Often what a customer wants most from a company is to be treated like a person. They want real, authentic human interaction. Mostly, this human kindness will come while you cater perfectly to their every need, deliver the goods and services efficiently and then send them on their way with a massive smile on their face.
But every now and then things will go wrong. The customer won’t get exactly what they were looking for, the service won’t be 100%, or there will be some kind of misunderstanding.
This is unfortunate and nobody wants this to happen, but occasionally it does. If handled properly, these hiccups can be converted into an opportunity to improve customer relations, build real human interaction and turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.
When a customer calls into your bank branch to complain that an unauthorised debit order was taken off her account, you should treat the person like you would like to be treated.
Here is a good procedure to follow that fixes the problem while building a real human interaction:
- Understand the problem. Listen carefully and make sure you know exactly what the client’s complaint is.
- It doesn’t matter if they actually signed an authorisation and it’s technically their fault. This isn’t about who’s right or wrong. It’s about building a relationship on good customer service.
- Take immediate action. Fix the problem timeously. In this case, reverse the debit order.
- Ensure it doesn’t happen again. That means working out who authorised the debit, and why, and adjusting your systems so it doesn’t happen again.
If you go through this process as efficiently and as pleasantly as you can, you might find the customer comes out the other side in a pretty good mood. Their complaint has been acknowledged, they’ve got an apology and it’s been sorted out.
Manage Client Expectation
Communication is a crucial skill in all aspects of business — you can seldom have too much of it. Customer service also improves the way we communicate.
New customers especially, need to be told what to expect from their interaction with you, so you need to communicate with them.
If you don’t, the great work you’re doing for them can be misunderstood and lead to complaints simply because the customer doesn’t understand your process.
Case Study: Managing client expectation
Let’s imagine you run a florist. A customer comes rushing into your store. He wants a flower arrangement immediately for his wife’s birthday tomorrow. Half out of breath, he insists, “Just sell me one now.” But you’re a custom florist — you don’t have many floral arrangements ready to go.
You need to explain to your customer that all your bouquets are made to order. He can make a selection from your online catalogue, provide the address and his selection will be delivered the same day.
So, while you can supply a quality arrangement quickly and efficiently, you don’t supply over-the-counter bouquets immediately.
Other cases where client expectations should be managed:
- For instance if a client is buying outdoor media advertising, the execs should explain the process, and the timelines before the client’s ad appears on a billboard.
- Any service that involves a wait. Why is there a wait? How long will it be? What is the best way to see out the wait? Communicate all this to your customer. The Hartbeespoort Cableway, for instance has signs all along their queuing area announcing, ‘expected queuing time from here: 15 minutes’
- New services. We all know how toy shops work. But what exactly happens at the Build-A-Bear Workshop? It’s a new concept that needs to be clearly explained to new customers who are trying it out.
- A problem. Has your computer system gone down? Are you experiencing ‘unexpected call volumes’? All of these should be explained to the customers affected so they know what to expect.
How To Lose A Customer
A customer who complains won’t necessarily stop supporting your business. If you resolve her complaint properly, she might become your most loyal customer ever. On the other hand, you often never even know about the customers you lose.
These people have a disappointing experience, and then they walk out of your business and never come back. That disappointing experience is usually poor customer service.
Here are some no-nos that will cost you customers every time:
- Disinterested staff. This would be someone just going through the motions, unable to raise a smile, lurking with folded arms and only there to ring up purchases and collect a pay cheque. A customer will always prefer to shop somewhere with dynamic, friendly staff.
- Poor atmosphere. This includes the cleanliness of your premises, your phone manners, attitude and appearance of the staff, the music and the lighting. If you don’t have a good vibe, people don’t come back.
- Pushy sales people. A telesales person who hounds a potential customer will only end up getting blocked. Likewise those timeshare agents who pounce on every hotel guest they see. Your first instinct is to avoid them.
- Slow service and response times. If someone orders a printer from your electronics store and you never get back to them, they will never return. I guarantee it.
- Hard to pay. If your store doesn’t have a speedpoint machine and you have no change in your till, or your ‘systems are down’, then not only don’t people want to buy from you, they can’t.
