Category

Brand Consistency

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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