as well as webinars exploring new-media marketing topics such as how to use Facebook, LinkedIn and Google AdWords to promote a business. “As an association, we want to add new members and strengthen our current memberships,” Meijer says. “We want to keep making members happy, and we have to introduce new products to do it.”
Access to the DLI app is included free of charge with Silver, Gold and Premier memberships and occasionally as a one-month free trial to show drycleaners how easy it is to use. “It’s one of those things that’s very intuitive,” Scalco said. “We believe it’s a really good product, and you will think that it’s well worth your membership in the association.”
“Sometimes, what I think might be a good service and what members think is a good service are two different things,” Meijer adds. “This time, members told us, ‘You know what? You hit it on the head with this one.’ ”
“We’re keeping DLI relevant and making memberships more valuable,” Maloney says. “If we \ offer the right products, we convey that it is essential to belong.”
Ian P. Murphy is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. He served as the editor of American Drycleaner magazine from 1999-2011.