One of the key attributes of any successful franchisor is having an ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’ mentality
Long gone are the days when a franchisor could sit back and rest on their laurels when operating their franchise network. Over the past two years, franchisors have been required to prove their mettle by navigating their networks through the challenges thrown up by the pandemic. Now, as well as providing franchisees brand recognition and a proven business model, franchisors are responsible for ensuring their operating systems and support to franchisees are as effective as possible to help their network thrive.
One of the key attributes of any successful franchisor is having an ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’ mentality. In fact, over the course of the pandemic, most franchisors will feel that they have done nothing but improvise, adapt and overcome. Rather than spending time attracting new prospects, they have had to invest more time into their existing franchisees and focus on new and innovative ways to train and communicate with their network.
Digitise your franchise operations
Digitising your business is invaluable this year, especially for those with a network of franchisees. By digitising, you are essentially incorporating technology into your business operations to increase efficiency, enhance customer experience, and boost sales. Digitising allows you to do this because your franchise can provide a standard brand message through consistent communication and a central platform to manage operations. This creates a sense of community and makes customers more accessible to them.
Digitising your operations will also help you to sustain the valuable new revenue streams many franchises adopted over the pandemic. Franchisors had to alter their franchise models to keep afloat during the pandemic. To name a few, educational franchises pivoted to provide online learning sessions, restaurant franchises benefitted from setting up online delivery services and socially distanced click & collect programmes, and many fitness brands provided live-streaming workouts so members could still catch their favourite classes. So, maintaining these services as best you can while normality resumes, digitising your services and creating a seamless customer service experience are vitally important.
One way to digitise your franchise would be by creating a platform that can be accessed by every branch and where they can find and log information. Ideally, each franchisee should have their own landing page within the platform; encouraging a sense of importance and giving them a clear, easy-to-follow format to use. Another beneficial way to digitise your business is by making the most of outsourcing. The customer service department in any business, including your franchisees, is vital. It is the interface through which you communicate with your customers, maintain strong relationships, and transform leads into sales. The best investment you and franchisees can make is in customer service, which is supported by the fact that 73 per cent of customers fall in love with a brand and remain loyal because of friendly customer service reps.
Boost your brand’s visibility
As well as a franchisor’s focus being on the success of their franchisees, they also have an increased responsibility to maintain and grow their brand’s visibility. To do this, I would suggest building a marketing strategy for your franchise. Create some simple, achievable objectives for the next 12 months and create a plan to support them. Put yourself where your franchisees are, through networking and social media. Look to demonstrate your skills and expertise through blogs and PR. Then, produce a simple, well-maintained website. Spend time getting to grips with search engine optimisation (SEO) to ensure you are easy to find online. Perhaps most importantly, use the successes of your franchisees to promote your franchise. Demonstrate how your network has been successful and how you have supported your franchisees to grow – this will set you aside as an industry expert and let the world know about your brilliant brand.
I suggest encouraging your franchisees to do the same with their own individual enterprises. For example, supply them with creative ideas on how they can attract new customers and become the talk of the town. Think themed days and special offers or participating in local events to raise awareness.
Don’t be afraid to outsource
Finally, do not be afraid of outsourcing to help relieve some of the pressures on your network! For some, outsourcing is a dirty word. It can be hard to think about someone else handling part of your business for you. However, there are a few misconceptions when it comes to outsourcing. Firstly, your confidentiality and security are protected, and if you find a good outsourcing team, there should not be management difficulties or instability in the messages you are trying to achieve.
But what is outsourcing, and how could it improve the value of your business through your customer service department? Well, outsourcing is handing over responsibility for an aspect of your company to a third party, on a temporary or permanent basis. The main benefit of outsourcing is its flexibility as it allows you to have help when you need it, without having to pay for it when you do not.
You can outsource almost anything, but I would recommend outsourcing the busiest yet least consistent operations to give you the best bang for your buck. For example, outsourcing your calls ensures that every lead and every call from either a new or an existing customer is not only answered but handled to perfection, thanks to trained and experienced call handlers. This will create sales conversions and maintain strong customer relationships. You could also use outsourcing to manage a live chat service on your website, meaning you and your franchisees are always available 24 hours a day.
Many franchisors have also started outsourcing their day-to-day administration, such as diary management, to virtual personal assistants. This frees up valuable time to invest in more lucrative areas of business, such as growth and managing franchisees. If you do consider outsourcing any of these services, or encourage your franchisees to do so, do your research and choose a provider carefully. Make sure your outsourcing partner takes the time to understand you and your businesses.
Tim Morris is the MD of Cymphony, a communications provider helping thousands of clients to build customer relationships from the first interaction.