- I once almost bought a second-hand car from a dealer who said it had only had one owner, a 90-year-old man. His colleague told me it was a 60-year-old woman. I would have felt more comfortable with someone who under-promised, rather than over-promised and made
- No staff available. If no one answers the phone, or I can’t find a shop assistant, or no cashier is prepared to ring up my purchases, I don’t buy anything, simple.
Avoid these at all costs — whether customers complain about them or not.
Customers want authentic human interaction and you can give them that by catering to their needs as well as possible. Deliver the goods and services proficiently and they’ll not only leave smiling, but return for the same experience.
5 Tips For Franchise Agreements
Below are 5 tips to ensure that your franchise agreement complies with the CPA.
South Africa has some great homegrown franchises – Mugg and Bean, Steers, Debonairs and Nandos, to name a few. South Africa is also no stranger to international franchise groups, such as McDonalds, KFC, Wimpy and SPAR, although there has been an increase in the number of international franchises investing in South Africa in recent years.
The Consumer Protection Act, No 68 of 2008 (“CPA“) is the first piece of legislation in South Africa that specifically regulates franchise agreements. The CPA prescribes certain minimum requirements for franchise agreements, as well as certain information that must be disclosed prior to a franchise agreement being signed. It is important that all franchise agreements comply with the CPA as provisions in franchise agreements may be declared to be void for non-compliance.
Below are 5 tips to ensure that your franchise agreement complies with the CPA:
1. Make sure you meet the minimum requirements
The CPA prescribes “minimum requirements” for franchise agreements. These requirements, which are set out in the Regulations to the CPA, set out mandatory terms (i.e. terms which must be included) and prohibited terms (i.e. terms which must not be included). They also prescribe that franchise agreements must be drafted in simple and plain language so as to be easily understood. Legal jargon must be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
2. Include prescribed minimum information
The CPA prescribes minimum information that must be included in a franchise agreement. Most of this minimum prescribed information is fairly general in nature and would be contained in the franchise agreement in the ordinary course (for example, name and description of the types of goods or services that the franchise relates to, the obligations of the franchisor and franchisee, and any territorial rights).
There are, however, certain more unusual requirements in relation to prescribed information, which information would not necessarily be contained in a franchise agreement in the ordinary course (for example, the qualifications of the franchisor’s directors, and details of the members/shareholders of the franchisor). These more unusual requirements must be kept in mind when preparing a franchise agreement.
3. Prepare a disclosure document
The CPA requires the franchisor to provide certain minimum prescribed information to the franchisee in a disclosure document delivered to the franchisee prior to the signature of the franchise agreement (including a list of current franchisees, if any, and of outlets owned by the franchisor; the direct contact details of the existing franchisees; an organogram depicting the support system in place for franchisees; and an auditors certificate confirming that that the franchisor’s audited annual financial statements are in order).
This information is intended to provide the franchisee with enough information about the franchise, its financial viability and potential business success so as to enable the franchisee to make an informed decision as to whether or not he/she wishes to “acquire” the particular franchise.
4. Prepare a non-disclosure agreement
It is important to ensure the protection of confidential information which may be disclosed to the prospective franchisee during the preliminary stages of negotiating and concluding a franchise agreement.
This may include, for example, the growth of the franchisor’s turnover, and written projections in respect of levels of potential sales, income and profit. Although not a requirement under the CPA, it is advisable for a franchisor to ensure that a prospective franchisee executes an appropriate confidentiality agreement prior to being sent the disclosure document.
5. Beware the “cooling-off” period
It is important to bear in mind that a franchisee has an entitlement under the CPA to cancel a franchise agreement without cost or penalty within 10 business days after signing such agreement, by giving written notice to the franchisor.
6 Top Tips For Reading Management Accounts
There is a golden key that reveals the secret of whether your business will survive and thrive. It is keeping tabs on the figures that summarise the strength of your business – your monthly management accounts.
There is a golden key that reveals the secret of whether your business will survive and thrive. It is not the brilliance of your business concept. It is not your talent for talking clients to sign on the dotted line. It is keeping tabs on the figures that summarise the strength of your business – your monthly management accounts.
Many entrepreneurs are usually more interested in operations and find product development or sales much more enjoyable than catching up on accounts. I sympathise – I’m one of them! So if you feel the same way, my top tip is always to make sure that you partner with or employ someone who can oversee the finances for you.
