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Franchisee Advice

Communicate With Your Clientele

Here are some ways you can go about cementing client relationships through good communication.

Basil O’Hagan

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A call is all it takes

Have you ever received a call from a business you frequent to ask you about the service? Or — even better — has anyone ever called you to thank you for complaining?

I once had a problem with the air-conditioner of my car and the dealership simply couldn’t seem to fix the defect. I complained to the service department, only to later receive a phone call from the general manager of the dealership. He thanked me for the call, explained that my car would be sent to a new air-con specialist at their expense to have it seen to again and that if it wasn’t fixed my bill would be refunded in full.

He invited me to come into the dealership to discuss it further if I wished. Although my car air-con wasn’t repaired, I really appreciated the manager going the extra mile to phone me and address my concerns.

Related: Customer Service Success Secrets

A phone call to address customer comments or complaints is a method that should be used by all businesses. The script is simple:

  1. Thank the customer for their feedback.
  2. Address their complaint.
  3. Tell them how it’s going to be sorted out.
  4. Thank them again.
  5. Invite them to come back soon. This is yet another way to turn a possibly damaging incident into a positive customer experience.

First-name terms

The sound of your own name has a certain magic about it. It makes you feel special, and it establishes a connection with the person speaking to you.

We all feel that way, so try to make your customers experience that special bond by using their first names when dealing with them. It elevates your interaction to the personal level from being just a bland transaction. You learn someone’s first name by introducing yourself by name when they come into your shop or from your business communications.

When speaking to your customer, pay attention to how they pronounce their name, then use it accordingly, and best of all, remember it. Practice using people’s first names as you address them. “I can do you a half lamb for just under R1 000, Dave. How does that grab you?”

This kind of thing will be sure to grab Dave a lot better since you’re using his first name. You’ve established a special personal bond, right there in your butchery.

Online customers, online customer service

Whether you do business on the Internet, or your store simply has a Facebook account, you have an online presence. You need to have an online customer-service ethic.

Be sure to deal with every query and comment you come across online. Do web searches for your company’s name on Facebook and Twitter. Visit your store’s Facebook page regularly and respond to every comment
on there. Check your company email inbox.

Online conversations are personal, in the same way a chat with a customer in your store is a personal one. So show the same sincere, positive, personal attitude you do in your shop. Make it personal, and someone who was initially having a rant about what they thought was a faceless company, will calm down and become reasonable.

Don’t look at your Facebook page or your Twitter account as a one-way broadcast for you to announce your promotions. It is a two-way forum for communication, and a great tool for customer service and to build positivity about your business.

A site like hellopeter.com is specifically for consumers to report on the service that they receive from suppliers. Go on there from time to time and do a search for your company name. If you find a comment — positive or negative — engage the individual. The same applies to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

In the case of an upset individual going on a bit of a rant, be reasonable and try to take the conversation offline. Ask for the person’s email address so they can explain their problem more fully. If necessary, give them a phone call. Show you care and address all issues sincerely, just as you would in real life.

Related: 6 Ways to Make Your Customer Service Better

Social-media-customer-service

Social media protocol

On social media like Twitter and Facebook you have a chance to interact with customers about your store or your brand. It’s a great opportunity. Here are a few pointers:

1. Interact

The point of social media is that it’s a form of multi-user interaction. Don’t think of it like a television ad or a newspaper promo that goes out from you to your customers. Everyone has the right to an opinion on your brand. Luckily you know it better than anyone. So get on there and join the conversation. Accept praise, manage complaints, and correct any possible misunderstandings.

2. Have an account manager

If the volume of your social media traffic is large, or you’re not an expert, hire a social media manager to look after your account. They will handle day-to-day interactions and flag any serious issues for your input.

3. Be positive

As in life, positivity is contagious. Negative comments from you reflect poorly on your business. So don’t diss your competition or any unhappy customers. Come at it from a positive, constructive point of view. Get on it, pronto. A message on your FB page, or on Twitter is not something to be put on your to-do list. It needs to be addressed immediately. Engage the person and start a conversation. Leaving them hanging or ignoring them is rude.

4. Don’t feed the trolls

If someone descends into abuse and disrespect, stop the conversation. State your case, and if people are unreasonable or abusive, move on. If necessary, block them.

Related: 8 Keys to Award-Winning Startup Customer Service

More haste, less speed

You know that some of the fastest service is not always a sign of good service. If I place an order at a restaurant and my meal arrives 40 seconds later, I’ll be slightly suspicious.

Similarly, customer service is not always just about speed. Sure, we are all under time pressure, but we still require quality service from the businesses we support. The Gallup Organization has conducted research that found satisfying the emotional needs of customers is equally, or more important than the speed of service.

So don’t neglect the personal aspect of your interaction with customers. Favouring speed above courtesy and effectiveness can actually be counter-productive. Who wants a meal prepared in a minute by grumpy staff that tastes awful?

