A roadmap for embracing technology

Franchises needn't be intimidated by implementing new technology but they should ask themselves the right questions beforehand

A roadmap for embracing technology

Any franchise that hopes to stay relevant and become a market leader needs to commit to pioneering new initiatives – but without losing sight of its core proposition. And investing in cutting-edge technology is one of the best ways to do this.

Technological change is fast paced and is transforming every industry. In the care sector alone, there’s some incredible technology available already that’s empowering workers and improving service levels for the people who receive care in their homes. For example, online tools are allowing care providers to share insights with family members who live abroad and have parents or relatives here in the UK. With the permission of the person in care, loved ones can log into an online system and see the latest care plan updates, which keeps them informed and involved.

And in the food industry, Domino’s is trialling self-driving delivery robots that deliver hot pizzas to people’s doors while McDonald’s has introduced new point-of-sale technology that allows people to order from touchscreen and pay with their smartphones. But whether it’s an app, website or an autonomous delivery solution, there are some key questions to ask before implementing new technology into a franchise.

Technology should deliver a tangible business benefit, whether it’s helping you save money through efficiencies, boosting your ability to reach potential customers or making it easier for franchisees to access information. For example, improving your online booking system makes good business sense if you’re reliant on e-commerce but have discovered that people are leaving your website early because of design flaws or functionality issues. Any design project can become a costly exercise, especially when the developments need to be rolled out across a franchise. Before you get started it’s important to do a thorough cost-benefit and business impact analysis and account for all the costs that could be associated with the project, from design and build to training.

Timing is also crucial: some technology gets a lot of hype but if it’s still early days and most consumers haven’t quite become used to it, there can be some risks associated with being an early adopter. Consider how your competitors are currently using technology, how well it’s been proven to work and whether your audience is already using it. For example, many brands are adopting chatbots into their marketing strategies. But when executed poorly, they can be clunky and ineffective, which could affect your audience’s trust levels in your brand.

Next, it’s crucial that you meet legal and regulatory requirements when it comes to data, privacy, cybersecurity and access issues. One of the key areas online businesses have to be mindful of is data law, for instance. The General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect in 2018 and will place increased responsibility on companies in the EU to be responsible about the way they collect and store data. And while Britain has already begun the process of leaving the EU, it’s expected that the law is likely to apply to UK businesses trading with EU consumers. It’s always advisable to seek expert advice to make sure you’re being fully compliant with all relevant legislation.

It’s equally important to ensure that your franchisees have undergone the necessary training to avoid headaches when you come to deploy the technology. For example a recent initiative at Bluebird Care that saw franchisees take ownership of new localised websites came hand in hand with a rigorous – and ongoing – training and support programme. This meant that franchisees were comfortable with hands-on tasks like uploading content and optimising it for search engines once the new local websites were live. A robust stakeholder analysis will help ensure that anyone on the frontline who’s impacted by new technology will feel comfortable using it before it’s rolled out.

Sound preparation will help ensure a successful technology investment strategy and asking these questions is particularly important for a franchised business. Franchisees have joined a network because they want to feel like they can trust that any new initiatives have been tried and tested to make sure they’re commercially effective. They would expect that a franchisor has done their due diligence before implementing new technology. This shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to innovation, though: when approached strategically, technology can become an essential part of a franchise’s legacy and a powerful driver of growth.

This article comes courtesy of Alex Cavell, PR and marketing manager at Bluebird Care, the care franchise.

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