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Franchisee Advice

What Does Great Customer Service Actually Mean?

Sure, it implies an excellent level of service, but it also means showing one’s appreciation for a customer’s business.

Basil O’Hagan

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You find out how good your customer service is by asking your customers about it. It pays to conduct regular customer satisfaction surveys to check how you’re doing. These can be cards that you ask your customers to fill in while they’re in your store, or short online surveys that you email to your database.

These surveys should be short and succinct — no more than four or five questions — and easy to understand, fill in and submit. On the part of the respondent it should be incidental, but the info they provide is key.

Customers can be asked to rate their most recent visit, or the general quality of their various visits to your store. Once you tabulate the results, you’ll know exactly where you stand. Are you on the right track, or do you need to up your game? Either way, knowledge is power.

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

Play the role you’re paid to play

customer-serviceThere is a limitless number of challenging situations that can arise in the course of a work day. But a lot of them can be foreseen and prepared for.

The best way to prepare your employees for some classic workplace situations is by roleplaying.

Here’s how to do that:

  • You play the role of a customer in your store
  • Your staffers play themselves
  • You pose an unexpected problem
  • They react spontaneously as they would in that situation.

This type of roleplaying simulation is as close as you can get to a real workplace problem. It’s way more realistic than you questioning your staff, saying, “So, what would you do if…?”

This way, you can simulate complaints about poor service, a customer losing their temper — all the way up to how you would handle a load-shedding power outage.

These re-enactments aren’t just you checking up on your staff, they’re also a form of training. Your staff get to experience what a situation is like before they encounter it for the first time ‘live’ in the store.

The comfy waiting room

Waiting rooms don’t have to feel like the kind of place your soul goes to to die. I don’t know why, but they’re usually just some chairs and a table of old Readers Digest magazines from 1997.

Why not have a computer, an iPad, and some charging stations so people can charge their phones? How about free WiFi? You should also instal a television with DStv showing sport, movies, reality TV or news, depending on your customers.

A free, sophisticated coffee machine would surely be much appreciated, or a vending machine with snacks and cool drinks. This will do so much for customer satisfaction, not to mention employee morale.

There are many retail stores where part of the experience entails a short wait. This is an opportunity to improve your customer’s experience at your store or office, instead of making it worse. Have waiting areas air-conditioned, avoid loud music, and keep the lighting bright and upbeat.

Businesses that could benefit from upgraded, contemporary waiting areas include:

  • Doctors, dentists, etc.
  • Cellphone stores.
  • Car-repair garages
  • Tyre dealerships
  • Hair salons
  • Any office lobby, entrance hall or reception area.

Related: Go Above And Beyond With Your Customer Service

The fastest ‘Hello’ in the West

customer-service-greeting

Why not introduce a rule in your outlet that every customer entering the premises has to be greeted within ten seconds of setting foot in the door?

That’s not even particularly fast, to be honest. You could probably make sure you greet every customer within five seconds. The point is, you and your team need to welcome every customer into your place of business as quickly as humanly possible. These people have come to support you – they must be warmly acknowledged like the precious blessings they are.

Imagine if you were hosting a braai at your house and one of your guests came in through the door. Would you let them loiter in your entrance hall for a while before you bothered to go over and say hi? Of course not! You’d go right over there, shake their hand, say howzit and invite them inside. “What can I get you to drink?” you’d ask them. “Come through to the braai area!”

Also, if you’re seated when a customer enters your shop, pay them the respect of getting to your feet while you serve them. Stand up.

I walked into a major bookstore the other day and the lady at the check-out point as well as her manager were eating lunch, sitting down and talking to me. It left a poor impression. They should remember to treat their customers with warmth and hospitality. Make them feel at home.

Show Your Gratitude

Just as offering a warm, sincere “Hello” is vital, it’s also important to conclude your business dealings, with a heartfelt “Thank you.”

If you’re lucky, you might complete dozens of transactions in the course of a day. Be careful not to develop a mantra that you repeat verbatim every time you hand someone their debit card back, or give them their change.

“Thanks for coming.” “Cheers, thanks a lot.” “Have a nice day.” “Shot, drive safely.”

These all might have begun life as meaningful sentences, but if you robotically repeat them a few hundred times, they become meaningless — and your customer senses it. Particularly if you’re already scanning for a new customer as you hand them their change.

Instead of having a routine statement that you repeat every time when you finish dealing with a customer, thank them properly. Tell them sincerely how grateful you are for their business.

They’ll appreciate it, and they’ll be back.

Related: 6 Ways to Make Your Customer Service Better

Meanwhile, here’s a treat

Sometimes you have no alternative but to make your customers wait. Perhaps their table isn’t ready, their car is still being vacuumed, or your previous appointment is running longer than expected.

Think of novel ways of making this waiting experience as painless as possible. Even better, make it interesting. I don’t mean a pile of five-year-old magazines on a table. Try to come up with a distinctive, value-added feature that will win your customers over — even before they get to the main event.

How about a bowl of apples? Or free WiFi? Or a free drink at the bar while they wait? Having a distinctive protocol to ease the wait will set you apart from your competitors. You might even be remembered for it.

In the motor industry, waiting areas are very important. I don’t think enough motor dealerships and tyre dealers realise the importance of waiting areas. One day a manufacturer is going to design a waiting area that will stun the industry, and whoever that may be will immediately gain a competitive advantage! This will be a real customer-service ‘wow’!

