Category

Brand Consistency

How to Resolve Franchisee Problems Effectively

By | Brand Consistency, Field Audits
resolve franchisee problems

It is true, when selling a franchise we sell systems, and then we coach them on how to navigate through those systems. But, what happens when there is a problem? This model of franchisee problem solving starts with determining if the franchisee problem is actually important. Surprisingly, sometimes you can determine that the franchisee may not be following the system perfectly, but it doesn’t really matter that much in the big picture. If it is a problem, then it is either a skill deficiency or a knowledge deficiency. If it is skill, then there should be some sort of training – executed by the training team, or by the coach themselves. If it is a knowledge deficiency – you want to figure out if it is a case of simply providing the information that the franchisee needs,or if you need to go into performance management.

This highly rational process is great to share with both new franchise coaches and experienced ones alike. It is also a positive spin on problem resolution. Instead of starting up a round of no one’s favorite activity: the “blame game” between franchisor and franchisee, going through this process analyzes what is going on, and moves towards a solution.

Franchisee Problem Resolution Process

When a franchisor first starts, the first question is often, “how do I sell more franchises?” Once that goal is achieved, there is a next challenge, “how do I solve problems with the franchisees that I have?” As with many phases in business, one challenge is often followed by a new, and sometimes even more difficult obstacle to overcome. In this post, we will take a look at a simple but powerful process for solving franchisee problems. We also worked with some of our friends in the franchising community to enrich the article with experiences.

Now for the fun part, let’s look at some examples:

Signage Example

Due to the popularity of off-premise sales, all stores are required to have a “Online Pick-up” sign. During an audit, the FBC saw that the store did not have that sign or a special area at all.

Is it a problem?

Yes – the fastest growing stores include online ordering. The store is also struggling to reach their growth goals.

Is it a skills deficiency or a knowledge deficiency?

Skills: The franchisee was more established in the system, and was not aware of this change. The FBC took some time explaining the benefits of off-premise, and talked about one of the franchisees long-time friends who was gaining a lot of traction in this area. After getting a post-audit task via e-mail, they promptly ordered as sign and created the designated area.

Outcome

Although the franchisee was violating the system, it was a more recent development, and they made the change promptly. It also gave the FBC some time to educate them on the off-premise opportunity, and get them engaged in the idea.

Customer Service Example

A customer calls into Home Office complaining that the franchisee is not picking up the phone. The receptionist smartly takes the order over the phone and e-mails it urgently to the franchisee. However, the Franchise Business Coach (FBC) has a problem. 

Is it a problem?

Yes – taking customer orders through the phone is key to the business.

Is it a skills deficiency or a knowledge deficiency?

Both: the FBC connected with the franchisee, and found that they did their customer calls at night, and could not pick up the phone. They followed the appropriate process in that they did not answer the phone while with a customer. However, the franchisee also did not check their voicemail regularly to call customers back in a timely manner. They knew that this was a bad habit, and that it violated the system – but sadly they did not see themselves making a change. 

Outcome 

The FBC recommended that the franchisee work with an answering service to resolve this problem. This way, calls get answered without the need for the franchisee to “break the flow” of their conversation on site with the customer.

Learning

Going through the process this way helped build a stronger relationship with the franchisee, and helped the FBC understand them better (such as a dislike for multitasking).

Sales and Marketing Example

Franchisee was using out of date marketing material which included an old logo and outdated message points.

Is it important?

Yes – keeping marketing material current is key to a strong brand.

Is it a skills deficiency or a knowledge deficiency?

Knowledge: The FBC discussed the issue with the franchisee, and discovered that she was putting saving costs ahead of keeping the brand consistent. Years earlier, she had invested in a large amount of flyers due to the economies of scale with printing. But, now those flyers were holding the business back from complying with brand standards. The FBC worked with the Marketing team to help the franchisee understand the importance of a consistent brand, and Marketing provided a recommendation of approved vendors who did smaller printing runs so this would not happen in the future.

