How can we be better?
Imagine you are one of your customers. And say you run a Greek restaurant in Sandton. Throughout your meal, you are probably thinking little thoughts about how your experience could be a bit better.
“I wish they had a blackboard with all today’s freshest products on it.” “I wonder why they don’t have any imported coffees?” or “They should offer some lunch specials”… All of these little musings are thoughts you don’t bother to share with management — but they are guaranteed ways to improve customer service.
So make it your mission to find out what your customers really think about your store — ask them for feedback. Try to unlock all those little ideas that occur to your customers. They are pure gold if you want to improve your customer service.
Put your ego aside. Don’t look at these kinds of suggestions as complaints or criticism. Customer feedback is really just advice that can help you run a better business.
Related: 3 Secrets To Franchising Success
Don’t underestimate a good vibe!
Some people just have an engaging personality — they’re fun. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly why, but you know it when you meet them. Some people call it the X-factor, or charisma, or enthusiasm or positivity.
Whatever you want to call it, these people just have voema! They have drive and a positive attitude that make them fun to be around. These are the kinds of people that you want in your organisation. They’ll bring an amazing vibe to your store.
And that’s also why there’s no substitute for the face-to-face interview. When you’re hiring, you can read a thousand emailed CVs, but until you meet someone in person you won’t be able to gauge their personality, and what they can bring to your business in terms of energy, fun and positivity.
When you find people like this in the hiring process, give them a chance. Skills can be taught, but personality can’t.
Outdo! Outsell! Outserve!
You are in a constant race with your competition. Perhaps you’re too much of a nice guy to admit it, but you are. Whether you’re repairing photocopiers or selling Asian food, there is another business somewhere in town doing the same thing. You need to convince customers that coming to you is better than going to your competition.
Make it an article of faith for your business to do everything better than they do. You’re going to be compared, so make sure that you’re always better by comparison.
Is their welcome at the door a bit lukewarm? Then make sure you greet customers with the most heartfelt “Hi, how’re you doing?” they’ve ever had. Do they answer the phone after four rings? You should do it in two! They don’t cater for kids? Instal a play table and some colouring books immediately!
Customers will be blown away, and they’ll see that you’re streets ahead of the competition. Pretty soon the word will be out that you guys are the best copy shop in town. And it’ll be because you’re winning at customer service!
Make positive word of mouth happen
Clearly you want your customers to spread the word about your amazing store. Positive word of mouth is an invaluable form of neighbourhood marketing that can’t be faked.
You can encourage positive word of mouth by making specific offerings or having a specific customer-service habit that is geared to being remarkable, so that customers will tell their friends about it.
What would you like people to say about your store? What is it about your retail outlet that makes it unique in your neighbourhood market?
Be sure you know what that is, and if you can’t think of anything, create an offering that is remarkable. Now try to visualise the exact word-of-mouth compliments you want your customers to share about you.
Here are some examples:
- “They always make me feel welcome. The staff are so friendly!”
- “They really go out of their way to give service!”
- “They always remember my name!”
- “If you arrive after closing time, they don’t mind opening the store again.”
‘We guarantee our food’
Consumer appliances and vehicles usually come with a guarantee. But other products and services can also be guaranteed. It gives customers confidence in your store.
My own experience of this occurred at our restaurant, when I told our staff one day that we were going to guarantee our food and our service and we were going to put it up on our in-store DVD as well on our promotional material.
Our guarantee read something like this: “We guarantee our service and food at The Brazen Head. If you are not satisfied with the food or service, we will refund the full price of your meal and we will give you a voucher for the replacement value of what you would have spent.”
Although initially the staff were petrified, wondering how many people might take advantage of this, in fact nearly all customers were quite satisfied with our service.
Over an eight-month period, we had only one person who wanted their full money back. They were given a voucher which we honoured. This type of promotion also raises the bar for your staff performance so that they must live up to that quality.
Good staff morale is vital, and a compliment to a staff member can do wonders for their energy and levels of performance. Take a couple of seconds to acknowledge them and their good performances and you’ll have a motivated team ready to represent your company.
Communication in general is vital. A short, quick chat can often get a motivational message across quicker and more effectively than a long, drawn-out meeting.
