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.
What To Know About Franchising Your Business
For many businesses, franchising is an excellent route to growth, opening up new opportunities and markets. Laurette Pienaar, National Franchise Manager at Nedbank, unpacks why it’s worth considering this route.
- Player: Laurette Pienaar
- Position: National Franchise Manager
- Company: Nedbank Limited
- Visit: nedbank.co.za
What type of business is ideally suited to the franchise model?
Franchising has been proven successful across all industries, including the automotive, food, entertainment and retail industries. However, several key qualities ultimately determine a concept’s ability to successfully become a franchise.
Firstly, the business model must be scalable and able to be repeated in several locations. Secondly, there must be demand for the products sold and, thirdly, the franchise model must be proven as profitable.
Why is franchising a good growth option?
Franchising is often used as a cost-effective growth strategy for businesses. A key benefit of this strategy is that no capital layout is required for a new franchised store as opposed to corporate-owned stores.
Franchised stores are also proven to be more successful than corporate-owned stores. This is mainly due to the fact that the franchise owners have a vested interest in the store, whereas corporate stores are supervised by a manager. Franchising is therefore also a great way to build your brand.
What should business owners focus on?
Franchisors should set up good infrastructure to support their franchisees, including good upfront and ongoing training to both the franchisees and their staff, the correct legal advice and assistance, and a strong operational team to assist franchisees daily.
Many successful franchisors provide support by expanding through vertical integration, which provides franchisees with logistics, supply chain security and product consistency.
Several franchisors advocate a structure with both franchisee and corporate-owned stores. This enables a franchisor to keep in touch with the daily challenges franchisees experience and new products and solutions can be tested at a corporate store before being rolled out to the franchise network.
How can franchising consultants assist business owners?
Franchise consultants provide daily operational support to franchisees. They are responsible for daily store visits to assist with quality checks, process flows, supplier relationships and, often, financial assessments. They are a helpful soundboard on any improvements to be made in the business model and can convey suggestions to the franchisor.
What challenges should business owners be aware of?
Businesses looking to franchise need to ensure that their business is teachable to others. Overcomplicated products and systems may deter franchisees from investing in your brand.
Franchisors have to do ongoing introspection regarding their company culture. For example, does the culture promote innovation and inspire franchisees and consumers, which ultimately is a culture worth investing in?
New franchisors’ selection criteria for franchisees are often not sufficiently thorough and comprehensive. For a new franchisor, it is important to choose good quality franchisees and to have strict selection criteria to ensure that your brand remains reputable and stable during fast-expanding cycles.
What lessons can be learnt from SA’s successful franchises?
Businesses looking to expand through franchising should consider setting up several corporate-owned stores first. This assures potential investors that your business is based on a proven model with a track record and supportive infrastructure.
There is not always a one-size-fits-all model. Many franchisors have created custom models to accommodate and adjust to the need of a specific property or consumer market. A great example of this would be the food industry where many franchisors offer shopping centre concepts, drive thrus and kiosk or express concepts. Consider this when developing your model.
Develop Digital Marketing Competency In 3 Simple Steps
Conquering the digital revolution needn’t be daunting. Polish up your tech skills and watch your digital marketing prowess increase throughout your franchise.
As a franchisor, digital marketing may be proving to be a challenge due to the unique structuring of the business.
“The very nature of franchises is ‘structured’, however, when it comes to marketing, that structure often lacks,” says Marcela De Vivo, Founder and CEO of Gryffin Media.
Franchisors and franchisees often struggle to reach common ground when looking to achieve different marketing goals. While the franchisor needs to control the brand in its entirety, the franchisee wants to market their business using particular strategies suited to their location.
Research has found that smartphones are the biggest influencers of 82% of users when they make their in-store purchase decisions while. It’s for this reason that the importance of digital marketing for franchises has increased.
Here’s how to harness its power of influence, amplify foot traffic and solidify brand loyalty:
1. Recruit digital natives and early adopters
As much as you’re the leader of your franchise network, there are franchisees in your chain you could learn from. The global increase in millennial franchise owners means it is highly likely that you’ll be able to identify early digital adopters within your franchise network.
“The best people to learn from are those who have been in your shoes before,” says Matt Forman of the Franchise Centre at Griffith University.
“Encourage and support their efforts and use them as case studies to demonstrate to the rest of your franchisees the value of digital marketing, and how to do it right.”
2. Invest in training your team
“Each digital competency level requires more education and resources in order to integrate digital marketing with your physical stores,” says Forman. For this reason, regularly investing in continuous training for your team so as to ensure they keep abreast of any new and emerging trends.
Proactivity and adapting to the constantly evolving digital landscape led KFC to open a LinkedIn account for its founder and mascot Colonel Sanders. KFC’s out of the box tactic is a fresh approach to what has long been considered a B2B platform, under-utilised as a B2C platform.
3. Apply custom targeting techniques
The discovery of new and small businesses is being fuelled by Google searches, social media and online reviews, making these platforms a goldmine of invaluable tools.
Leveraging certain custom targeting techniques like easily searchable keywords and exposure on other reputable and high-traffic websites, gives your franchise’s digital marketing efforts a boost. This results in an effective campaign, favourable reviews and meaningful and lasting interactions with consumers “whether it’s a reply to a Facebook comment or a retweet,” says Entrepreneur’s Emily Conklin.
How To Hire Skilled Workers For Your Franchise
Your staff run your business – you just have to show them how. This is why employing the best people for the job is essential.
According to the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA) 2017 Franchisor Survey, one of the main challenges facing franchisees is finding the right staff.
“Staffing your franchise can be one of the most challenging parts of running a successful business. Without a great team of employees, you cannot run your business effectively,” says Saxon Marsden-Huggins, founder of WebRover.
These three tips could help you find the best employees for your franchise outlet:
1. Don’t hire in haste
While you may be rearing to go and keen to fill gaps to speed up profitability, research your candidates thoroughly.
As the job applications keep flowing into your inbox, keep in mind that not all of them qualify for the positions available – it may even be a small percent who are actually viable candidates. This is why your hiring process should include:
- Taking the time to thoroughly screen CVs to develop a short list
- Creating a carefully crafted list of interview questions
- Setting aside adequate time for thorough interviews
- Getting to know the candidates through a second round of interviews to confirm your choice.
Giving the hiring process dedication and attention will ensure you get the cream of the crop, contributing to the long-term success of your franchise.
2. Demonstrate support in the workplace
While you can instil the necessary skills into new recruits, it’s difficult to train for culture. This is why choosing the right employees from the beginning will make the rest of your franchise management system will run more smoothly.
“The manner by which you run the franchise will influence employee perceptions of the brand as well,” says Hireology’s Erin Borgerson. “Your staff must become ambassadors of your franchise system to attract the target consumer market.”
The best way to do this is encouraging staff to give you their honest feedback. Your commitment to creating and upholding a positive culture will result in increased loyalty from your current staff and a superior pool of applicants.
3. Offer appealing incentives
When advancement opportunities are clearly communicated, staff is keen to hear how they can get there, as they have career goals of their own. Encouraging this ambition will draw good employees to your franchise.
“Helping employees understand the steps to advancement helps them to view their current job as an important part of a career with an upward path, not just a pay cheque for this week,” say financial reporting technology experts at Qvinci.
Performance bonuses and employee benefits incentivise staff’s efforts, therefore increasing their income alongside the profit of the business. “This serves to make employees a part of the business and not merely people ‘who work there’,” they explain.
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