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Franchisee Advice

Happy Customers = Repeat Sales

Customer service specialist, Nathalie Schooling, MD of N’lighten, discusses the importance of great customer service and how to add real value for your clients.

Nadine Todd

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Q: What does customer service mean to you?

The most important thing for any business to remember is that ‘customer service’ is not a noun, it’s a verb. You need to be doing it, not saying it. And it’s also important to remember that it’s not just a question of whether you deliver customer service, it’s a question of how you do so. The right approach focuses more on delivering the positive experiences you know your customers actually want and less on getting them to hand over more cash.

If you follow this customer centric approach to customer service, it results in loyal customers who know they can depend on your business as a reliable, trustworthy, and competent business that appreciates them, values the fact that they choose to spend their hard-earned cash with you, and knows that it’s a pleasure doing business with them.

Q: Has the importance of good customer service grown?

Without a doubt! While good service has always been at the heart of business success, the world is a far more competitive place today than it was yesterday. And it will be more so tomorrow. It’s really not easy for businesses to compete on price anymore, so they have to find other ways of differentiating themselves from their competitors – and customer service is the one sure-fire way of doing that.

Any business can advertise, market, and run promotions – and given the tough economic climate, most are. But there are still very few businesses that understand the importance of great customer service – let alone practice service excellence. So, if your business does, and is, you’re already streets ahead of your competition. And it will show on your bottom line.

Conversely, the risk of failing to deliver great service is greater than ever. Social media has meant that the world has shrunk to the point that thousands, even millions, of people can instantly know about the bad (or good) experience a customer just had at your establishment. It’s worth making the customer service effort to maximise the chances that your business is ‘liked’.

Q: How important are employer/employee relationships to customer service?

Mutual respect and understanding between employer and employee is critical. You cannot and will not achieve anything near the customer service commitment you desire if your employees couldn’t care less about your business. In many ways, realising a solid customer service culture begins with cultivating a solid staff care and communication culture. When you recognise, acknowledge, and reward the value your employees add to your business, they respond by delivering more value. It’s a basic rule of business success and it lies at the heart of a customer service culture.

Q: Are there any starting points for businesses that want to improve their customer service?

There are plenty of ways for any business to start a customer service improvement journey. The first step, though, is to get a clear understanding of why you’re doing it and what the consequences could be of not doing it.

Once you’ve done that for yourself as the business owner or manager, start by:

  • Changing your culture. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s definitely do-able. Make sure your new customer centred strategy has top management buy-in, then educate your staff on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This education never ends. You need to be a customer service champion and constantly remind everyone to keep on serving.
  • Recruiting the right people. Focus less on looking just for the highest qualifications and more on employing people who have an obvious passion to serve and will genuinely care about your customers.
  • Finding out what your customers actually want. Not only will they be happy to tell you what they expect from your business and its employees, they’ll feel good that you thought highly enough of them to ask in the first place.

Q: What are the basics of customer service that all companies should adhere to?

It doesn’t matter what business you are in, there are five non-negotiable customer service priorities you simply have to deliver:

  1. Make each customer feel genuinely special. They need to know you value their business.
  2. Give your customers a voice. Listen to what they have to say.
  3. Embrace complaints. Stop seeing the complaining customer as a ‘pain’ and start seeing them as loyal enough to tell you what’s wrong so that you can fix it, rather than simply going elsewhere.
  4. Create great customer experiences. Customer service is not just a smile and friendly greeting, it’s a total positive experience from start to finish.
  5. Never lose focus. Raising your service levels sets expectations. If your service declines, don’t expect your customers to just accept this. You need to strive to keep getting better, and they’ll keep coming back.

Q: What are the costs involved in good customer service?

There is no cost, but there may be some investment required. The difference is that one drains your bank account while the other grows it. In reality, excellent customer service need not cost you anything. After all, how much does it cost to change your attitude? And in the long term, good customer service will actually drive your business costs down while driving the value for your customers up. That’s because when you do things right the first time, you actually save money – and your customer saves time and hassle.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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Franchisee Advice

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.

Diana Albertyn

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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.

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Franchisee Advice

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.

Diana Albertyn

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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.

Related: Insights On Recruitment That Could Affect Franchise Performance

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.

Related: 3 Things You Should Consider Before Buying Your First Franchise

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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Franchisee Advice

3 Ways Communication Helps You Run Your Franchise Better

Managing your business as an independent owner may have been challenging at the beginning, but – as you’ve come to realise – the successful operation of a franchise network requires an extended set of skills.

Diana Albertyn

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“When it comes to a multi-location business such as a franchise, effective communication is vital,” says Dani Peleva, Managing Director at online marketing agency Local Fame. “So what happens when you’re struggling to connect with the franchise network you have in place?”

It may be time to upgrade your franchise management skills, because the success of your franchise network has a direct correlation to how you integrate feedback systems into your management processes.

Have a clear comprehension of the challenges your franchise encounters, keep an open chain of communication between yourself, franchisees and managers, and maintain regular interactions between everyone in the network. These are some of the most crucial aspects of successful franchise management:

1. Understand the challenges you face

A thorough understanding of your business requires dedication to regular and consistent groundwork for first-hand experience on how the day-to-day operations of the business are conducted.

Related: 3 Core Strategies For Building Successful Franchise Organisations

“Seeing and talking to the people that make your business will help you understand the challenges that franchisees face and the systems they need to drive higher profitability and growth,” says Rosie Niblock, Marketing and Communications Manager at Proactive Marketing.

“That way you can work more effectively to make improvements to franchise management systems logically and within the financial grasp of all franchisees.”

2. Get personal through regular visits

You never want your franchises to feel neglected. It’ll demoralise them and possibly drop sales, profits and their ability to keep the business running as you intended. Maintaining regular contact and sharing as much information as possible – when you can – fosters strong relations with your franchisees.

Empowerment through information and communication makes a difference in the business and helps franchisees make decisions in favour of the business and to make sure that they all pull in the same direction in terms of customer satisfaction, says Alan van der Westhuizen, executive manager of new business sales at Fournews, a 20-year-old franchise holding company for News Café, Krispy Kreme, Moyo, Brooklyn Brothers, Smooch, Cafe Fino and Go! outlets.

Ensure your response to these concerns is swift. “If not discussed they could fester ad create undesirable rumours,” says Niblock.

Related: How To Write An Operations Manual For Your Franchise

3. Create events for network collaboration

One of the most important aspects of managing your franchise is meeting with all your franchisees, at least annually. “Franchise conventions are almost certainly the biggest tool when it comes to building profitable engagement,” says Peleva. “They’re one of the most important things to focus on when you’re considering how to lead your franchise network.” According to her, a successfully attended and executed convention will let you:

  • Boost your network-wide productivity
  • Hugely increase your profitability
  • Drive passion for your brand

Communicating with your franchisees is the best way to identify problems, work towards solving them, and building a pleasant and fruitful relationship with your owners.

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