When a single brick and mortar business, a restaurant or boutique retailer wish to communicate with members of their team, it’s usually all done in-house when the beating heart and soul of the operations lives within the same physical building.
Obviously, this makes meetings easier to request and organize and operations “easier” (or less time-consuming) to co-ordinate. Everyone is (mostly) on the same page and where drops are noticed, they can be quickly addressed. But what happens when you’re a franchisor? Does communication between franchisors and franchisees necessarily have to take a hit? And what effect does a streamlined internal communication system have on customer satisfaction and, by extension, the chance for customer repurchasing? As it happens, quite a lot.
Internal communications between a franchisor (HQ) and its franchisees, while not necessarily strained, does face a greater challenge due to two factors: distance and number of units. That is to say, not everyone rests in the same geographical location, which can make maintaining singular messaging and up-to-date changes a more challenging enterprise to undertake. And, with multiple units, it’s up to the franchisor to find a way to streamline these communications across the board, in a timely and united fashion.
Different solutions have been tried to address this quandary, and as you might have experienced, with varying results.
E-mail lists, nope, really not working. File servers and Dropbox, are usually OK the first month, then it turns into a rats nest. WhatsApp and Facebook, mixing private and work environment is getting more and more rejected by users, and try to find any message older than 3 days is futile.
Some hire a developer (or a team of developers, depending on the size and scale of the organization) who would be responsible to run and maintain a central system of organization and communication, typically platforms like SharePoint, Episerver and other money draining black holes. Essentially, having a bespoke system developed or customized it’s not a solution that can grow alongside the growth of the network because the organization would have to reinvent the wheel each time, at great cost and pain.
Communicating the requirements of operational standards is key
It’s not only about maintaining a hub where franchisees can access information but also about delivering, enforcing and encouraging compliance by ensuring that these all-important brand standards have been read and implemented. In many businesses, daily operation is governed by a set of routines and procedures, especially in restaurants and other food venues. To keep track of this many use checklists in different variations, where paper and manual handling still is predominant. It’s a painstakingly slow process, and the time elapsed from someone reporting a deviation until it reaches a higher level, a small issue can grow into a big problem. Furthermore, paper based checklists and reporting gives little to none historical data and statistics for evaluation and trend spotting.
A cloud-based franchise compliance and communication platform, such as Chainformation.com is a solution that would address the needs of growth while providing features that take the strain off the company’s email system and helpdesk lines. Digital checklist applications are integrated with SOP manuals, providing powerful assistance to franchisees and staff to streamline local quality and ease of daily routines. Full access on mobile devices ensures no end-user training is needed, just fire-and-forget.
When franchisee teams are given a home, we find that this allows for smarter collaboration in the backend which equals stellar customer engagement in the frontend, so to speak. Positive and consistent customer satisfaction and experience come from service quality, internal integration (or how well the franchisee has incorporated HQ practices, solutions and systems), internal communication (or how HQ communicates with franchisee) and the franchisee’s own identification with the brand and with HQ, all of which call for a certain level of commitment from the franchisee. This commitment, while remaining implicit, is often explicitly translated into customer experience.
Internal communications is a two way street
In our support of, and experience with, franchise organizations, we have found that franchisors, and the brand by extension, thrive when they retain the option to maintain contact with their franchisees at any time and thus support them with the day-to-day issues, in real time, without any lag. But the trickle-down effect of this is even more interesting.
We’ve seen two notable effects that occur as a result of streamlining internal communication: one is that companies, since being able to maintain human working relationships with each other, place greater value on employee feedback and collaboration and are more willing to bring new ideas to the fore. Secondly, facilitating this change is the aspect of technology. Employing technology allows franchisees to build their own internal support systems independently while still “working remotely” and working across platforms in a more unitary fashion.
The probability of customer repurchasing hinges on brand loyalty. And brand loyalty is not simply messaging that remains on point. Nor is it images that are the same across physical franchise locations. It’s all about the customer’s experience remaining seamless, consistent and predictable. A customer’s intention to repurchase and continue to do so can be predicted by customer satisfaction. But the linchpin between the two is brand awareness. If brand awareness by a customer is high – that is to say, the customer is not only aware of what your brand stands for, believes in it, enjoys the product but also experiences the same essential motifs and signature interactions that characterize your brand, then franchisees can bank on establishing a positive customer experience that ensures a return.
In essence, none of these concepts – internal communications, brand awareness and customer satisfaction – are divest of each other. Rather, they are inextricably linked in set of operations that is quite organic. This makes sense, of course, since, at the end of the day, franchisees rely on the brand to build a relationship with customers. And, as such, franchisors, too, must first attend to the kind of relationship they build with their own franchisees before it can be translated into a high level of customer satisfaction and a positive customer experience.
Franchisees have to see the value
A dedicated franchise intranet allows the perfect negotiation between an independent and innovative franchisee that is able to support and educate their own employees while remaining brand consistent and delivering an unparalleled end-user experience while still being able to access support, training, tools and changes franchisors provide to grow the brand and remain viable, profitable and functional.
However, never let tech-based communications replace human-to-human interaction. The time saved by implementing effective digital tools should be used to interact IRL with franchisees. Give them a call, ask how they are doing, what are they struggling with – and interact to help. Read this excellent article “How Franchisees and Franchisors Can Master Their Relationship” on Entrepreneur.com.