How to create a customer-centric franchise that makes both customers and franchisees happy
Great customer service starts at home
Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of Selfridges, believed that the customer is always right. And over a century later his mantra still holds true. Providing good customer service is one of the most important things a business can do. Great service can encourage customers to recommend your business to friends and family. But they’re just as likely to be turned off by poor customer service and warn other people about their negative experience. Throw social media into the mix and the stakes are even higher.
For the most part, customers are prepared to overlook a mistake as long as they see that the company is making an effort to resolve and acknowledge the problem. At some point, all business owners will have to deal with difficult customers and resolve issues. And as a franchisee in a customer-facing role, it’s something you’re destined to experience at some point.
Great customer service starts at home, so it’s important that a franchisor ensures its franchisees are happy and feel supported at all times. The key to cultivating a culture of support is to have an open-door policy to ensure the lines of communication are always open. Regular networking meetings and company events are useful for allowing franchisors to communicate new information and giving franchisees the chance to ask questions. When a franchisee feels supported, they’ll be more likely to put their customers first too.
The next step is to provide the necessary training and tools for franchisees to manage customer issues, regardless of whether they have immediate control over them or if it’s a direct response to something they did or didn’t do. The most valuable piece of advice we give our franchisees is to always acknowledge the customers’ feelings and views. That said, empathising with them and taking their issues seriously is completely different to believing that the customer is always right. Instead it’s about respecting their views – even if you don’t agree with them.
Franchisors should also consider implementing a complaint escalation process, which will ensure that any serious issues are passed on to the head office. This demonstrates to customers that their problems are being treated seriously. It also allows franchisees to continue to concentrate on the day-to-day operations confident that their customers are being looked after.
For franchises that are part of an established brand, people expect a consistent level of product or service quality. The reality is that in business problems are bound to arise but it’s how you handle those problems that makes all the difference.