Leadership author John Maxwell said:
“Good leaders ask great questions that inspire others to dream more, think more, learn more, and become more”
When it comes to your franchise audit, are you asking the right questions? After over a decade in the franchising community and working with hundreds of organizations and thousands of units, we came up with the following questions to make sure that your audit is the best that it can be – or to “audit your audit”. Outlined below, you can see sample items that we check, and what they all mean. Examples are given in many cases to enhance clarity.
The elements below shouldn’t be perceived as a complete list of potential issues but rather a simple checklist for a quick review of the health of your franchise field auditing process.
Having extra questions means unnecessary work for the auditor. In addition to obvious extra questions, you’ll find more subtle questions that are simply redundant.
Example: “Audit completed by” field then where the auditor manually enters their name when that that information is automatically added by your software tool.
A question that addresses multiple concerns makes it difficult for the franchisee to understand what needs fixing.
Example: “Walls and floors are clean and don’t feature any apparent damage and the marketing posters on the wall are recent and approved.” When faced with a failure on this question, the franchisee would not be sure what to fix.
Question type – such as multiple-choice or text-based or yes/no should be carefully considered when building an audit.
Example: Using a yes/no question when it comes to temperature meeting a standard instead of simply recording the temperature value itself. Another more subtle example is a yes/no question followed by a free-form text question to indicate the reason for failure, or simply a yes/no question phrased in way that asks to auditor to clarify the issue in the comments section of the question. In that case, a properly designed multiple-choice question should be considered.
The questionnaire designer should review the characteristics of each question to ensure the audits are objective and impactful. If a question is vague or addresses too many concerns, it’s unclear what is evaluated. If it’s not measurable, then the audit becomes subjective. If it’s not actionable, then even if you find a problem there’s nothing you can do to fix it. If it’s not relevant, it’s extra work that isn’t impactful. Finally, questions which aren’t time-bound are unclear as to what time period is being evaluated.
Example: Using terms such as “a reasonable amount of time” instead of simply recording how quickly the franchisee should perform the service in terms of seconds or minutes.
Spelling and grammar errors can cause auditors and franchisees to lose faith in the system.
Matching the audit “flow”, starting outside the front door and ending with the coaching session at the back can save time and enhance the process.
A question that refers back to standards should include a reference to the franchise manual or online standards guide.
Example: “Scheduling appropriate to sales volume” – the guideline outlining how many employees a franchisee needs for a given sales volume should be posted.
Audit scores are often represented by top-level section scores such as “Back of house: 80%” or “Cleanliness: 75%”. This is a good way to slice the information, but additional facets can be reviewed. It is a best practice to tag specific questions with the relevant process that drives that standard. When a set of standards fail and they’re all associated to the same back-end process, you can coach for the root cause rather than each standard.
Example: A standard such as “Smiling and welcoming guests” could be categorized as “Service” but a better way would be to tag it as “Training: Going above what’s required & wowing the guest”.
The audit should only be as long, or as short as it needs to be in order to achieve its goals. Most long-form format audits in FranchiseBlast contain 2oo to 400 questions.
When shorter (ex: 50 questions), it could be perceived that the coach is performing a cursory visit and not going into detail. It’s normal (and desirable) to have short-form audits, but if your longest one is only 100 questions, you likely haven’t formalized your visit/coaching process.
When longer (ex: 600 questions), it could be perceived that the coach performing busywork and spending too much time filling out forms rather than coaching franchisees. If you drill down into the data, you’ll normally notice a large cross-section of the audit never fails. These questions are candidates to be removed.
While at first it may seem like a good thing to have strong audit scores, scores that are too high will not drive change in the organization. An average score of over 90% will lead franchisees to lose motivation in terms of corrective actions as they see themselves as performing at an A+, where the franchisor’s view may be different.
Solutions to this issue are complex but include:
- Calibrating coaches to be stricter
- Changing the standards to be stricter
- Shortening the audits by removing questions which always succeed
- Changing weights of certain questions/sections/failures.
- Adding new questions aligned with the system weaknesses you know are present but aren’t fully reflected
There are some audit questions which are so core to the brand that they should have a “critical” marking – such as using unapproved suppliers. If questions are marked with severity, additional business rules such as “the audit should fail if any critical questions fail” can be easily put into place instead of a convoluted question weighting system.
When a weakness is recognized, it is a best practice to use a corrective action to get it followed-up on by the appropriate person. It’s typical to not start using the task system immediately when adopting a platform such as FranchiseBlast as it does require a bit of change management and expectation management with the franchisees. Once established, however, leveraging tasks can increase accountability.
Having a backlog of tasks indicates a lack of process or of training – it is a good idea to discuss expectations with the franchisees and coaches.
When exploring system-wide weaknesses, sometimes there is a core process that is consistently not being followed. To solve system-wide weaknesses it sometimes makes sense to include new practices such as recurring self-assessments.
Example: A consistent failure on exterior cleanliness may require a system-wide training or process reminder, perhaps complemented by daily self-assessments where pictures are submitted.
The franchise consultant role is evolving beyond simply being a “cop” who maintains standards. It is also a “coach” who helps the franchisee achieve their goals. The questionnaire should reflect this change.
Example: Having a “coaching” section in the audit is a fantastic first step towards creating at coaching culture.
We sometimes see questionnaires which include various number questions which need to be punched in by the coach. For example, what were last month’s sales, labour costs, etc. Automating this collection outside of the coaches visit, via an integration with the Point of Sale or other source system, can save the coach time plus enable them to have time to research ahead of the visit and prepare a proper action plan with the franchisee.
When reviewing average scores among auditors, you may notice dramatically different scores. One root cause of this is an inconsistent understanding of what the standards are for each auditor.
Having a backlog of pending audits could mean that completed work is not being used. Make sure to have an approval “rhythm” set up within the system and the appropriate auditor manager is aware of your expectations. Alternately, some questionnaires may benefit from being automatically approved.
Having locations “fall through the cracks” could be detrimental to the brand on many levels. Ensure that your visits are up to date as an important, but sometimes forgotten, check. We’ve often seen this in contexts where a franchisor expects each coach to visit each location quarterly but doesn’t effectively make the coaches accountable to do so.
The average franchisor in FranchiseBlast has 6 different questionnaires – is the set for your franchise complete? Sample questionnaires include:
- Quarterly or Annual Business Plan
- Weekly/monthly phone call business check-in
- New store opening checklist
- Food safety audit
- Daily store logs self-assessments (openings/closings)
- New marketing rollout assessment
- New product readiness self-assessment
The “audit of the audit” is a fantastic way to assess your operations, and to ensure that you are using these audits to reach organizational goals. If you are ready to have one of our consultants look at your audit, click here and indicate that you would like to discuss auditing the audit.