Also, if your customer’s experience in your store is pleasant, the time they spend there can be irrelevant. They might spend a fun 20 minutes chatting to the waiters, watching sport on the big screen and reading your store magazine. Then their tasty meal arrives!

Most of the time, quality of service trumps speed.

Basil O’Hagan is the founder of both O’Hagan’s and The Brazen Head. Today, he runs Basil O’Hagan Marketing, which serves chains, independent operations and small family businesses, pinpointing and overcoming problems through proven neighbourhood marketing solutions.

Franchisee Advice

5 S-Words Make Your Store Site Pay For Itself

Richard Mukheibir, CEO of Cash Converters recently addressed delegates at the FASA (Franchise Association of SA) conference on the topic of choosing the best location for their business. He spoke about the 5-S technique to assist business owners with deciding which premises is best suited for their business.

Richard Mukheibir

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The combination of continuing trading uncertainty in South Africa and the new financial year for many businesses can add up to carefully reviewing costs – including leases on premises. Choosing a site to set up or relocate your business can be just as stressful as deciding where to buy a house – and just as fundamental to its health, finances and sustainability, says Richard Mukheibir, CEO of Cash Converters.

This is not the time to snap up the property with the cheapest rental as that might turn out to be something you regret in the long run. Nor is it the time to be dazzled by the swankiest premises you can find. The potential for bragging rights could turn out to be poor value for money.

“This is a time for your head to rule your heart regardless of the industry you trade in.” he says.

The real-estate mantra of “location, location, location” works just as effectively in commercial as it does in private property but you will often be looking for rather different factors. Mukheibir shares his 5-S technique to help you begin narrowing down the areas where you will consider locating your business – first at the macro level, focus in further to the meso level, then look more closely at the micro level before you start weighing up specific sites.

1. Strategy

Remind yourself of the medium and long-term strategies you have developed for your business. Keep your understanding of your business’s customers, purpose and growth prospects top of mind when you are selecting the areas where you will start looking for sites.

Related: Effective Ways To Bring Customers To Your Door

2. Scope

Within those areas, redline any sections where you feel the competition from other businesses will detract from your potential to grow your market. Greenline areas where there are good synergies between the people who live or work there and the demographic that you have identified as your target market.

3. Synergy

Make sure there is clearly a good pool of potential customers for you – size definitely matters when it comes to ensuring that there are plenty of customers available to you. Look specifically for facilities that cater for the kind of customers you want to attract. Sports stores benefit from being close to schools and tertiary colleges, for example.

4. Sight

Although many businesses now have an online element, most still benefit from attracting customers to walk through the door. For your premises to be a good fit for your business, you should be located in plain sight and ensure that your ability to market yourself locally through signage and lamp-post posters is not restricted by local bylaws.

Related: FASA Establishes Industry Specific Food Franchise Forum

5. Security

You will attract and retain good customers and staff if they feel they’re secure in the area. This perception includes factors such as easy, safe parking and a welcoming environment.

“Making a success of your business is not just about the product or your branding,” says Mukheibir. “It can be as fundamental as finding a site that ends up paying for itself. To do this, it must offer you a well-calculated gap in the market where the strong demand for the product or service that your business offers ensures sales and profit. If you have considered all these steps carefully, you will never worry about making rent and wages payment again.”

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Franchisee Advice

6 Things You Need To Know About Profit And Cashflow

Why your business needs both and how to check.

Richard Mukheibir

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In the heat of the action as you build your business or launch a new line, it’s easy to hope some aspects will take care of themselves. It’s especially tempting to fall into that trap with your accounts if you don’t like dealing with figures.

Despite having a B. Comm degree, I’m happy to admit that I don’t really like accounts. I much prefer strategies, management and business development. Fortunately, my co-founder and our Chief Financial Officer Peter Forshaw tirelessly keeps us on track financially – and his message to our franchisees is always that in your own business, you must understand enough of the financial basics to know whether your business is swimming or sinking…

It’s so important that we include this as part of our franchisee training. To get you started, here’s what Engela van Loggerenberg, our Group Financial Manager, tells new franchisees:

  1. Cashflow and profit aren’t the same: You can’t track one and assume the other shows the same pattern. There is no natural correlation between the two – your cashflow can be positive and you can be making a loss or your cashflow can be negative but you’re making a profit.
  2. Cash keeps you going: It’s vital to have money available in your business so you need to be generating enough cash to pay operating expenses. Otherwise you could be making a profit but not be able to pay staff wages. If so, you will either have to put in some of your own money or take a loan to keep your cash flowing and your business afloat.
  3. Time for a checkup: Both cashflow and profit are important to a business – but you can’t do anything without cash which is why you have to manage your cashflow carefully. Check your profit monthly but your cashflow daily. This will alert you to problems in the making so you can head them off. You will see if your clients are overdue in paying their accounts with you, for example. If they fall behind, this could in turn squeeze your ability to pay your operating expenses, which is why cashflow monitoring is such an important tool to keep your business afloat.
  4. Different perspectives: Remember when you look at your figures that profit figures are a result of what has already happened and are usually reported with a time lag of a month. Cashflow is a snapshot of what is happening in your business now and will have an impact on profit figures in the months to come.
  5. Know what you’re looking for: What you need to know are your net, not gross, figures. For net cashflow that is your incoming cash less your outgoing cash for the period. So if you are receiving more than you are spending, you will be left with money in the bank to meet future expenses. Similarly, your total sales less direct costs make up your gross profit. Deduct all your operating expenses from the gross profit to calculate whether your business is making a net profit.
  6. Make the most of your cash: Take pressure off yourself by keeping spare cash for future expenses such as VAT and taxes in a good interest-bearing account such as a money market, call or investment account. Then set up reminders ahead of time to arrange to withdraw the sum required.

