3 Big Problems of Franchise Customer Experience You’ve Been Neglecting

If you’re a franchisor who is reading this, you might be concerned with your brand’s bottom line and flagging location performance.

Or, what is making you toss and turn during your sleepless nights is negative online feedback and reviews on spots like TripAdvisor and Yelp — and this despite a recent survey showing positive brand impact.

So…why aren’t your good efforts being translated to consistent growth and profits across locations?

And how do you close the gap between what you know is possible for your franchise…and where you are now?

Customer Experience 101

At Chainformation, we like simple and we simplify interactions for complex franchise chains.

So, in the spirit of keeping things simple, we like Paul Greenberg’s definition of customer experience.

As the author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light, his succinct definition has captured within it a whole range of practices that make up CX and the stats that measure customer experience as:

“How a customer feels about a company over time.”

In a franchise model, this is slightly more complicated. Customer experience is heavily dependent on all of your brand’s locations acting in tandem.

Singing like an orchestral chorale rather than operating like isolated silos in the desert, if you will.

Translation: customer experience in the franchise world relies on franchisees. Who they are, how they operate and whether they comply with brand standards.

Every single interaction makes a lasting impression on a customer — except that franchisors must empower and trust franchisees to make that impression positive every time and across multiple storefronts.

“Why are we falling short?”

You’re a believer: you know customer experience not only “matters”, it’s the centrifugal force of franchise growth and profit.

Here are the three most common areas where franchisors struggle with aligning franchisees to the company’s goals and operations.

1) Curbing the “I Know Better”

Do you understand what’s at the heart of your franchisees bid to buy in to your company’s brand and vie to operate one of your storefronts?

Franchisees are an interesting blend of part-entrepreneur, part-manager. They have the grit and business-savy for in-store operations and the risk and daring of an entrepreneur. In an ideal world, there would be a balance between these two.

But, what happens if there’s more entrepreneurial spirit than a willingness to follow a tried-and-tested, successful blueprint.

The greatest franchises work so well and have such consistent customer experiences because their strategies are tested and proven.

Franchisees have to understand that they’re not reinventing the wheel — and, really, isn’t a ready-made recipe for success one of the great reasons to join a franchise?

While many franchisees may have bought into the religion, they’re now disputing the blueprint and trying to “hack” their way into sales and profits. But a franchise is not the right context for entrepreneurialism to that extent.

If franchisees must “think outside the box” and are keen to employ “local” strategies, thinking they know their demographic community better, then there needs to be the possibility of two things:

  • The ability to have an open dialogue with franchisors and
  • A way to test this strategy across all locations, if the feedback is ever operated on

2) “Inviting” v.s. “Hiring”

While a large part of the of the onus of the previous problem is the franchisee’s responsibility to understand and make peace with, it’s the franchisor who bears the burden of HR.

A wrong hire can make your customer experience completely lopsided.

Franchisors should never underestimate “franchisee fit” as well as competency and operational experience. There are several key points that make a good franchisee a worthy candidate and it’s not always something that can be measured by only one factor.

Regardless of what the franchisee vetting process looks like in your company, consider the following

Instead of “hiring”, look to “invite”. Yes, shifting focus from “hiring employees” to “inviting the right candidates to be a part of something bigger” is the key to a long-term relationship that works in favour of profit.

This simple shift in mindset allows franchisors to approach the process with a sense of empowerment, rather than just settling for “someone who looks good on paper”. And, for franchisees, there is an element of exclusivity that shows that the franchisor — who is essentially the leader — truly cares.

You wouldn’t invite just anyone to your wedding. And you wouldn’t give your child away to just anyone to take care of.

So why would you not do the same for your franchise?

3) Internal Onboarding Counts

Some of the world’s best franchises have laser focus on employee onboarding and retention, because turnover is expensive. We’re not just talking about taking out ads or paying recruiters. When a worker quits, other employees need to pick up the slack, draining the organization of time, energy, and know-how surrounding customer service. Many franchisors that invest in effective onboarding procedures save money both for themselves and their franchisees when retaining more of new hires than they would otherwise.

And that is because they know that customer experience is not just an external job based on marketing, consistency, brand recognition and so on.

It’s also an internal job. And it starts with a superior onboarding experience that only communicates the company’s cultures, outlines the operational methods and standards, articulates brand language and arms employees with best practices.

Over a period of time that” constitutes training”, employees are first exposed to operations manuals, company forms, on-site training for various positions shadowing supervisors and more.

But training needs to be ongoing, involving different levels of materials for owners versus supervisors, managers and front or back of house staff. Resources have to be accessible from anywhere as well as easily searchable, especially as the chain itself grows.

These all lead to one big benefit: a franchisee learns, over time, not just the practices and standards the franchise expects to maintain, but also that they can trust the franchise itself to invest in its owners and employers.

And building trust is its own reward as well as incentive to address these 3 customer experience pitfalls.