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Franchisee Advice

Good Customer Service Is About Relating At The Same Level

From making a connection to upselling, the ability to relate to your customer’s needs and preferred way of doing business are vital components of exceptional customer service — and developing loyal clients.

Basil O’Hagan

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I’m a massive believer in the power of personal service. When a staff member interacts with a customer, that’s where the action is. When we’re relating as people, it’s a chance for me to really understand your needs as a customer and to help you on a person-to-person basis. In order to deliver the best personal service, I also need to understand how you like to be served. This is where EQ comes in — emotional intelligence.

The best customer service professionals have great people skills; they can quickly understand what kind of a person someone is, and how to relate to them.

Here are some of the character types you might encounter:

  1. The No-Nonsense Customer. This person knows exactly what they want and they simply want you to help them get it. Ascertain their needs and deliver, quickly and efficiently.
  2. The Browser. This person has a vague idea what they want, but they’re interested in finding out what you offer. They want advice and are keen to discuss their options. Understand what they’re looking for and then advise.
  3. The People Person. This customer simply has to socialise with everyone they meet. They will smile, greet, enquire after someone’s health and generally have a pleasant chat before getting around to discussing what kind of help they require. Here there’s no rush. Just chill and chat, until your customer remembers, “Oh, ja! Here’s what you can help me with!”
  4. The Shrinking Violet. Someone with almost no social skills, and incredibly shy to boot. This customer would rather not have to deal with people, but out of necessity they are forced to. You might have to draw them out a little, but just put them at ease and make the process as painless as possible for them.

Related: Does Your Customer Service Care?

Real talk

Recognising your customer’s personality type and needs is just the beginning though. You now need to speak to them in their language.

Phatic language is the linguistic term for words used to facilitate the flow of conversation. In themselves they are quite meaningless. They’re just social lubrication to help an interaction along.

Phatic language is useful, but it is not real conversation. That happens around it. If you’re going to make a real, person-to-person connection with your customer, you need to get past the phatic conversation as quickly as possible. You need to really connect.

When we connect, we form a human bond that is deeper than a brief encounter, or even a business transaction. So use language that encourages this. Don’t just say, “Need any help?” That’s phatic language. The answer will be a reflexive, “No, thanks, just browsing.” And you haven’t made any connection at all.

Try to ask questions that reveal the customer’s real needs and explain more about why they find themselves dealing with you. “How can I help you?” is a start. But why not think of an opening question more closely related to your business. Let’s say you run the Party City party supplies store. How about opening the conversation with, “What kind of party are we having?” That will propel you right into your customer’s world. They’ll explain how they’re throwing a farewell party for their boss, who’s retiring and they were thinking perhaps something with a New Orleans theme, as he’s a big fan of jazz music.

Pretty soon, you’ll be discussing what kind of guy he is, how many guests there’ll be and throwing around ideas about what kind of an event they’re going to be having. You’ll be connecting.

Get the big picture and sell more

This speaks directly to another golden rule linking customer service to sales: If you get the big picture, you’ll be able to sell more.

Let’s say you run a PostNet branch. It’s a media business. A client comes in asking about the cost of couriering a document to Cape Town from Centurion. You could look up the rate in your book and say ‘98 bucks for counter-to-counter.’ Then go back to your smartphone.

But you won’t do that, because you’re delivering exceptional service. You’re going to ask, “Do you mind if I ask what you need our courier services for?”

The young lady might say that she’s applying for a design job, so she wants to courier her portfolio to Cape Town for a job application. Now that you know her requirements, you can better serve her needs.

Related: What Does Great Customer Service Actually Mean?

You might be able to help her print out her design portfolio on a high-quality printer, bind the pages professionally into an attractive book, and then courier the package safely to her prospective employer in
Cape Town.

This is a type of cross-selling — you are selling the customer extra services. But you’re doing it to help realise her goals. You’re delivering exceptional service, by supplying exactly what she needs.

You can also do a bit of up-selling (selling add-ons or more valuable services) by encouraging her to use overnight door-to-door courier service. That way, her documents will be at the front desk of her next employer by the time they get into work.

You’ll have sold more, but you’ve also added value to your customer, and delivered a superior service.

