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Go Above And Beyond With Your Customer Service

Great customer service often means going above and beyond what is expected. But that doesn’t mean that you need to launch expensive initiatives. Exceptional service starts with the small things. Here are six simple ways to ‘wow’ your customers.

Basil O’Hagan

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1. The five-star guarantee

Here is a very simple but effective neighbourhood marketing tactic. Put up a sign near your waiting area or in your reception — a neat and professional one in Perspex, steel or wood is ideal.

It should simply say: ‘5-Star Service Guarantee’ and have five golden stars underneath it. This sign serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it reminds your staff to keep service levels high, and secondly, it puts your customers at ease. People are prepared to pay a higher price if they know they are going to get five-star service.

Related: Customer Service Success Secrets

2. Welcome new customers

Many of your customers are coming to your store for the first time. Welcome them with a welcome sign that simply says: ‘Welcome’.

Moreover, if the environment and the manners of the staff make customers feel welcome and comfortable, they’re more likely to spend time and money there.

If you have a waiting area, do you have a proper coffee machine? Or do you simply have a tin of typical South African coffee and some half-finished milk? Does that create a welcoming impression? No, it doesn’t. If you’re going to do it, do it right!

Look at your business. If you visit a doctor’s reception area that’s dusty with ancient magazines to read, well, that doesn’t give a very good impression of the appointment you are about to have.

If the doctor can’t look after his reception area, how well is he going to take care of your health concerns? The same goes for your business.

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3. Have a distinctive greeting

You must surely be familiar with the Hawaiian “Aloha!” greeting that the staff use at our local Kauai stores. It sets them apart from other health restaurants in South Africa, and is in keeping with their brand values.

Another distinctive greeting I once received was when I had occasion to call up the Kruger Lodge just outside Hazyview in Mpumalanga. This was the welcome: “It’s a wonderful afternoon here at Kruger Lodge. How may I help you? My name is Michelle”… Now isn’t that so much better than the usual “XYZ Company,” rattled off so fast you battle to hear it.

Think of a trademark greeting that you could institute at your company, whether it’s in the physical store, online or in your telephone communication. If you choose well, people will notice and you’ll have set yourself apart from all your competition.

How often don’t we go to a restaurant and we hear: “Hi my name is Tracy, I will be your waitress for this evening”. How about: “Hi, my name is Tracy, I’m here to make sure that you have an absolutely wonderful evening!” See the difference?

Related: 6 Ways to Make Your Customer Service Better

4. Know how much your customers mean to you

A good way to boost your customer-service ethic is to sit down and really think about how important your customers are to you.

After all, their business is what stands between you and poverty.

Thanks to the income their support generates, you are able to feed and clothe yourself and your family, send your kids to school, put petrol in your car, shop for groceries and even go on holiday at the end of the year. That’s quite something to be grateful for! Keep reminding yourself and your staff of that, every single day.

These are the people paying your bills and supporting your lifestyle. Appreciate them. Now put that gratitude into your service attitude.

Many of you may remember the famous actor Christopher Reeves, who starred in the Superman movies many years ago. He fell off a horse and was paralysed from the neck down. When interviewed on Good Morning America he mentioned the word ‘grateful’ ten times in a 30-minute interview. He was grateful still to be alive. Gratitude and positivity were at the core of his outlook. This is something to emulate in your business outlook.

5. Never forget the freebie

Free-wheel-alignment

People want value. And a good way to deliver that is to add a little free gift with every purchase. Throw in a free wheel alignment with every set of tyres. Include the rice for free with every curry take-away purchased. If you’re running a community newspaper, give your client a free ad for every six ads placed.

It doesn’t have to be something too expensive. It could just be a lollipop or a chocolate that you give to every customer, free with every purchase. What about a suit bag with every suit dry-cleaned? A bottomless cup of coffee with every breakfast meal?

Giving people more than they expect means you’re providing value and also shows how much you appreciate your customers. That lollipop is a sign of respect, and customers will take notice.

Related: 8 Keys to Award-Winning Startup Customer Service

6. Remember that apathy kills

Some of the worst service I’ve yet received was at a take-away drive-thru in Sandton, supposedly the commercial heart of the country. I drove up to the microphone where I was to place my order to be greeted by dead silence — no welcome, no hello.

I had to shout into the microphone to get someone’s attention and place my order. Then I found myself stuck in the car queue for 35 minutes, with no movement. If I could have left I would have. When I eventually got to the front and asked about the delay, the employee just shrugged and said: “Big order.” They certainly won’t be getting any big orders from me in future.