But that does not mean you can let the figure boffins and the finances take care of themselves. To function properly in your business, you need to know the outcome of your sales and development strategies – and the story of that is told in your management accounts.
If you never look at your management accounts, it is like blinding yourself in one eye. It means you risk being literally blindsided by a big surprise, whether it is heading for a significant loss or being confronted by an unexpected provisional tax payment.
Here is how Engela van Loggerenberg, our Group Financial Manager, puts management accounts in perspective for our new franchisees. She urges them to focus on six key areas:
- Priorities: Management accounts can help you pinpoint areas that you need to prioritise, whether to capitalise on growth or because they are not performing as well as you hoped.
- Strength: All businesses aim to grow their assets over time and the balance sheet in your management accounts will reflect whether and how you are achieving that.
- Control: A strong balance sheet is one that shows you have your business liabilities well controlled. The key marker here is your current liquidity ratio, which results from dividing your current assets by your current liabilities. To keep your business healthy, always aim to keep this ratio at least 2:1.
- Revenue: Ideally, you want to see your revenue grow month by month. Check your income statement both for the trend in actual revenue and also for actual against budgeted revenue to check how well your strategies are delivering results.
- Profitability: Of course, revenue is not the same as profitability. You need to know your gross profit – the basic figure of your sales less the cost of those goods – and net profit, which also deducts a range of other expenses including taxes. Track the percentage of these two profit figures as well as the actual cash amount they represent to keep a check on whether your costs are creeping up too high.
- Finance: Most businesses at some point want to finance their growth by borrowing from a bank. A set of well-regulated management accounts is a prerequisite to obtaining finance.
Your management accounts do not have to be particularly complicated to give you these vital pointers – and if you are figure-shy, the more straightforward the better.
The important thing, though, is that you do not allow yourself to be too scared to ask if there is something which is not clear to you. That is the way to keep control of this key to your business fortunes and to keep building your business from strength to strength.
A Three-Pronged Approach To Franchise Success
Danie Nel, head of business development for Cash Crusaders franchising, says the brand’s success over the past 22 years is attributed to the sentiment that “a profitable franchisee is a happy franchisee.”
What is your current footprint?
220 Stores. We’re looking to increase that number by another 20 stores for the 2018 financial year, which will then bring us to a total of 240 stores. Depending on the economy, we’re looking to grow our footprint even more to around 300 to 350 stores nationwide in the near future.
What are some of your brand’s biggest achievements that other franchises can learn from?
Our ability to read the retail market and innovate to stay ahead of times. We have recently launched an online platform where customers can sell their goods or borrow money — all online. This was a first for online retailing. One other achievement that I would wish to highlight is the launch of our mobile phone range, Doogee, exclusive to Cash Crusaders. Personally, having the honour of opening our 200th store was a tremendous achievement.
Franchisor involvement has also played a big role in the success of the organisation. Our CEO Sean Stegmann and other senior managers are as much involved in the business as any other operations manager or operator.
There is simply no ‘ivory tower’ management in our business and it makes a huge difference.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered and how have you overcome these?
Some of our daily challenges include securing a premises at a favourable rental and securing a franchisee with sufficient unencumbered capital, who is credit- worthy. Once the store is open, cash flow management and stock procurement is key.
In addition to this, it’s a challenge to achieve profitability immediately and to meet franchisee expectations. It’s also vital to ensure superb customer service and to retain those customers in the current retail and economic climate. I would say that our single biggest challenge is to retain and to build our customer base.
What attracts franchisees to Cash Crusaders?
Our unique retail model that allows for multiple streams of income through one business. These three profit centres include: New goods (variety of imported quality goods), second-hand goods (which we buy directly from the public, either through customers coming directly to our stores, or via our house-buy system offered by some of our stores) and secured lending (a financial service where customers can borrow money against valuables, determined at store level, and the loan is repaid within 30 days — or the contract is renewed for another 30 days with interest and service fees charged).
Why is it important for successful franchises such as yours to have a strong banking partner and how does it benefit both the franchisor and the franchisee?
Gone are the days where you just got a deposit book or cheque book and a little business loan from your bank. Banking has become more sophisticated and the technology that the bank offers is as important as its service, making life for both the franchisee and the franchisor easier on a day-to-day basis.