Own the project

We’re trying to deliver exceptional customer service, to satisfy the customer’s needs. The best way to do that is to personally take ownership of a project.

When we make contact with a customer, we should methodically work through their project, becoming their representative in the process of fulfilling their requirements.

That would work something like this:

  1. Make a connection. Smile, greet them, enquire after their health. Welcome them to your company.
  2. If the customer is uncertain how best to meet their own needs, give them the benefit of your knowledge. Recommend a dish, explain your product offering, describe how the system works.
  3. Agree on a plan of attack. Once the customer knows their options and has chosen one on your advice, agree on what you’re going to do.
  4. Establish their needs. What is the project they are engaged in?
  5. That means you ensure that the job is done. Even if you hand them over to another department, you still monitor the project and ensure it is carried out to the best of your company’s ability. This could mean delivering a hi-fi, taking out an insurance policy or financing a C-class Mercedes.
  6. Follow up, follow through. Check that the customer is happy. Liaise with colleagues on the project. Take up and personally resolve any problems. Check whether things could have been done better.

These are all ways of taking ownership of a customer’s project, whether it’s finding a dress for their three-year-old’s birthday party, a 32G SD card or working out how many Vitality points they have.

Dull Service in Dullstroom

hotel reception desk

Just recently I gave a talk to a group of franchisees at a venue in Dullstroom. I took my wife Ann along because we wanted to stay an extra night. This was the procedure we encountered at the hotel. It was anything but effortless.

I talk about anticipating your customers’ needs. This establishment showed none of that anticipation. It was like they wanted to make it as hard as possible for a guest to extend their stay.

I phoned the hotel but they couldn’t take the booking directly for the extra night as ‘it had to go through head office’.

Related: Zappo’s Customer Service Excellence Comes Down To Company Culture

So I phoned head office and they said that it’s fine, they can accommodate us but only if I could tell them my room number. I didn’t have my room number as I’d not yet checked in. I asked if there was not a way that they could get hold of reception at the hotel and find out the room number for us. No, the lady at head office told me I had to phone the hotel back (this would have been the third call) and then phone her back at head office (fourth call) mentioning the room number and then she could confirm the booking.

Can you believe it? Again, all but effortless service and quite frankly, Ann and I decided not to stay the extra night because if that was our first contact, imagine the rest.

Suffice to say, the rest was not up to standard. When we arrived at reception, there was no one there, not even a bell to ring for service. I had to walk around the hotel to try and find someone. Somebody eventually came along to help, but the damage had been done.

We went from a potentially loyal customer who would recommend this hotel to our friends and colleagues, to unsatisfied customers who would do the exact opposite.

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

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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Franchisee Advice

3 Crucial Considerations For New Multi-unit Franchisees

Your marked success as a single-unit franchisee has led to the choice to multiply your achievement. But do you know what it really takes to move from owner-operator, to multi-outlet operator?

Diana Albertyn

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Multi-unit franchise ownership is a brilliant way to grow your business portfolio, once you’re successfully running your single location. Once you get the hang of being franchise business owner, adding one or a few more units could be the next logical step.

“The risk with having one store is higher than if you have more than one store, as the stores support one another. When the one is down the other one is up,” says multi-unit Montagu franchise owner Pierre Lombard.

You’ve probably already realised this lucrative option and are getting acquainted with multi-unit franchising. As this is new territory, you may want to consider these methods to multiply your success.

1. Make more discerning recruitment choices

When you opened shop at your first location, you were probably warned against hiring a manager, because they may not be as invested in the success of your business as you are. Now that you growing, you have no choice, so you need to be selective in your decision of who’s going to run the show when you’re not around.

Related: 3 Employment Best Practices To Apply In Your Franchise

The best way to ensure consistency in service and quality in each location is to always put culture fit over ability. While a certain level of skill is required to carry out the tasks required of a manager, attitude trumps aptitude when selecting capability running your locations.

“Place one of your outstanding managers or staff from your current store in the new one and have them train up any new staff,” suggests Francesca Nicasio, Retail Expert at Vend.

“That way the practices and attitude that you’ve cultivated in your business will continue into your new store.”