Does the above anecdote sound familiar? Staff or management who don’t care about their customers can be the death of any business. In the above example, a polite greeting and better communication would have made a massive difference to the customer experience. Sadly, queue management is a forgotten art in many South African businesses.

If something goes wrong, and a long queue develops, too many clerks sit grimly at the counter, when what they should do is go out onto the floor and address the group. Whatever the reason is, communication is the key to managing the situation. Sadly, many workers simply don’t care enough to do that.

That is the apathy that makes customers go away and never come back. But if you can inspire your staff to communicate better and manage such situations, it can be what sets you apart from your competitors.

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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Franchisors

The Secret Sauce To Great Franchise Leadership

The upside down pyramid puts the franchisee at the center of everyone’s effort. Success follows.

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I am often asked to share the secrets of franchise success with my clients and audiences of franchise executives as I travel the country spreading the Franchise Bible strategies.

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The most critical of the three core strategies is what I call the upside down pyramid strategy. This is more than a catch phrase or slogan. It must become a true belief in order for this strategy to affect a franchise organization for the better. Lets start with some basic facts to clarify.

What it is                              

The upside down pyramid is a servant leadership model that makes sure that franchise owners always come first. This must be genuine for all members of your team.

Related: 3 Challenges To Establishing A Franchise System And How To Overcome Them

Franchising is different than any other business model in this way. A franchise organisation simply cannot thrive unless the entire corporate team is on board with this commitment. If it’s not, it would be like a medical team where some members simply did not care about healing the patient. It is a non-negotiable.

What it is not

This strategy is not a hand-holding philosophy that rewards lazy or non-compliant franchisees. One of the exciting outcomes from this system is seeing the franchise owners step up and go above and beyond the call of duty when they feel truly appreciated, valued and respected by the franchisor. I have seen amazing things happen from franchise communities that felt connected and part of the bigger picture.

The challenge

Many franchise organisation executives have a lot of experience as traditional employers so they tend to try to “manage” their franchise owners as though they are employees. In most cases this is the beginning of the most common problem that I call the traditional pyramid model with the boss on top.

The key to remember at this point is the reality that the franchise owners are not employees of the company. In fact, the exact opposite is actually the case. The franchisees invested their hard earned money into the franchise company and pay an ongoing royalty as well. This means that they are the customers of the franchisor and the franchisor should value them as such.

How do you implement this strategy?

I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in the franchise world. I can usually sense the company culture pretty quickly when I am among the franchise executive and support team. It is no surprise that the most successful franchise brands have a pretty solid grasp on this strategy. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Train: Introduce this strategy to your executive and support team and give them the opportunity to ask questions and learn. Remember that this may be a bit of a paradigm shift for some, so they may need time to get it down.
  • Reinforce: Use ongoing reminders during your meetings, training sessions and conferences to keep the ball rolling. Your system must be based on things that you and your team will do consistently for a long period of time. A short burst of change followed by a return to the former status quo doesn’t work, so make sure you can commit and stick with it.
  • Insist on buy-in: Everyone on your executive, training and support teams must buy in to this commitment for it to work. You have heard that one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. This is very true within a franchise organisation. You may have to replace team members if they refuse to genuinely commit.

Related: Col’ Cacchio: A Passion For Pizza

Leadership tip

You have also heard the saying that the fish starts to rot at the head. The common denominator that I see in failing franchise organisations is almost always due to poor leadership. I often say that a decent business model with great leadership will usually thrive and a great business model with lousy leadership will usually fail.

Don’t feel bad if you are not the best leader for your business. I have seen business founders step aside and hire in leadership experts to run with their creation. Knowing that someone else is a better leader than you for your franchise organisation is a sign of great discernment and wisdom. If you are not sure just ask your franchise owners to give you a grade as the leader. I asked a franchise CEO recently if he would get an A from his franchisees and he said, “Probably not.” I advised him to get back to work and make sure that he can earn that A.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Franchisors

Get Your Franchise Running Smoothly – Even When You’re Not There

Does the thought of taking time off from your franchise outlet make you nervous? Then you have to learn to run your business instead of letting it run you.

Diana Albertyn

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“A sign of a successful business is one that can operate without your physical presence 24/7,” says Brad Sugars, start-up expert, author and founder of ActionCOACH. While your franchise systems and operations are designed to run smoothly and consistently, is your staff trained to be productive in your absence?

“Franchises are already by nature systematised operations, so it boils down to how you as a business owner hire and train people to get the necessary jobs done,” says Sugars.

