The Laundry Habit Loop

“There’s a new burger joint in The City.”

“We always go for burgers. Let’s try something different.”

“No! Not burgers. I need a place with healthy options.”

“Alright – just go change for now and we’ll decide in the car.”

It’s striking how similar an outing starts. Always the same conversation. Regardless, I needed to get going so I can pickup my friend and then meet up with the other at God-knows-where. I changed out quickly, and bank-shot the shirt I was wearing into the laundry hamper. Five minutes – that’s all it took.

Last night’s burger didn’t sit too well. Kept tossing and turning all night. Regardless, it’s 5:52am, my alarm just went off, and I needed to get ready for work. SNOOZE. 6:08am. Ok, now I really should get going. The snooze button, along with that credit card, must be the tools of the devil. I headed over to the bathroom, zombie-walking and taking off my clothes as I walked. I dropped my clothes in the hamper – zero energy to be Kobe-shooting anything this early. Five minutes – that’s all it took.

Laundry services are far from being well-designed, and here is why.

On my way to work that morning, I started comparing the steps I needed to go through to get my clothes cleaned at home versus at a laundry shop. (It is worth mentioning that almost every household in Kuwait has housemaids that take care of laundry duties). Essentially what I had done is defined the Job To Be Done. Job To Be Done theory states that users “hire” a solution to get a job done. So in the case of getting clothes cleaned, you could “hire” housemaids, laundry shops or even self-cleaning fabric. Now let’s toss out the last solution (self-cleaning fabric) because it’s not feasible (at least as of this writing). What we are left with are housemaids and laundry shops. Let’s compare some of the elements of the two solutions.

Housemaids vs. Laundry Shops

With housemaids at home, you drop off your clothes in a hamper without worrying about separating clothes. With laundry shop memberships, you do. Housemaids pickup the dirty clothes in the hamper on a weekly, recurring basis. With laundry shops, you have to call to arrange for a pickup. Housemaids are paid a monthly salary, and part of their duties is to take care of laundry. At laundry shops, you pay per piece.

As you can see, laundry memberships have no resemblance to people’s habit loops. What laundry shops are providing is far from being human-centered. Identifying stark contrasts between how people are used to getting a job done, and the available solution in the market is a trigger for possible innovation.

So how can you design more human-centered laundry services?

You can start off by studying human behavior. How do people go about doing their laundry? Try to pick up on elements such as occurrences, methods of payment, time and habits and tendencies. Point out the ones you feel are critical, and try to mimic them through a business offering. For example, people in Kuwait pay their housemaids a fixed monthly salary regardless of the number of items they wash. This could translate to a flat-rate pricing model. Providing customers with laundry bags could be the equivalent of a laundry hamper that people are used to using.

Off to you!

What service or experience can you think of that has no resemblance to people’s normal habits? Compare that experience’s main elements and people’s tendencies and behavior, then propose a more human-centered experience.

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