- Player: Basil O’Hagan
- Companies: O’Hagan’s, The Brazen Head, Basil O’Hagan Marketing
- Contact: www.bohmarketing.co.za
A customer complaint is never a fun thing to deal with. Especially as you probably know exactly what went wrong. If only you could explain to your customer why things happened that way. It’s not all your fault. You want to say something in your defence. But rather don’t.
A customer complaint is not the time for long-winded explanations or — worse — an argument about who’s right and who’s wrong. Try to follow this script:
- “I understand.” Make it clear that you hear what your customer is saying and that you understand the problem.
- “I’m sorry that happened.” Apologise and empathise with their experience. Nobody likes to find their car’s lights were left on and their battery is flat, for example.
- “It’s not up to our usual standards.” Acknowledge that this is not acceptable in your establishment.
- “Let me make it up to you.” Here is where you compensate your customer for their inconvenience by offering extra value.
This four-stage script is worth committing to memory. It is a tried-and-trusted way to manage a complaint and a recognised method of converting an unhappy customer into a satisfied one.
Be in the moment
When serving your customers, serve them totally and wholeheartedly. Be present physically and psychologically. Be mindful. Nothing annoys customers more than being served half-heartedly by someone whose mind is clearly elsewhere. It shows disrespect.
So when serving customers in person, ignore phone calls, don’t carry on a conversation with one of your colleagues and don’t be engrossed in some text banter on your phone.
That kind of behaviour says that even though this person is giving you their hard-earned money, you can’t be bothered to give them your full attention. So give respect where respect is due, give your customers your full attention.
A little while back I was in a clothing retail store. I had chosen some new pants and shirts and was ready to pay, but the cashier took a phone call while I was waiting, and proceeded to talk to the person on the other end about his personal health problems.
I was fairly anxious to pay and get to my next appointment. I am sure he could see I was agitated to conclude the transaction, but he persisted in talking to his friend. Not a good impression, and on top of that, there were other customers behind me.
The expert as salesman
There’s a well-known specialist running store in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. It’s the kind of place that sells running shoes, shorts, shirts and the like for the long-distance running fraternity. You can enter yourself for all of the local races there — it’s that well known within running circles.
But what really sets it apart is the service that it delivers. If you’re a runner, the most important purchase you make is your running shoes, so customers are naturally looking for advice about the various types of footwear available.
At this small store, in a suburban shopping centre, the staff all seem to be runners, and they are so passionate about their sport that they can’t tell you enough about the various shoes. They are actually excited about the advances in the new ranges and they will tell you at length what each particular pair offers.
They’ll enquire about your running habits and your goals, and ask you to run a few steps so they can gauge the pronation of your foot.
The staff here are so in love with the sport of road running and the products they stock, that the process of selling is secondary to them. Compare that with other shops, where the staff is obsessed with making sales.
Any query about a product attracts a rushed answer from an assistant who just wants to know your size, so he can fetch you a box of shoes and send you on your way.
Shopping at the neighbourhood running store is a far better experience, which is why so many runners go there. It employs experts who happen to be salesmen, not just expert salesmen.
Try to live this kind of passion in your business. Learn to love the process — the human interaction of selling. The sale will take care of itself.
“Have you bought from us before?”
There’s a difference between a regular customer and a new customer. The regular understands your systems, he might have a favourite assistant who he deals with, and he probably knows exactly what he’s looking for. He still deserves the very best service, sure, but he’s already a fan of your store. He’s making a return visit, after all.
The new customer doesn’t know how your store works, but he’s giving you a chance. He deserves the kind of extra-special treatment that will turn him into a loyal return customer.
You need to identify your new customers as quickly as possible, so you can give them that special treatment. Ask them directly: “Have you been to our store before?”
If she hasn’t, you’ll be able to give her a warm welcome, show her around, explain the little idiosyncrasies of how you do things and help her get what she’s looking for.
Then, why not give her a special ‘new customer’ discount, or some other extra-value item to make her visit even more memorable? You’ve just turned a new customer into a regular customer!
Let no customer go unnoticed
I once walked into a restaurant where the entrance was unattended. After I entered, I noticed a couple of waiters chatting at the bar, so I found myself a table. I guess they assumed someone else was helping me, because they just left me to my own devices.
I found a menu, and saw some dishes that looked interesting, but after five minutes, when no one had taken my order, I just walked out. Again, no one said a word to me.
Does this story ring any bells? Sadly, it could have happened in any South African town or city, where poor awareness of customers is all too common.
In your store there should be several pairs of eyes watching the entrance like a hawk. Any customer coming in should be — not pounced on, exactly — but immediately acknowledged and welcomed.
Being too lazy to pay attention to who’s in your store is just as bad as not acknowledging someone you have noticed. Even if you’re busy with another customer, tell the second customer: “Hi! I’ll be with you in a minute.” It’s basic respect. Quite honestly, people who don’t have the decency or the motivation to acknowledge their customers shouldn’t be working in retail.
South Africans also have a bad habit of not standing up when a customer walks into their retail outlet. This also shows a lack of respect for the customer. It’s a pretty poor show.
Respect your customer and the sale will follow.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
How To Write An Operations Manual For Your Franchise
After establishing that your business is franchise material, ensure you’ve created a clear roadmap to success for your franchisees.
Documenting the replicability of your business is key to launching a viable franchise operation. Without manuals and instructions on how exactly you carried out your concept to its current level of success, your franchisees won’t accomplish the results you anticipate.
“Unless you can capture your business on paper, you cannot claim to have a business system to sell. Even detailed documentation may not be enough,” says Franchise Direct’s Lorraine Courtney.
“You may need to provide structured education programmes for new franchisees and their staff to teach them your business system.”
With the help of an experienced franchise consultant, you can devise the critical document that contains all the aspects of what make your brand successful.
Why you need a franchise operations manual
If you’re second-guessing the importance of crafting an operations manual, then you shouldn’t go into franchising. “Your operations manual is your go-to document for deciding who is responsible for what in any franchisor-franchisee relationship,” says Dani Peleva, Managing Director at online marketing agency, Local Fame.
According to Peleva, your manual should generally include each franchisee’s contractual obligations to you as well as the complete details on how you expect them to fulfil these obligations.
“On a basic level, it tells your franchisees what you expect of them. It gives them all the information that you’ve accumulated while operating your franchise,” says Peleva. After familiarising themselves with this manual, franchisees should know how the information can be used to build their own business up to be as successful as the original store.
What an operations manual will do for your business
When all your franchisees know what’s expected from them as they run their respective locations, the entire brand is then able to provide a cohesive, coherent customer experience, which is crucial to your success as a franchisor.
A good manual will also help you build better relationships with your franchisees as they won’t need to constantly contact you to clarify aspects of the business they’re not sure of. If they’re applying the information in the manual, they should know everything you know about how to run this type of business, meaning they’ll make good profits – for you and themselves.
“One of the steps most potential franchisees make before signing an agreement will be to contact your other franchisees. A strong manual will help your current franchisees return positive feedback,” adds Peleva.
How to decide which elements to include
Obligations detailed in your franchisee agreement will have to correspond with steps on how to achieve them in your franchise manual. As a new franchisor, you cannot be expected to have a manual as thick and wordy as your established counterparts.
Peleva suggests covering aspects such as:
- How to set up a franchisee location and start trading
- How daily operations will be conducted
- How development or expansion will be controlled.
“Your operations manual should always include as much detail as possible regarding operational practices that are to be followed,” says Peleva. “A simple list item that states ‘this obligation must be fulfilled’ is not helpful. Looks always to the ‘how’ of the issue and you’ll cover everything you need to.”
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