Here are a few motivational phrases you may wish to try. See what a difference it makes! Try to say these with sincerity and when they’re justified.
- “Good morning.”
- “That was great! Just the way we practised it!”
- “You certainly made Mrs Smith happy today!”
- “Can you think of a better way to do this?”
- “You’re one of the best staff members we have!”
- “You’re always on time, Joe, we really appreciate that.”
- “Come on Tom, I know you can do better than that. I have seen you do it before.”
- “If we pull together, it’ll be a breeze.”
- “If anyone can do it, I know you can do it, Sabelo.”
- “You guys really make a good team! Well done.”
- “I’m proud of you all.”
- “What do you think, Brian?”
- “I need your help.”
- “You’re right, Kuli!”
- “We’re glad you work here!”
- “Thank you!”
Factors To Consider Before Signing Up As A Franchisee
Franchising is a brilliant way to get into business with not many entrepreneurial skills as it comes with a roadmap to follow for success.
You’ve been considering entrepreneurship for a while, and now that you’ve finally raised some money and been approved for a loan, you’re ready to quit your 9-5 job to run your own business. You may even already have your eye on a particular franchise, but while franchising is considered an easier and more low risk way to get into business, are you suited to being a franchisee?
“The question is not ‘is franchising right for you’, but rather, are you right for franchising? Because if you don’t have the right attitude and skill set, it can be a very expensive mistake,” says small business expert and author Steve Strauss.
Franchising may seem like an easy way into entrepreneurship, but along with an established name and proven systems, come rules, regulations and little room for creativity. If you’re not ready to become a franchisee, but want to go into business for yourself, you may find yourself struggling to operate within the system’s blueprint.
Ask yourself these three questions before proceeding with the process of franchising:
1. Will you be able to follow the directions of the franchisor?
You’re buying into an existing and proven concept so it’s safe to assume that the franchisor knows best, and so you have to be open to learning and following guidelines for business success. If, for example, you have experience in advertising and think you have an improved technique of marketing the franchise, you may want to change the advertising material provided by the franchisor – don’t.
“Being a franchisee means following the directions of the franchisor, even when you think you know a better way,” advise experts from strategic and tactical advisory firm MSA Worldwide.
“In addition to initial training, you need to be prepared to accept coaching and advice from the franchisor on how you operate or market your location.”
2. Do you have the need to experiment?
Lou Groen may have had success in launching a new menu item that McDonald’s approved of in 1962, but not all franchisees are that lucky. Stick to the plan and limit deviations to the menu or anything that involves the customer experience.
If the franchisor’s concept doesn’t involve deliveries, offering them to your customers may cause issues for others within the franchise system. “If it’s not part of the franchisor’s concept, you’re deviating from the concept and therefore, no longer running your store as a franchise,” according to MSA. Franchising arguably limits innovation opportunities, so if you’re prone to implementing creative ideas and evolving business offerings based on said ideas, rather start your own independent business.
3. Are you a team player?
These first two questions you address should already lead to the realisation that everything you do affects everyone in the franchise chain. One bad experience at your establishment and suddenly, all the stores are affected by bad press or unsavoury social media attention.
“Other franchisees are relying upon you to offer to the consumer a consistent level of service, product quality, and brand message. You are going to have to work with others in the system in making decisions,” advise experts.
Remember that as part of a chain of other business owners, you may have to accept that majority rules when it comes to decisions where franchises do have a say.
3 Ways You Can Innovate And Improve As A Franchisee
Although your role as a franchisee isn’t really to innovate, there’s room for creativity if you go about it the right way.
When you signed on the dotted line after reading and agreeing with the franchise agreement, you knew that you were buying into a proven system where everything has already been thought out for you, and all you have to do is follow the formula for success.
But you’re a franchisee longing to put your own imprint on your business, and it may be frustrating to feel boxed in by a formula, while you’re bursting with new ideas.
“Franchising, by its nature, discourages innovation on the part of franchisees, who are required by their franchisors to follow very specific policies and procedures on exactly what they will sell, how they will make or deliver it,” notes Randy Myers, contributing editor for CFO and Corporate Board Member magazines.