If you know a sick day will cause havoc in your store, an assessment of how you’re running your business is needed. Are you really running a successful franchise if things fall about without your supervision? Take a step back and consider the following steps to manage your franchise without it controlling your life. Pretty soon you could book that vacation.

Determine your role in the franchise

Are you managing the franchise, taking orders, doing admin and handling every other aspect of the business? Then you’re not hiring the right people, because those roles should be filled by people who can be left to carry them out unsupervised.

Related: How To Write An Operations Manual For Your Franchise

“And if you don’t have the right people for the job then it might be time to start hiring, so you can free up your franchise’s most valuable resource – you,” says Pieter Scholtz, co-Master Licensee for ActionCOACH in Southern Africa.

“You need to get an idea of how you can hire people to take repetitive or administrative tasks away from you. Ask yourself: ‘Do I really need to be doing this?’” says Sugars. Your business cannot run optimally if you’re the single most-knowledgeable and capable person there.

Lead with clarity

You have long-term goals for your business, perhaps even acquiring more locations and running multiple units. While growth is good, you need to share the load and ensure everyone employed in your business is working towards the same goals, otherwise, it’ll be difficult to get there. Sugars suggests asking yourself the following:

  • How will you make your vision a reality?
  • What makes you different from other franchisees and business owners?
  • What kind of team do you want to recruit and create?
  • How does all of this deliver value to your customer?

Conveying your vision can help ensure employees know how to get to the end-goal faster and more efficiently.

Related: 3 Steps To Ensure Your Franchisees Flourish Your Support System

Plan for long-term cash flow

Loyal customers ensure a constant flow of cash through the franchise and this requires exceptional service and the building of strong relationships. “Target your top-spending customers and establish a good relationship with them for long-term cash flow,” Sugars suggests.

Although the broader campaigns are covered by the marketing fee you’re paying to your franchisor, it’s wise to focus on your local’s tastes and suggestions when looking to deliver an experience worth returning for.

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Franchisors

Are Your Employees On Board With Your Franchise’s Brand Promise?

You cannot run a successful franchise if your staff isn’t aligned to the brand’s values.

Diana Albertyn

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Are the people who work in your franchise outlet familiar with the franchise’s brand promise? As a franchisee, you’re required to deliver a uniform experience, so any customer who walks through your door feels like they’re at the same store the franchisor has across multiple locations. If your employees aren’t able to embody the franchise’s brand promise at every interaction, you have a challenge on hand.

“If your company’s brand promise is a warm and friendly atmosphere, you can’t deliver that if your employees aren’t warm and friendly,” says Robin William, Senior Practice Consultant at Gallup.

“Selecting the right employees is essential to providing the right brand service. Hiring people who can’t behave the way the brand wants them to will doom a service initiative.”

Related: How To Write An Operations Manual For Your Franchise

When employees know what’s expected of them, they’re able to keep the promise the franchise makes to customers – leading to higher customer and employee engagement, trust, and revenue.

More than a mission statement

Even if you’ve ensured every one of your staff members know the brand’s mission statement, how can you be sure they’re able to exemplify it in their behaviour every day? William suggests that you do the following:

  • Create structures and mechanisms to consistently instil brand values in the franchise’s culture.
  • Discuss brand behaviours daily.
  • Demonstrate brand behaviours yourself every day.
  • Praise the efforts of individuals who demonstrate brand behaviours.
  • Hold employees accountable for not exhibiting brand behaviours.

Once you’ve clearly defined the right brand behaviours, it’ll be easier to have staff on board who deliver your franchisor’s brand promise.

Internalise the culture

Here’s a conundrum. Do your staff know what to do in a situation where a customer’s request might not be aligned with the brand promise, but the brand promise is always to deliver on customers’ requests? It’s a tricky situation, but if you’ve clearly articulated the promise, your staff will know how to “Behave the brand”, says William.

“Do whatever it takes to deliver on its brand promise. Whether it’s focusing quality, fast service, customer care, or low prices,” he says.

“Employees must execute brand and service behaviours consistently, and frequent reminders can help employees understand and internalise these behaviours.”

Related: 3 Challenges To Establishing A Franchise System And How To Overcome Them

Empower your staff

Investing in your staff is the best way to encourage them to act in line with your brand’s promise. Once they understand why it’s important to act along the lines of your brand, they will feel empowered and motivated to do so.

Starbucks trains employees to memorise customers’ names and preferences in line with their promise of making everyone who visits their stores feel at home. Apple’s strategy of hiring nice, smart people who are passionate about service and the product aligns with the company’s belief that knowledge can be improved, but personality cannot.

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