Outcome

Due to this handling of the issue by everyone involved, the franchisee became an advocate in her region about brand consistency. Treating it fairly helped strengthen the system as a whole.

Parting Thoughts

This simple and smart process can help your franchise on many levels. It is also even better if it is automated. Check out FranchiseBlast’s brand consistency tools, which includes post-audit tasks, to learn more.



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59 Customer Service Audit Questions Your Franchise Needs to Know

By | Brand Consistency, Field Audits

Some call it customer service, others call it guest experience. No matter what, understanding the end-to-end experience that you are giving customers is key to keeping them coming back again and again. But, when was the last time you reviewed your service audit? We researched over a dozen audits, and found some of the most relevant questions in them to effectively manage service. Please note that these audits come from an array of businesses, including restaurant, both table service and QSR, salon and education. This is part of a larger series including questions on Marketing, Food Safety and Food Quality.

Overall

  1. Hours of operation current and posted.
  2. The store atmosphere – energy is positive.
  3. Staff is engaged in “guest first” culture.
  4. Employee teamwork, positive attitude and high morale apparent.
  5. Proper staffing levels to handle current sales volume.
  6. Manager present and on the dining room floor and conducts table visits.
  7. Manager conducting shift huddles every shift.
  8. Manager visibly leading shift and coaching team through peak periods.
  9. Music style playing in keeping with brand standards.
  10. Sound quality good and all speakers are working.
  11. Temperature is appropriate for the time of year.
  12. Additional information available on nutrition and allergies – take picture.

Timing

  1. Was there a sense of urgency while making products?
  2. Dine-in food order – record time off of timer.
  3. Dine-in coffee order – record time off of timer.
  4. Drive-through food order – record time off of timer.
  5. Drive-through coffee order – record time off of timer.
  6. How long does it take to make a smoothie – record time off of timer.

Uniform

  1. Each crew member wearing an approved uniformed shirt and it is clean and crisp – provide picture.
  2. Each crew member wearing pants or shorts, consistent with uniform policy.
  3. Each crew member wearing an approved hat or visor.
  4. Each crew member wearing an approved apron which is crisp and presentable.

Quality

  1. Focused service on the guest in front of crew member.
  2. Genuinely interested in customer and natural.
  3. Knowledge of ingredients and able to suggest toppings.
  4. More than two plates are delivered on trays.
  5. All drinks are delivered using a tray.
  6. Teachers are applying lesson standards according to the curriculum for the appropriate level.
  7. Teachers are giving proper assistance for students including on the spot corrections.
  8. Lesson equipment in good condition.
  9. Teachers are rotating at correct times during lessons.
  10. Reception team properly handing the guest off to the stylist with an introduction.
  11. Reception is checking notes in the CRM regarding the guest’s previous experience.
  12. There are no magazines older than two months and no newspapers older than one day.
  13. All tablets are clean, charged, functioning and have cool apps installed.
  14. Refills are offered on the dining room floor.

Promotional

  1. Customer asked if they have a rewards program card or app.
  2. Process stamp card or introduce new guests to the loyalty program.
  3. Upselling opportunities are consistently observed; friendly in nature to assist building in store sales.
  4. Utilize suggestive selling and talking points at POS.
  5. Sampling program implemented.
  6. Customer informed of upcoming promotions.

Experience Management

  1. Customer feedback management in place.
  2. Has more than 20 guest experience reviews.
  3. Store resolves complaints within 48 hours.
  4. Store has an over 70 NPS score in the last 30 days.
  5. Feedback is actively being used to adjust and improve the guest experience.

Exit

  1. Guests are thanked upon leaving the counter or exiting the building.
  2. Team members using the guest’s name during check-out process.
  3. Thoughtful closing: close the transaction in a friendly manner.
  4. Any notes that might make the guest’s next visit better is getting added to the CRM.

