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Researching a Franchise

The Customer Crisis In SA (And Why It’s Your Next Best Opportunity)

Customer service in South Africa is at an all-time low. The good news is that this offers your company an unprecedented opportunity to rise above the competition.

Basil O’Hagan

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It’s important to be positive and to always emphasise the bright side of every situation, but this needs to be said: There is a customer service crisis in South Africa.

Generally speaking, service has never been worse than it is today. One only has to look at:

  • The lackadaisical levels of service in business
  • Poor training of customer-facing staff
  • Low wage levels in all customer-centric roles.

Customer service performance in South Africa is like the Springbok rugby team’s performance against Japan or England’s loss to Iceland in football. South African customer service is really in trouble. When you lose like that, someone always loses their job — don’t let it be you. We need a change in tactics or a change in management.

I’m sure you can easily list examples of poor service you’ve encountered at South African businesses in the past few weeks or days alone. It’s not good.

Related: What Does Great Customer Service Actually Mean?

However, this is a great opportunity. In a business environment where bad service is almost standard, the businesses that do deliver world-class customer service will stand out like the shining lights of excellence that they are.

Excellent customer service is almost guaranteed to make you a leader in your industry and ensure your business succeeds.

Here are three secrets to success that you can implement today.

1Minimise the handovers

Every time you hand over a project, communication can break down. It’s a problem in South African business that too often a customer query or complaint is handed over from one staffer to another.

I once dealt with a media agency about a website I was trying to build. Every time I contacted them or came for a meeting, I dealt with a different person. I was told,

“Karen will be handling your project now.” Then it was Katlego. Then it was Grant. Then it was Dave. And every time, what I wanted for my website had somehow gotten lost in translation. I had to explain myself from scratch to every person. It was so frustrating! I’m not sure what was going on in that company. I would far rather deal with a one person show, where you only ever deal with Mpho and she knows your project inside and out.

Try to keep project handovers to a minimum. Especially in the systems of your company. Some firms have even built a system where you phone up and speak to one person, who puts you through to another person, who finds out what you want, then puts you through to another… This is an inefficient way of running a business.

Try to ensure that a customer gets through to someone who can actually help as soon as possible. And that every time they get in touch again, they speak to the same person.

2Make the wait worth it

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Waiting areas are a notoriously neglected part of South African retail. You know the vibe: A pile of magazines from 2006, a water cooler, perhaps some powdered coffee and some sticky teaspoons around the corner somewhere, and a dead potplant.

If you don’t have your smartphone with you, you’re in for a boring ten minutes. And those ten minutes will feel like 20. And when you’re still not attended to, you’ll imagine you’ve been in that waiting-room hell for half an hour.

Related: Go Above And Beyond With Your Customer Service

But consider this, the time your customer spends in your waiting area is time spent thinking. He’s sitting there flipping through a Garden & Home magazine from ten years ago, or fiddling on his phone, and he’s thinking to himself, “Now what could be taking so long!” He’s making up his mind about your business, evaluating you. If he’s having an unpleasant experience, he’ll eventually decide, “You know, I don’t have time for this,” — and he’ll never be back.

Instead of providing the bare minimum of waiting-area service, why not make the wait worthwhile. If you take your waiting area to a new level of excellence, it becomes an asset instead of a liability. Customers will come to you and look forward to the wait.

Here are some examples of how you can make your waiting area an asset to your business.

  • Provide a television with DStv
  • A selection of charging cables so visitors can charge their phones
  • A children’s area with crayons and colouring books
  • Play the radio — it’s a great form of entertainment; Talk, music or magazine shows — whatever suits your business
  • A couple of computer terminals with Internet access
  • A bookshelf of current reads — be they books, magazines or today’s newspapers
  • An automated coffee machine that provides cappuccinos, lattes and decaf options.

3Anticipate your customers’ needs

Once you’ve been in business for a few years, you know inside and out what customer requirements are. Of course, they’re not always the same, but there are many common issues that crop up.

Try to anticipate what a customer is going to want before she asks for it. It’ll reduce her stress levels and you’ll impress her with your initiative.

Related: Customer Service Success Secrets

Here are some examples of how to do that:

  • A child needs to decorate a shoebox for a school project. As a shop assistant at a craft shop, you know everything that goes into making one. Anticipate and provide everything so the mother doesn’t have to come back later that day, fuming, “Those stickers aren’t self-adhesive. We need glue!”
  • A barman knows what all the locals drink at his pub. When a regular comes through the door, he finds an ice-cold glass of his favourite Castle Draught waiting for him on the bar.
  • A customer at your cellphone shop is buying a new Sony Android phone after he lost his last one. Recommend he upgrade his contract to include insurance, as he is clearly a little absent-minded and may require it later.
  • Everyone’s reading spectacles are constantly smudgy. Start a service at your optometrist where anyone who comes in the door gets a free clean of their glasses. You’re simply anticipating what happens with every client.
  • As a hostess at a restaurant, anticipate the needs of your customers. When you show them to their table, tell them, “The bar is there, the toilets are upstairs and if you like, you can smoke on the balcony out there.”