This doesn’t mean your ideas will never see the light of day though. But before you approach your franchisor with your brilliant insight, consider the following steps that may well lead you down an innovative path:
1. Get the basics right first
Franchisors know that customers like consistency as it makes them comfortable and trust every location of their franchise they choose to visit. But, even the strictest franchisors get hungry for new ideas. It’s the timing that’s vital for your idea to even be considered.
“Most good systems don’t want new franchisees to even think about innovations until they learn the existing system inside out and prove that they can execute it like a star,” said Jeff Elgin, CEO of FranChoice, a network of franchise referral consultants. “At that point, they have become successful, their base is secure, and they have earned the right to consider innovations.”
It’s wise to ensure you’ve learned your franchisor’s existing business model before you suggest any improvements.
2. Do your homework
So, you’re doing well and you’re sure your idea will be welcomed as a crucial innovation to the franchise system – but research your proposal, suggests Kim Stevens, VP of Regional Development and Director of Franchise Awarding at Woodhouse Day Spas. “Especially if you’re suggesting something that would impact all franchisees, create a business plan before approaching your franchisor,’ she says.
It’s also good to have another look at the franchisor’s policy for accepting new ideas to ensure you’re prepared for tough questions before you propose your idea.
3. Speak to the right people
Elgin recommends you first identify the person at the franchisor’s head office who’s responsible for receiving new ideas. “Many of the ideas a franchisee comes up with will already have been proposed by another franchisee,” notes Elgin.
To avoid wasting your time, no matter how great you think the idea is, present it as early as possible before spending anything developing the idea.
3 Pricing Tactics To Recession-Proof Your Franchise
As consumers tighten their belts, how can you ensure your franchise is their first choice in the midst of strict budgeting and curbing of spending?
Whether or not there is a dip in the economy, you have stock on shelf you need to sell. But, if consumers are cash-strapped, you have to make every effort to ensure that your franchisees aren’t running at a loss.
“There’s no doubt that shoppers are more discerning about what they need and how they shop. However, quality remains significant and brands that continue to delight their customers will reap the benefit of being chosen,” says Ailsa Wingfield, executive director marketing and communications: Africa, at Nielsen.
Why not give customers the best of both – value for money at a competitive price – by applying one or more of the following pricing tactics in tough economic times:
1. Consider a greater focus on your house brand
“The days of in-house retail brands being treated with a fair amount of disdain by South African consumers have come to an end,” says Wingfield.
The global performance management company’s research has found that R38.4 billion of the amount consumers spend at hypermarket and supermarket tills – or R10 out of every R50 – is spent on private label products. South African consumers are beginning to feel that the quality of these house brand products is as good as that of established name brands.
Since research indicates consumers are further likely to shift between branded products and retailer private label offerings, it would be of benefit to your franchise if your in-house products are perceived as viable value alternatives of similar or better quality.
2. Sell products in bundles
This the method combining various products and selling them together as one bundle for a lot less than if they were being sold separately. This method is great for moving items that might be selling slower but also great for achieving a higher value perception in the minds of consumers.
CEO of GuruShots, Gilon Miller, says there are several bundling techniques you could apply, including:
- Pure bundling, where you offer a group of products that are only available as a bundle and aren’t sold separately.
- Mixed bundling, where you offer products that are sold both as bundles and as individual units.
- New- or lesser-product bundle, where you bundle a successful product with a newer or less successful product – the stronger product will help the other product find its way into a new market.
Bundling results in cost efficiency, more competitive pricing and might also encourage customers to regard a single store as a source for several solutions.
Related: How To Recession-Proof Your Business
3. Add even more value
When you price your product in alignment with the value your customer sees in it, you’re preventing both you and your customer from the possibility of losing out on value.
Calculating your optimum price, involves asking yourself these questions:
- Will your customers save money or time by using your product or service?
- Is your product or service is unique?
- Will your product or service help customers gain a competitive advantage?
- What does the competition charges?
“Value-based pricing ensures that your customers feel happy paying your price for the value they’re getting,” says Patrick Campbell, co-founder and CEO of Price Intelligently. “Pricing according to the value your customer sees in your product prevents you from short-changing yourself while creating an experience for customers that’s most aligned.”
The more value your customers see in your product, the more they will be willing to pay for it, ultimately improving your bottom line. When your pricing is reasonable, they won’t need much convincing to make the purchase at your franchise instead of your competitor’s.
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