Question for You

Now that you have looked at the questions from our research, we have a question for you. Are you integrating timers, pictures and forced tasks into your audits? You can do this using the Field Audit app with FranchiseBlast. With a 30-day free trial, it is simple to see what our audits can do for you.



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Calibrate Your Auditors with FranchiseBlast

By | Brand Consistency, Field Audits

In a franchise environment, it’s important that the franchisee experience is as consistent as possible.  If you think of investing in a franchise as one of the most important financial decisions of a franchisee’s life, it’s understandable for them to expect to receive value from their coaching sessions. They also expect that the franchisor will hold all other franchisees to the same high standards in order to protect everyone’s investment. In this era of social media, a franchisee delivering an inadequate experience can permanently damage the system as a whole in the blink of an eye.

“Calibration”, a term many connect with engineering and music, is simply a way to ensure that measurement values are consistent with a standard. We can all hear when a guitar is out of tune, which means that the guitar is not consistent with the standard note – a C is not a true C – it is sharp, flat or otherwise not where it should be. In the context of auditors, if your auditors are not consistent, that means that they do not comply with a central standard. Instead of being consistent, each coach brings their unique point of view.

Given that each coach has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, it’s impossible to be perfect – for example, an auditor with a sales background may see personal interactions differently than someone who came up the ranks through Food Safety. Calibrating field audits is something forward-thinking franchisors should do on a continuous basis.  Calibration is usually performed with all of the coaches in the same unit at the same time, performing their visit and comparing notes. Given the associated costs and inconvenience for the franchisees, these types of calibration visits are few and far between.

However, did you know FranchiseBlast lets you review auditor calibration without having to leave the comfort of home office?  After you have performed a few audits, you can start looking at elements such as our Audit Insights report, comparing the overall score of each coach within their region.

audit calibration screenshot

This type of comparison is also available in a few of our other reports (namely the Global Performance report) and in the form of a dashboard widget. Keeping an eye on the variance in top-level scores across different regions is a good way to be proactive.

We recently took a deeper dive for some of our franchise partners during a quarterly business review. While the top-level scores seemed consistent enough, the franchise partner had a gut feeling some standards were not well calibrated. We decided to explore their biggest system-wide weaknesses together. Here’s what we found:

franchise auditor calibration table

As a first step, we took out Coach 1 who only completed a single audit where the franchisee was in compliance. We then observed a large gap between all the coaches. One coach was on average saying franchisees were respecting the standard 81.25% of the time whereas another saw just 25.71% compliance for this system-wide weakness.

We discussed this with the franchisor, and they said that it was a very interesting observation as Coaches 2-5 represent the East Coast whereas Coaches 6-9 are franchise business coaches for the West Coast. Both teams perform their calibration sessions separately. One group was clearly being stricter than the other.

We repeated the exercise with another franchise system and observed this gap on their own system-wide weakness:

auditor calibration table 2

Again, removing the outliers with only a handful of audits, we still end up with a huge gap between 5.56% and 92.41%. Statistically, it seems very unlikely that the territories are completely inconsistent for this standard. It’s likely a variance in how coaches are calibrated with regards to this particular standard.

How can we fix this? How do we get the coaches all “in tune”?  Pictures! In FranchiseBlast, each question can be annotated with a picture to clarify the success or failure. Similar to social media, we have a photostream for each question, allowing users to quickly peruse photos from a variety of auditors.

The franchisor can set up a remote training session where the photos in each territory are reviewed together as a group. Each auditor can comment on what is considered a failure for the question. Together, the team recalibrates in a proactive and constructive fashion. The review session is not about calling people out on doing the audits right or wrong; instead, the idea is to clarify the process for future audits. This way, the standard can be expressed more clearly and communicated to all coaches.

In both cases, some of these pictures were then re-used in the documentation for the standard, clearly recording what is considered a pass and what is a failure for future auditors or franchisees reviewing audits at a later date.

