The best franchises offer the same level of service in all territories. But how can franchises maintain a consistent approach while addressing the changing needs of customers?
Consistency is key to the success of any franchise operation. Once a business owner has created the right model, it is then rolled out into further territories where the brand and core offer remains the same. For customers, this means they can be confident of getting the same product or service wherever they are in the country. For franchisors, it makes it easier to measure the success of each and every franchise in their network. But, if the customer is always right, how can franchises deliver consistency at the same time as addressing the ever-changing demands of the market?
Troy Tappenden is the founder and managing director of Dream Doors, the kitchen makeover company that currently has 74 franchisees across the UK. At the heart of the business is a sales message and promise that resonates throughout the network. “We have the same sales message across our network,” says Tappenden. “We offer a free no-obligation consultation either at the customer’s home or at one of our showrooms. What’s more, we take just 50% of the payment up front and only ask for the balance once the customer is happy. That protects both the customer and us as the brand owner because it ensures the franchisee needs to do a good job to get paid.”
In order to ensure both consistency in both message and delivery, Dream Doors has a team of managers to provide support and oversight to franchisees. “We have five business managers based in territory who support, nurture and train our franchisees,” says Tappenden. “Sometimes they go out to meet customers with the franchisees too.”
Dream Doors insists on every franchisee opening a showroom within six months of taking the franchise. But what is seen in the showroom must be replicated in a home, meaning standards across the network are monitored closely. “Once the franchisee has signed off a job they must ask the customer to fill out a completion certificate, which is sent back to us,” says Tappenden. “That way we can check that every job has been completed and the customer is happy. We also use Checkatrade so we can monitor customer satisfaction independently.”
Keeping in shape
Founded in 2007, gym franchise Fitness4Less has 12 sites across the UK, two of which are franchises. With the company looking to ramp up its franchise operation, franchise manager Owen Barton says the business has been working hard to deliver a consistent level of service across its network. “You have to overcome that hurdle of inconsistency,” he says. “There are different sites, different employees and different franchisees.”
Barton says the company’s website is a central piece of the company’s sales message as it contains key information for customers, adding that pricing is also decided centrally. “We never waver on price,” says Barton. “Staff are not given the ability to negotiate on price.” And he explains that the gyms’ opening hours help centralise things from a service perspective. “All our clubs are open at the same time,” he adds. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the country, we are open from 6am to 10pm at night.”
However, Barton says the business has had to spend time training managers and staff to ensure that customer service is both consistent and effective throughout the network. He says Fitness4Less has some “non-negotiables” or minimum standards that staff working in the clubs receptions areas must adhere to. Employees must smile, stand up and greet customers as they arrive and say goodbye when they exit. “Just by smiling and saying hello and goodbye, it increases a person’s chances of coming back by 50%,” says Barton.
In order to ensure that these standards are maintained the business is operating a ‘secret shopper’ system. “You have to invest in your staff,” says Barton. “We train the managers and the managers train their staff. But you have to keep checking that the message is being passed on and listened to.”
Jenny Williams is the founder of The Detective Project, which operates in three different parts of the country. The franchise offers detective-themed children’s parties and corporate events, which enable people to learn about police work in a fun environment. Williams says the way the franchise approaches the market is the same throughout its network. That typically entails a lot of face-to-face interaction. “For us, marketing means going into schools and talking to teachers, head teachers and those in charge of the budgets,” she says. “For corporate events, we do a lot of networking at a local level and get out to meet event planners. We use the same marketing and sales materials across the board.”
Williams says the unique nature of her business enables it to stand out in the marketplace. “No-one is doing what we are doing so getting the message across isn’t too hard,” she says. “We use the same ads, logos and branding and focus on getting known among parents. A lot of our business comes from word of mouth.”
However, as the business has expanded into the prosperous south-east, Williams has permitted her franchisees to alter their pricing plans accordingly. “There are variations on pricing and we do a lot of work on understanding what the local market is like for children’s parties and how much people spend,” she explains. “There’s no point me setting prices here in Bristol when my Essex franchisee can go into London and charge a lot more. We have to be realistic about pricing; we need to be competitive but also understand what the market can deliver.”
Williams created the parties and workshops herself, and has created frameworks for her franchisees to use. However, she says it’s within franchise rules for her party organisers to inject some of their personality into the job. “People can put a bit of their own personalities into the party or event,” she explains. “It’s not completely scripted. However, they are a well-trodden path so there’s a framework for people to follow.”