Consumers do business with a Brand — the name on the sign out front – it’s all they know. Most consumers are oblivious to the ownership of “bricks and mortar” (who pays the lease or owns the building). The BRAND is all that counts in the eyes of the consumer. Unfortunately, too many franchised organizations fail at preserving the brand image.
Establishing Franchise Standards and Protocol
When it comes to franchised organizations, none do a better job than Chick-fil-A or McDonalds. They exemplify consistency in product quality and service delivery that few franchises can come close to duplicating. In addition to being very selective in their choice of franchisees, these two organizations have established highly detailed service protocols. The company protocols cover everything from the initial greeting of a customer to handling errors in orders to restroom cleanliness. These companies understood from the beginning a bad experience in one location could easily affect the entire brand’s image.
Franchises that leave too many details to the franchisee to determine independently will inevitably suffer the consequences of inconsistencies in service standards.
Choosing Successful Franchise Operators
I have spent a lifetime measuring the customer experience. It has always amazed me the lack or complete absence of “customer orientation” among some franchise owners/operators. In talks held over the years, it was startling how little knowledge or experience many had in the industry they now worked. A number seem to have “wind the clock and let it run” attitude, as somehow the franchise, once purchased, would run itself.
For example, a person in the plumbing business their entire life who believes he is suited for owning and operating a quick-service restaurant. Don’t laugh; it’s more common than one might think. And why a franchisor sells an operating license to someone with no background in the industry is another puzzle – aside from shortsighted financial motives.
Chick-fil-A has a comparatively low franchise fee, but getting approved as a franchise operator is not easy. They want to make sure each franchisee is fully invested in the success of their location. To accomplish that, they took an unusual path in their franchise. Each Chick-fil-A franchise operator is limited to only one location. They cannot purchase multiple franchise licenses as you can in many other franchises. In addition, franchisees cannot be involved in other business ventures outside of Chick-fil-A.
Chick-fil-A understands that quality leadership is essential to maintaining their high standards of business operation and continued customer loyalty.
Franchise Accountability & Oversight
Even with detailed standards in place, there needs to be some system that holds the franchisee accountable to meeting those standards. Chick-fil-A does this right from the start. The franchise selects the site, constructs the building, and maintains ownership of the property rather than leaving such vital items to the franchisee.
McDonald’s has been successful internationally as well as in the United States. Its exemplary and consistent training program for employees sets the standard for other franchises. Its oversight structure includes a means for employees to communicate a compliance concern anonymously without threat of retaliation.
Listening to customer feedback is another way franchises can exercise accountability. Customers are sharing their feedback more than ever before. Consumers are also accessing that feedback to determine which brands to trust. In my 30+ years of analyzing customer experience, this is the one area of oversight and accountability I see most often neglected.
The inefficient use of valuable customer feedback has gotten worse instead of better as communication channels have increased. Some franchises have CRM systems to help manage the overload, but the software is expensive to use and maintain. Much of the feedback doesn’t even get a response.
Maintaining a Polished Franchise Brand Image
Watching my clients struggle with collecting and addressing customer feedback led me to develop a solution that would be both efficient and affordable. Guest-Note gathers customer feedback from a wide array of channels and funnels this data to the best person to respond within the organization. But that is just the beginning.
Guest-Note incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve speed and accuracy in sending customer feedback to the appropriate person. Whether the communication is coming through social media, a review site, or your contact page, your team can provide a quick and appropriate response. You have improved awareness and control of your franchise image.
Over time, the Guest-Note service collects and catalogs your customer inquiries and customer service responses. This creates an ever-expanding knowledge base as the first offering to online questions and concerns. The image of your franchise brand stays consistent and positive as a result.