2. You need tech to help you be everywhere

Not only are Cloud technologies enabling franchise owners to scale quickly, easily and more affordably compared to on-site solutions, but these advancements mean you can remotely optimise inventory across all your locations, get a more accurate assessment each store’s performance and better understand your business – all you need is an Internet connection.

With the variety of Cloud-based solutions available today, you’re also able to connect your sales, staff, and customer information to give customers a seamless experience at all locations. You’re also able to receive alerts on low stock levels and automatically have it.

3. Set and stick to a specific standard

As a franchisee, consistency is standard practice. But that’s easy done as a single-unit owner than when running multiple locations. To make your mini network more manageable, ensure all your store understand brand standards beyond the operation manual.

Related: Multi-Unit Franchising Growing In South Africa

“Naturally, you have your franchise systems’ operations manual and procedures but the way you personally want to stamp your mark on customer experience, for instance, needs to be documented too,” experts at Inside Franchise Business advise.

Doing this reduces the stress of continually keeping tabs on staff, and frees you up to collect and collate the data you need to make smarter decisions faster.

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Franchisee Advice

Effective Ways To Bring Customers To Your Door

Here are a few tips from Local Area Marketing Manager of Cash Converters, Juan Botha, to assist you in bringing customers to knock on your door.

Richard Mukheibir

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Retail, craft, artisan and service businesses can’t rely on only carrying on trade online – you also need people coming through the door and engaging with your product. But how do they find you? Are you the neighbourhood’s “best-kept secret” – and not in a good way?

Your premises, the surrounding area and the audience for your brand are a unique combination. Get to know both inside out so that you can hone your products and your marketing to appeal to potential local customers. With all the pressure to run a website, Facebook page or maintain other online presence, it’s easy to forget the basics and fail to reach your closest customers – those on your doorstep.

Our Local Area Marketing Manager, Juan Botha, previously worked in advertising with local and multinational brands and he taught us how each store needs to make sure its marketing lives up to the pointer, “Act global, think local”.

Related: How Your Fast Food Franchise Can Attract Quality-Conscious Consumers

Here are a few of his tips:

Position yourself

If customers know about you but can’t find you, they’re likely to get frustrated looking for you and give up. If they don’t even know you’re there to find, your chances of using your sales skills with them or getting them to fall in love with your product are zero.

Remember the times you’ve spent searching for a bar or a restaurant hidden in a maze of city streets or a B&B somewhere along a never-ending country road? Those businesses have forgotten that first-time customers can’t be sure where they are. Draw up directions to include on your website or online page. Make sure a friend who doesn’t know the area well test drives them.

Brand yourself

People won’t notice you until they need or want what you are offering so keep reminding them of your existence. Being visible is key. Your fascia signage is part of your marketing mission to attract and influence potential customers.

Nobody walking to work or taking their dog out should think, “I wonder what that new place is about?”

As well as giving your business’s name and contact details, your signage must succinctly indicate what your business offers. If you have a display window, use this second important opportunity to sum up your offering – keep it interesting and updated.

Be a customer magnet

If you wait to build a business on passing trade, you could wait forever. Get on the radar with potential customers in the neighbourhood so they all know you exist and where to find you. Each time they’re reminded that you exist and how to find you, they will be prompted to come and seek you out.

You can achieve this – and help new customers trying to find you – by making a modest investment in lamp-post signage. Check local regulations with your municipality and ensure this signage reflects your brand visually. This is a win-win, reinforcing your brand in a potential customer’s mind and helping them recognise your premises as they approach.

Related: Why Your Franchise Brand Should Be Culturally Relevant

Connect locally

Part of marketing is making people interested in and attracted to your business long before their first direct contact with you. Embed yourself in the community by forming alliances.

If security is an issue, bond with the local SAPS, Community Policing Forum and security companies by offering them free coffee. If you have a huge bargain order of toys to shift, offer a few prizes to the local Moms ‘n Tots group. Plug into local business networks and offer to host a speaker or sponsor the audio equipment for a forthcoming meeting.

You’ll be harnessing the incomparable power of word-of-mouth and setting your business growing in a great direction.

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