This quarter, why not review the calibration of three of your biggest system-wide weaknesses? The results can be eye-opening!



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Franchise Success Factors – #1 Deliver a Consistent Brand Experience

By | Brand Consistency

Fotolia_91011529_XSWhen it comes to building a successful franchise system, the ability of a franchisor to deliver a consistent brand across all locations demonstrates the maturity of the system and how well it is managed. On one hand, customers will develop a high level of trust towards a consistent brand and they will keep coming back; on the other hand, prospective franchisees will know the concept has been proven and will not hesitate to invest their money in the brand.  

Now the million dollar question: As a franchisor, how do you ensure your franchisees understand the brand elements and consistently deliver them in their daily interactions with customers?

Tip 1: Create a brand checklist

Delivering a consistent customer experience every time at every location requires a carefully outlined set of guidelines; from the way a location is laid out to how team members are dressed, successful franchisors have sets of checklists that describe all elements of how the brand is to be delivered.  

Develop checklists that will become the brand’s “secret sauce” and the recipe for success. Make it easy for franchisees and their teams to have the checklists top of mind all the time and to constantly refer back to them to ensure perfect execution.

Tip 2: Promote positive behaviours

Having a consistent brand starts with the focus that gets put on the corporate culture and how well the values are understood and respected across the management team, the staff at headquarters, the franchisees and their teams.  From training to field support, successful franchisors lead by example and their behaviour is aligned with the brand’s values.

Promote the behaviours that are contributing to the brand’s success and set them as the “golden standards”.  Through your monthly newsletter, online newsboard and frequent interactions with franchisees, publish exemplary behaviours to influence and guide the entire system.

Tip 3: Assess locations frequently

Executing perfectly against the brand’s standards sets the high performing franchisees apart from the rest and ensures their success as business owners.  Successful franchisors are supporting their franchisees in their daily operations and are able to identify actions they can take to maximize their performance.

Assess frequently how each location is applying the brand’s guidelines in their operation and provide franchisees with clear actions to help them meet the brand’s promise.  Provide each franchisee with a brand execution scorecard that will help them understand their performance and aim for excellence.  

How FranchiseBlast can help

We help answer the following questions:

  • Is your brand consistently delivered across all locations?

  • Do you know what needs to be improved?

  • Do you know who your exemplary franchisees are?

Book a demo to learn how we can help you achieve a consistent brand experience.



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Franchises: A strategy to improve brand consistency

By | Brand Consistency

Yesterday, your clients chose to spend their hard earned dollars in one of your locations. But will they come back?

Most franchise systems are transactional in nature (that is the customers visit the location, make a purchase and leave – concluding the transaction) but to become truly profitable these businesses need to transform first-time visitors into loyal customers who return on a regular basis and/or brand advocates who tell others about the franchise.

For this to happen, they need to have an exceptional customer experience every single time. If you want them to leave with a positive image of your franchise, it is very important that you deliver a consistent experience – and your brand is a big part of that equation.

Hundreds of little details have an impact on a customer’s impression during their visit in your location… and that’s precisely what makes it difficult. It’s a continuous effort by your whole team – day in and day out.

If you don’t pay attention to the details, if you miss any single element, you risk transforming the exceptional experience to simply a good one – or worse, an awful one. Losing a customer is one thing – but creating detractors who tells others to avoid your business will kill it. What’s even worse in the context of a franchise is that all locations are independently owned: one bad apple in the system can negatively affect all the other innocent bystanders. This problem is compounded with social media which makes it trivial to quickly spread bad news on a global level.

Most franchisees get the big things right, but overlook some little things. It’s somewhat funny how trivial some of these little details are: but they are still important. If you forget to refill the catering menu holder, you’ll eventually run out of catering menus. How will new customers know that you offer catering? Catering sales will go down and, because of such slim margins, that minor oversight could have a big impact on your bottom line. Another example: if some of your employees are wearing worn-out uniforms from 2005 with your old branding, customers will subconsciously prefer to visit that new place across the street because everything feels fresher.

