Franchisors: Do you just call it your “support office” or do you live by it?

You need to help your support team to understand the franchise

Over the past twenty years, I’ve watched franchisors building their networks with passion and an absolute focus on their franchisees’ success. But I’ve also watched with growing concern as that passion and focus sometimes becomes diluted as the central organization grows. Some Franchisors just take Franchisee compliance for granted.

They call themselves the “support office”, and behind these simple words is hidden a fundamental difference in values and culture. In reality, they act like a distant corporate HQ. The result is that many franchisees feel left behind, even marginalized, which in turn encourages dissatisfaction to grow and brings poor results and noncompliance to the brand.

Franchisor culture counts

Franchisors should return to the basics, and one of the main drivers of change is the decision to train franchise support staff so that they understand the soul of the franchise. You need to help central functions to better understand the franchisee’s reality, its needs and requirements.

Franchisors establish headquarters and support staff to support franchisees in their daily business activities, but the practice and culture of their internal communications (or the lack thereof) can be a major cause of franchisees’ dissatisfaction. One franchisee I talked to said, “When I contact my HQ, there’s an attitude that makes me feel like I’m  disturbing them and interrupting other more important things.

It reminds me of a poor customer service culture, where customer service staff think that customers are taking up their time instead of being their reason to exist. Franchisees and their staff are the key players in the network and must be given top priority. Support staff should be introduced to a range of effective communication routines focused on franchisees’ different maturity, motivation, requirements and wishes.

Franchisee life cycle – one size does not fit all

Understanding the franchisee’s lifecycle is important. Carry out research to get to know them and ask questions like “what do you need from your support organization?” and “how does support need to be developed to meet you in your development curve?”. You can’t provide the same information to a seasoned entrepreneur and a new rookie and expect them both to get the same amount of value from it. This will inevitably result in two dissatisfied colleagues.

(Read our article on how build a support structure according to Franchisee maturity)

If you have field staff who regularly visit your branches, they’re key players in carrying your culture and show franchisees and staff that they’re the most important people in the network.

Emotions and business

There’s an emotional level to support. Ask yourself what franchisees need to feel safe, seen and supported. And there’s a business level, where you should ask how they make money and deliver on brand and concept mandatories. For a franchisor and their support staff, the reality of day-to-day operations is very different from that of the franchisee, and it may be difficult to grasp what it’s like “being in their shoes”. If you never ran a small business, working your ass off and putting everything you own at risk, it’s difficult to empathize with their challenges.

A report from the FRI in Australia found that “perceived franchisor care” made a big difference to performance. This is the extent to which a franchisee believes that their franchisor cares about their success. This feeling of franchisor concern boosts a franchisee’s tendency to be proactive, which in turn leads to higher levels of success, and higher levels of financial performance in particular. Most amazing of all, the opposite was also true. The belief that your franchisor is self-serving in their behaviour and that they don’t have your back can actually turn off the tendency to be proactive! In case you missed it, there is a significant opportunity here for franchisor leaders who set the culture of their networks.

Take away

Clear and consistent internal communication driven by interested and passionate support staff, combined with modern tools and systems that facilitate and support the entire process, is a success factor and survival strategy for franchisors in all industries.

Chainformation is a European leader in cloud based support and compliance systems for franchised networks. Digitized Operations Manuals and training material in combination with digital, interactive checklists drive daily routines and secure operational compliance.