Mark Scott from Azura explains how a well-designed CRM system benefits both franchisors and franchisees
Originally used to manage sales processes, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems were first used in the 1970s, becoming popular in the late 1990s. In more recent times, CRM systems have evolved to enable businesses to manage all their processes, which, in a franchise environment, includes prospects, franchisees, suppliers, clients and so on. CRM systems can also store key information, communications and documents such as franchise manuals and agreements.
What are the benefits?
A CRM system allows a business to compile data from a range of sources and produce reports on KPIs such as conversion rates, financials etc, saving on a myriad of spreadsheets and documents used to collect and store information. Furthermore, it provides a central place for that information to be stored and retrieved when needed.
Most importantly, a CRM system can automate business processes. Consider a franchise discovery day, where attendees are added to the system as part of a recruitment drive. The system will automatically send all attendees joining instructions and reminders ahead of the event and follow up emails after the event, saving hours of time.
Of course, the ultimate aim of any system is to convert and retain customers and boost sales growth. When a franchisee, or a member of staff, visits a client, a CRM system can automatically raise an invoice and send it to the client – or in the case of a national account, add to the jobs completed for a daily, weekly or monthly invoice.
Which system to choose?
CRM systems can be purchased off the shelf, or made to bespoke requirements, depending on the degree of flexibility that the franchisor requires. Some off-the-shelf systems are perfectly acceptable for a range of small businesses, but for franchisors who constantly need to adapt their businesses to keep abreast of current trends, a bespoke system is often the best solution.
There are then two routes to choose from for a franchise business. One is to develop your own system, which can run into millions of pounds; the other is to use one of the few franchise specialist CRM providers at a fraction of the cost.
Azura is an affordable franchise specialist CRM provider, with a setup cost of up to £5,000 and a monthly fee of up to £85 per franchisee per month, depending on the complexity of the business needs. Other systems may charge a fee per user, which include any staff with access to the system, including head office, franchisees and their staff. Furthermore, some systems which process credit/debit card payments may charge extra for this service. Opting for bespoke allows the franchisor to adapt the system to their specific requirements, as no two systems are the same even if they appear to offer the same service.
These adaptations should be included in the monthly cost. If you run a fairly simple franchise model, the costs will run at the lower end, but if you run a large network with national accounts, likely to need regular updates, then it will be towards the higher figure.
Accessible and user friendly
The system should be compatible with a range of technology, from desktops to mobile devices. It will typically be cloud-based and accessible at all times, whether there is wifi, a network signal or no signal at all. In the case of the latter, the system should update when wifi or a network becomes available. Any customer interaction should feed through to the system, whether they call, visit your website, send an email or engage with you on social media.
How can the costs work for franchisees?
The set-up cost itself should be paid for by the franchisor, as it is of benefit to the entire network, including company operations. There are then three options for the monthly costs:
1. Franchisor pays the costs
2. A sharing of the costs, perhaps dependent on how many company-versus-franchisee operations there are. If the system costs are calculated per user, this is the fairest way to allocate the expense
3. Pass on the cost to the franchisee.
This information should be provided to new franchisees so that they can account for the costs in their business plans, if appropriate.
Mark Scott is operations director at the Azura Group.