There are a few root causes to most brand consistency issues:

  1. Expectations are not properly defined. Everything is on a best effort basis.
  2. The importance of certain elements is not communicated. Some people need to understand the reason behind the work they are doing, or they won’t do it.
  3. When you see the same thing every day, you don’t notice issues. A fresh pair of eyes can work wonders.
  4. Resistance to change. Sometimes people resist for financial reasons and sometimes it’s just because they’re doing what they’ve always done.

How can we improve brand consistency?

Step 1) Plan: Define and communicate expectations

The first step to improving brand consistency is also the most obvious one: everyone needs to be made aware of expectations. When a system has been left to its own devices for many years, each location ended up creating its own set of standards. Someone needs to step up, analyze the current situation, formalize the expectations for the improved system and communicate it to all stakeholders.

As you know, getting everyone on the same page in the context of a franchise is a difficult endeavour. Competing interests sometimes transform simple tasks into one that is as difficult as herding cats. Therefore, it is important that all stakeholders be made aware of the rationale behind the standards. Not everyone may agree, but transparency and consistency in the decision making process help improve engagement. Of course, franchisors must provide leadership that franchisees are willing to follow.

Step 2) Measure: Compare yourself against the gold standard

Once you’ve established your expectations, how do you measure your current performance?

One way is to review customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopper scores to observe issues which need to be addressed. The great thing about the information generated by customers is that they will tell you exactly what your weaknesses are and help you determine if the standards you established are sufficient and that you didn’t miss anything important. Customers visit the location every day and, if you’ve made it easy for them to communicate with you, they will alert you as soon as something is off. It is a continuous measurement of how a location meets or exceeds standards.

Still, the best way to measure the gap between the communicated standards and the actual results in the wild is via field audits. Franchises typically send franchise business consultants (FBCs) to every location to ensure compliance to operational standards and to coach the franchisees to improve performance.

Why is this the best way, you ask? The FBCs perform the field audits looking at both what customers see but also, and more importantly, what’s going on behind the scenes. Painting a complete picture (front & back) is what makes field audits so powerful. Someone with domain expertise will obviously give more insightful advice than a simple customer. Furthermore, when the team is properly calibrated, franchise business consultants will give consistent feedback. Anyone who visits the location should give the same feedback.

One key element to remember: your franchise’s culture is critical here. Everyone must understand that auditors are coaches, not police officers pointing out violations. It is a collaborative effort to improve performance.

The main drawback of field audits is that they are point-in-time evaluations. Most systems perform visits once every quarter and sometimes only once per year. Obviously, when your goal is to improve brand compliance, the more often you visit, the better. Systems who have continuous improvement at heart aim to visit every location once per month when geographically possible.

Combine the two approaches and you’ll be able to properly measure brand compliance.

Step 3) Improve: Put processes in place to quickly find and address issues

Even if we do our best, problems are bound to occur. To improve brand consistency across all locations, being aware of issues is not sufficient. Someone needs to be accountable for getting problems solved in a timely manner. Otherwise things will fall through the cracks and issues will persist.

This is where technology can play a great part to increase accountability and reduce the time it takes to respond to an issue. A good field audit system will not only track follow-up items on a per-audit basis but also help you quickly identify and address system-wide weaknesses via training programs. Furthermore, a good customer satisfaction program will broadcast an alert when an issue is reported and ensure someone addresses the issue as soon as possible.

Continuous Franchise Improvement

Put steps 1 to 3 in action and you’ve started the virtuous cycle of continuous franchise improvement. You’ve defined measurable objectives, have a process in place to identify the gaps between your current performance and your standards and have tools in place to address issues in a timely manner.

Improving brand consistency is a long term effort that requires continuous work on a daily basis. Exceeding customer expectations day in and day out is difficult but it is also very rewarding as it is a great way to differentiate your brand and ensure its future prosperity.



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