Delivering a positive experience to customers across all points of sale is essential when developing a retail franchise. Just one blunder in a single store can tarnish the reputation of all of the others! Network managers must guide all of their franchisees towards the same customer satisfaction goal.
When setting up a franchise network, it’s not unusual to go from a dozen points of sale to hundreds in a matter of months. But this rapid growth should also be seen as an opportunity to also develop a positive brand image. The fundamental challenge for network managers at this point is to strike a balance between franchise development and quality management throughout the network.
Establishing a positive brand image from the start
The quality of a network is reflected in the feedback left by customers. If their experience with the brand was not to their liking, the will not come back and the network will have failed in building loyalty in the all-important kick-off phase. Network managers must help their franchisees adopt a joint approach in regards to customer relations and work towards the same requirements in terms of customer satisfaction. Friendliness, advice, promoting awareness of special offers: customers must recognize the same quality of service no matter which store or outlet they are visiting. This feeling of quality associated to the brand will cement the whole network.
Furthermore, particular emphasis should be put on processing customer dissatisfactions. One must not overlook the fact that just 5% of unhappy customers complain and therefore give you the opportunity to make things right. This means that 95% of all unhappy customers simply disappear, with no way to win them back. Giving new franchisees the ability to instantly identify and contact unhappy customers is of utmost importance and will turn their in-store experience into a virtuous circle, increasing customer satisfaction along the way.
Adopting new ways of interacting with customers
In a context of quick development, reactivity and completeness are often favored over quality of service and customer satisfaction. But all customer feedback should be taken into account, and this means collecting it and answering it without delay. Mystery clients are great but have their limits. As they are expensive, they can not be used as often as some businesses would like, and they give brands little chance to really get a feel of customer satisfaction throughout the network.
This is why in-store customer feedback collection must evolve to allow for real-time feedback gathering and continuous customer relations. New digital communication tools can contribute to initiating differentiating, relationship-building conversations: surveys sent via SMS and automated emails after check-out, websites dedicated to customer feedback collection, which URLs can be shared on in-store communication mediums (receipts, in-store advertising…) or on social media…Networks equipped with such tools can continuously listen to what their customers have to say, including those who would have otherwise remained silent. Gathering their feedback allows brands to be extremely reactive, create new solutions and offer new services in-store. It also enables a global view of the quality of service offered throughout the network and the opportunity for franchises to share their best practices to satisfy customers, make them come back and in-fine develop their business.
At the end of the day, entrusting franchisees with the image and quality of a network means giving them huge power. It’s the network manager’s responsibility to orchestrate the process and to innovate to help them create a unique customer experience in each store.