The better the online experience you offer, the better your business will do, says David Truby, MD of Greensleeves
The past six months have been difficult for franchises up and down the country, but those in the best position all have one thing in common – excellent customer service.
With 56 per cent of people around the world having stopped doing business with a company because of a poor customer service experience, it’s more important than ever to ensure your franchise is in top form. In the world of gardening franchises, franchisees rely heavily on repeat business and referrals – two things you can only achieve through exceptional customer service.
Greensleeves has consistently provided lawn care assistance and advice to our clients for 22 years and, because of this, we have reaped the rewards. This September saw the most turnover in a single month in the history of the company, up 45 per cent on September last year. The reason for this? Customer service. Here are my five top tips to franchises to provide first-class customer service.
1. First (online) impressions count
Good online customer service is essential to growing a franchisee’s business. With 90 per cent of consumers using the internet to find a local business, having a good website and reviews are invaluable. The better the online experience you offer, the better your business will do. Eighty-nine per cent of consumers will shop with a competitor after a poor user experience, so making your website more customer-friendly, easier to navigate and informative is essential. It’s also important to provide your contact information as 51 per cent of people state they believe complete contact information is something many websites are missing, so make sure your customers can find everything they need - not just a contact form. Testimonials from satisfied customers are a fantastic way to build trust with your online audience, highlighting your track record and reputation.
2. Build up a great reputation
And that leads me nicely on to reputation and how to build it consistently. Great online reviews will give a new customer the confidence to pick up the phone to you. A study by Zendesk found that 88 per cent of consumers are influenced by online customer service reviews when making a buying decision. A recent poll from online marketing experts Bright Local revealed that 82 per cent of consumers read online reviews on local businesses before using them. The same poll showed the average consumer spends 13 minutes and 45 seconds reading reviews before deciding on doing business with a company, so it’s clear how important an online review can be.
A way to boost your reputation online can be as simple as asking your current clients to leave you a review once you’ve finished a job or project. At Greensleeves, we practise what we preach - I’m convinced our 4.9/5 rating on Trustpilot is one of the major reasons we have thrived over this really challenging period.
3. The way you communicate is key
When talking to a customer use positive language, turn your ‘maybe’ into a ‘definitely’ and your ‘I’ll try to do that’ into an ‘I will do that’. This language lets the client hear that your goal is to fulfil their needs. A customer wants someone who is as passionate about their needs as they are - that stays true whether you are a franchisor supporting a franchisee or a franchisee delivering to your customer. Positive language and a glass-half-full mentality will allow you to develop a healthy relationship with your customer.
How you communicate with your customer over an email or on the phone is also essential. Make sure you respond to emails in a timely manner, I’d recommend within the same day of receiving the email at least. Try your hardest not to miss calls, because the likelihood is if you miss a call from a potential new client that they will take their business elsewhere. Customers want to buy from suppliers who are attentive and eager to help. Being switched on when it comes to response times will go a long way in proving this.
4. Be on time, every time
It’s not uncommon for a franchisee to have numerous clients over their territory. The bigger a territory and the more clients a territory has, the harder it becomes for a franchisee to manage their time, even when they have a reliable team. Learning how to prioritise and staying on top of your calendar is key to keeping your clients happy. Taking 15 minutes at the end of each day to plan for the next one is crucial. Doing this is proven to help you digest information and go into the next day feeling more productive.
Learning how to not over commit yourself is also an important time management technique to help you from slipping into a negative ‘I’m too busy mentality’. The better you manage your time, the more positive and clearer-headed you will be, resulting in better customer service.
5. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver
In the business world, promising something you can’t deliver is an easy way to lose business and a client’s trust. In our world of lawn care, this may be ensuring you arrive when you say you will or give the lawn treatments on the day that you promised you would. Knowing your services inside and out is also important as that way you or your team won’t offer something you can’t deliver. Talk through the process of your service step by step. Once you have established this, the client can’t be disappointed because they know exactly what they are getting and why - that’s particularly important for us when someone might not understand the seasons of lawn care.
Franchising may encompass a range of sectors, but one thing they all share is a need for great customer service. A friendly, familiar face is what every franchisee should aim to be to a client. Greensleeves has proved to be resilient against recent economic pressures and, despite the fact we can’t sit and have a cup of tea with our clients as easily anymore, having that reliable familiar face in the garden has been another reason why they have booked our services over the pandemic.
David Truby is the MD of Greensleeves. Established in 1998, Greensleeves is a lawn care franchise with 96 territories in the UK.