Weighing up how current franchisees and their businesses have performed during the pandemic should give you a real insight into the workings of the franchisor
With the dust beginning to settle on the pandemic and normal activities resuming, getting back to work is key for most people. However, for some, this time could be the perfect opportunity to find something new. If you’re thinking about changing direction or focus or just looking to alter the way you live your life, there’s an opportunity to do just that with a franchise. But the franchising world has gone through its own evolution during the pandemic, so there has also been a shift in focus on what prospects look for in their decision-making process. So, what does that look like now?
Mike Ryan, UK CEO of logistics franchise PACK & SEND, shares his insight into what attributes and focuses prospective franchisees might look out for, knowing what we now know from the pandemic.
Strong sense of community
Every single network has been forced to communicate virtually. As a prospect, you need to know that you’ll be supported, no matter the circumstances - both with your training and ongoing support throughout the life of your business. If we take a look back over the course of the pandemic, the franchise brands which thrived were the ones that placed even more emphasis on the feeling of camaraderie. Those who brought in regular team meetings via video conferencing and setting up forums to share experiences.
I maintain regular contact with our franchisees, as a matter of course, but during the pandemic I made sure I engaged with our franchise network individually and frequently too, keeping morale high, with messages recognising outstanding sales performances or achieving a five-star review. This sort of activity shows that a franchisor is not sat up on a pedestal but actually down at the shop floor, experiencing the same highs and lows with their network of franchisees.
The rise of e-commerce and the importance of tech
The pandemic gave a huge boost to the continued popularity of buying and selling online and, therefore, the importance of good systems to complete those transactions through to delivery – for franchisees and customers. The need to continually improve the process for completing online purchases is not a new phenomenon, with customers today ordering a service or product at the click of a button; however, the pandemic accelerated the need to make it a staple part of any business. The ability to provide a solution for an item to reach its final destination that is quicker, more convenient, cost-effective and reliable is something many businesses including franchise brands searched for as lockdowns took hold - we were pleased to be that plugin solution for many.
Whilst for some it might not be possible to implement an entirely digital adaptation to operations, just like PACK & SEND, creating systems that help make a service happen through a smooth combination of tech and customer service was a welcome option in a challenging time and one that proved yet again the huge market need for the expansion of logistics franchises such as ours.
Making customers feel secure
Some businesses may not have been able to operate to their optimum capacity for the past 18 months, so how do you keep customers loyal when you can’t keep the usual face-to-face contact? Being open and honest with your customers on the new rules of the game was essential during the pandemic. Clear and consistent communication on how they could interact with your business made people feel more secure to engage.
At PACK & SEND, as pandemic restrictions hit, we began pro-actively advising customers, managing their expectations and responded to issues. We shared messages online, by phone and through signage at our stores. Of course, this strategy of consistent messaging is important for any business but is even more important in challenging and worrying times. Even if there may be no simple solution, the fact that someone is actively working to resolve your issues is extremely reassuring.
Although many businesses like ours kept conversations going with customers through online measures, people are now craving a return to normality. For many, this means they want to talk to people again. Franchises that rely on customer contact will provide this service, with heightened importance now restrictions are easing, and will see customer levels rebalance as the months draw on. If you’re passionate about getting to know your customers and truly understanding their needs, a business with a personalised, tailored approach is the right place to start.
Many lessons have been learnt during the pandemic. For prospective franchisees, it’s time to use that knowledge to your advantage and really consider where your skills lie, and which brand will allow you to flourish in the future. At PACK & SEND, we have gone through our very own evolution - in our case adapting to some of the busiest trading months ever during the pandemic. Considered an essential service, our franchisees have learned how to deliver under the strictest operational guidelines to ensure safety for their customers and teams.
Like many of life’s challenges, when we’re looking to make a change in our career, it’s important to weigh up our choices and consider the worst-case scenarios. I’d say we’ve just lived through one of the biggest challenges of the past few decades and so weighing up how franchisees and their businesses performed should give you a real insight. If you were to choose to invest in that franchise brand, you can have some confidence of how that business can continue operating in the most turbulent times and beyond.