Whatever you invest in your waiting room scheme, you will earn it back a hundredfold in repeat business.

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.

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Franchisee Advice

6 Top Tips For Reading Management Accounts

There is a golden key that reveals the secret of whether your business will survive and thrive. It is keeping tabs on the figures that summarise the strength of your business – your monthly management accounts.

Richard Mukheibir

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There is a golden key that reveals the secret of whether your business will survive and thrive. It is not the brilliance of your business concept. It is not your talent for talking clients to sign on the dotted line. It is keeping tabs on the figures that summarise the strength of your business – your monthly management accounts.

Related: 6 Things You Need To Know About Profit And Cashflow

Many entrepreneurs are usually more interested in operations and find product development or sales much more enjoyable than catching up on accounts. I sympathise – I’m one of them! So if you feel the same way, my top tip is always to make sure that you partner with or employ someone who can oversee the finances for you.

But that does not mean you can let the figure boffins and the finances take care of themselves. To function properly in your business, you need to know the outcome of your sales and development strategies – and the story of that is told in your management accounts.

 If you never look at your management accounts, it is like blinding yourself in one eye. It means you risk being literally blindsided by a big surprise, whether it is heading for a significant loss or being confronted by an unexpected provisional tax payment.

Here is how Engela van Loggerenberg, our Group Financial Manager, puts management accounts in perspective for our new franchisees. She urges them to focus on six key areas:

  1. Priorities: Management accounts can help you pinpoint areas that you need to prioritise, whether to capitalise on growth or because they are not performing as well as you hoped.
  2. Strength: All businesses aim to grow their assets over time and the balance sheet in your management accounts will reflect whether and how you are achieving that.
  3. Control: A strong balance sheet is one that shows you have your business liabilities well controlled. The key marker here is your current liquidity ratio, which results from dividing your current assets by your current liabilities. To keep your business healthy, always aim to keep this ratio at least 2:1.
  4. Revenue: Ideally, you want to see your revenue grow month by month. Check your income statement both for the trend in actual revenue and also for actual against budgeted revenue to check how well your strategies are delivering results.
  5. Profitability: Of course, revenue is not the same as profitability. You need to know your gross profit – the basic figure of your sales less the cost of those goods – and net profit, which also deducts a range of other expenses including taxes. Track the percentage of these two profit figures as well as the actual cash amount they represent to keep a check on whether your costs are creeping up too high.
  6. Finance: Most businesses at some point want to finance their growth by borrowing from a bank. A set of well-regulated management accounts is a prerequisite to obtaining finance.

Your management accounts do not have to be particularly complicated to give you these vital pointers – and if you are figure-shy, the more straightforward the better.

The important thing, though, is that you do not allow yourself to be too scared to ask if there is something which is not clear to you. That is the way to keep control of this key to your business fortunes and to keep building your business from strength to strength.

Related: 7 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Managing Cash In The Business

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Company Posts

A Three-Pronged Approach To Franchise Success

Danie Nel, head of business development for Cash Crusaders franchising, says the brand’s success over the past 22 years 
is attributed to the sentiment that “a profitable franchisee 
is a happy franchisee.”

Nedbank Franchising

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What is your current footprint?

220 Stores. We’re looking to increase that number by another 20 stores for the 2018 financial year, which will then bring us to a total of 240 stores. Depending on the economy, we’re looking to grow our footprint even more to around 300 to 350 stores nationwide in the near future.

What are some of your brand’s biggest achievements that other franchises can learn from?

Our ability to read the retail market and innovate to stay ahead of times. We have recently launched an online platform where customers can sell their goods or borrow money — all online. This was a first for online retailing. One other achievement that I would wish to highlight is the launch of our mobile phone range, Doogee, exclusive to Cash Crusaders. Personally, having the honour of opening our 200th store was a tremendous achievement.

Franchisor involvement has also played a big role in the success of the organisation. Our CEO Sean Stegmann and other senior managers are as much involved in the business as any other operations manager or operator.

There is simply no ‘ivory tower’ management in our business and it makes a huge difference.

Related: How Sorbet Franchisee Kate Holahan Is Nailing Success By Following Her Dream

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered and how have you overcome these?

Some of our daily challenges include securing a premises at a favourable rental and securing a franchisee with sufficient unencumbered capital, who is credit- worthy. Once the store is open, cash flow management and stock procurement is key.

In addition to this, it’s a challenge to achieve profitability immediately and to meet franchisee expectations. It’s also vital to ensure superb customer service and to retain those customers in the current retail and economic climate. I would say that our single biggest challenge is to retain and to build our customer base.

What attracts franchisees to Cash Crusaders?

Our unique retail model that allows for multiple streams of income through one business. These three profit centres include: New goods (variety of imported quality goods), second-hand goods (which we buy directly from the public, either through customers coming directly to our stores, or via our house-buy system offered by some of our stores) and secured lending (a financial service where customers can borrow money against valuables, determined at store level, and the loan is repaid within 30 days — or the contract is renewed for another 30 days with interest and service fees charged).

Why is it important for successful franchises such as yours to have a strong banking partner and how does it benefit both the franchisor and the franchisee?

Gone are the days where you just got a deposit book or cheque book and a little business loan from your bank. Banking has become more sophisticated and the technology that the bank offers is as important as its service, making life for both the franchisee and the franchisor easier on a day-to-day basis.

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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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