Remember that any system is only as good as the person operating it. So if like me, figures aren’t your thing, make sure that you have someone at your side who can manage them for you.

Read next: 4 Factors To Consider Before Converting Your Independent Business Into A Franchise

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Franchisee Advice

3 Ways To Ensure Your Loyalty Programme is Working Hard For You

Plastic cards are making way for app-based loyalty programmes. Is your franchise keeping up with the digitally savvy consumer?

Diana Albertyn

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The average consumer today is a member of at least five of the 100-plus loyalty programmes in South Africa, according to a 2017 study by Nielsen. As the loyalty playing field becomes more cluttered and competitive, what are you doing to ensure each one of your franchisees are catering to customer needs when it comes to loyalty?

Mobility. It’s not the newest buzzword, but it is useful for attracting customers who don’t want to lose loyalty points because their card is lost or not with them. Ailsa Wingfield, Nielsen’s Head of Emerging Markets: Thought Leadership, says that as adoption of non-traditional payment methods increases, loyalty programmes also need to introduce payment type flexibility.

“Mobile payment platforms will increasingly deliver an opportunity for loyalty-programme engagement with consumers, providing a convenient and personalised way for programme members and retailers to engage with one another all along the path to purchase.” – Ailsa Wingfield Nielsen Head of Emerging Markets Thought Leadership.

Related: 11 Ways To Double Your Customers In 4 Weeks

Have you considered what role tech could play in your current loyalty programme? Here are three ways to apply digital enhancements that appeal to present and potential customers: 

1. Offer differentiation through more options

Research has concluded that the loyalty programmes devised by retailers and franchises are not innovative enough to capture the attention of the youth – Millennials and Gen Z. it’s time to diversify your rewards offering. But how?

If your customer base is predominantly younger, being omni-present is key, according to the Truth Loyalty Whitepaper: “An omni-channel approach will not only meet the demands of the younger customer, it will also allow your business to combine intelligence on shopping, search and web behaviour history to assist you in identifying when to offer an in-store promotion, extend a seasonal offer or make a product recommendation through the appropriate channels.”

Implementing a digital loyalty campaign is also a smart way to reduce costs. Coffee shop franchise Mugg & Bean’s Generous Rewards App and partnership with Vitality Active Rewards, means members can earn cash-back rewards to spend on their favourites. Just downloading the app earns you a R25 voucher.

2. Use your tools to engage more

A crucial mistake most franchisors make is not communicating consistently with their loyalty programme members once they’ve signed up and increased numbers. They spend a lot of time recruiting customers to join, but expect them to prompt cashiers for points’ balances and produce their cards independently in their various locations.

“You have gained permission to talk to your customers and created the opportunity to collect enormous amounts of valuable data. Use this to your advantage by creating meaningful and relevant engagement initiatives and communications across your customers’ lifecycle,” advises Truth, a boutique consultancy business specialising in customer centricity and loyalty programme strategy and design.

When enhancing your engagement strategy, Accenture advises that you keep the following in mind:

  • 54% of South African consumers are loyal to brands that actively engage them to help design or co-create products or services.
  • 57% are loyal to organisations that present them with new experiences, products or services.
  • 47% are loyal to brands that engage them in ‘multi-sensory’ experiences, using new technologies such as virtual reality or augmented reality.

Related: 3 Ways To Stop Taking Your Most Loyal Customers For Granted

3. Keep the experience simple

Review your loyalty programme. Honestly. Then ask yourself if you’ve made your programme too complicated for the layman. If your answer is ‘no’ or even ‘maybe’, how can your target consumer ever reap the full rewards of this programme if they don’t understand the rewards on offer and how to redeem them?

Changing rules too often is the first complication to go. No matter which one of your stores they choose to shop at, the redemption and earning process should be simple enough to keep members interested and engaged in the programme. Make sure you keep your programme simple and transparent.

“Clicks made a simple but fundamental change to its redemption process – paper-vouchers were replaced with virtual points that can be redeemed as cash-back when you swipe your card at the till. While Clicks and Dis-Chem are among only a handful of brands that do this, it’s a sure-fire mechanism for increasing redemption,” said Amanda Cromhout, founder and CEO of Truth.

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