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.

Company Posts

How To Become A Hi-Q Franchisee

Are you looking at investing in a tyre replacement and service industry? Look no further than the Hi-Q franchise.

HI-Q

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Established in 1999, Hi-Q is a successful and diverse multi-product, multi-brand leader in the tyre replacement and service industry with a network of over 130 franchisees nationwide.

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With the support of international tyre giant Goodyear, Hi-Q has established a solid reputation of ‘the one you can trust’, and the Hi-Q approach and philosophy is embedded in this.  We have the trust of our customers, our network and our suppliers – that’s why you can trust us to take you and your business to the next level.

When you’re working with people’s safety, trust forms the most significant part of the equation

Hi-Q introduced the original and innovative TyreSurance initiative – the only aftermarket tyre damage guarantee product that backs the consumer no matter the brand of tyre.

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Related: We Want To Invite You To Join Us On The Hi-Q Journey And Become A Franchisee

Each Hi-Q Franchise offers a broad range of brands within the different product and service categories that customers know they can trust, and at prices they can afford. Product and services include tyres, exhausts, shocks, batteries or brakes, wheel alignment or balancing, and a 10-point safety check.

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We have identified areas of opportunity to extend our Franchise footprint growth.

If you are looking to join a new franchise and you share in our values and vision, we would like to hear from you.

For further information on how to become a franchisee, call us on +27 11 394 3150

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Researching a Franchise

Col’Cacchio – Benefits Of The Franchise Model

Six key benefits of the restaurant franchise model – and what to look out for when considering a franchise.

Russell Otty

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For investors looking to the restaurant industry and considering a franchise knowing it has a proven track record and is therefore possibly a lower risk, there are a few key things to be aware of about the benefits of the franchise model, which if investigated, can also point to a franchise that is not for you.

Russell Otty, Chief Operating Officer of the Col’Cacchio Group, shares some of these key benefits and indicators of whether a franchise is for you:

1. Making the cut as a franchisee gives you the confidence that you are making the right decision

You may think psychometric testing, three days in a restaurant following a franchisee around, and a panel interview with the senior management of the franchisor, is a bit over the top, but the franchisor that puts you through your paces and assesses your ability and commitment to running the business, is doing you a huge favour and may even help you see this is not for you. It goes both ways, and after an intense courtship, you should know if you want to try a long-term relationship.

Related: Col’ Cacchio: A Passion For Pizza

2. Assistance with location selection and negotiation of the terms of your lease

One thing you can do to limit your risk is to not open a restaurant in the first place if your rent is not going to be reasonable or you simply won’t get customers through the door. The franchisor will vet and approve the site – they will have extensive insight into what has worked or not worked location-wise for their brand, and can assist you to weigh up the area and it’s potential to attract customers.

The commercial terms of a lease is very important – you can’t be too ambitious about turnover targets, and having the backing of a franchisor can be beneficial if a landlord becomes unreasonable.

3. Staff training and development tools on hand

Consistency is important with restaurant franchises, as a customer visiting a brand anywhere in the country, goes there knowing exactly what they are going to get. This is best achieved with solid training, perhaps access to resources such as training videos, and regular visits from franchise managers.

You should check with your franchisor what level of training and franchise support you will have on an ongoing basis. Ask about the ratio of field trainers and operations managers to the number of franchisees in the group. You want the franchisor in your restaurant in some shape or form, two or three times a month, whether it be the training manager, the regional franchise manager or the national operations manager.

4. Access to supplier networks to manage your input costs

Negotiating basket pricing with distributors regionally and nationally, the franchisor will leverage their buying power on your behalf. They should assist to manage your suppliers and make sure deliveries happen on time, and ensure that product quality remains consistent. They can also negotiate to ensure your input costs do not increase before the next menu launch – so you can ensure your margins remain intact.

5. Brand loyalty and locality marketing

When you buy a restaurant franchise, you gain a group of customers who know who you are, the food you serve and the way you make them feel. The money you will pay towards marketing each month gives you insight into the broader restaurant market, the experience of what is working across a number of sites, and how best to keep the attention of new and existing customers.

Some franchisors offer locality marketing assistance – your site and area has specific needs that other outlets may not have, or there may be events in the area that can be leveraged to run special offers. Ask if the franchisor offers this as a service, as it can assist you greatly to have an advantage over other restaurants in your area.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

6. Business development insights

The franchisor has access to insights gained across the group, and the systems that they have in place to track costs and increase profit margins, can be of huge assistance. If you are looking for business support, a franchise manager can be the one sitting with you telling you that you spent R2 000 too much on cleaning this month or saying you need to wait till next month to make that purchase. The level of business support you will have access to, is an important factor to consider, depending on the level of support you may require.

Recipe for success

Nine times out of ten, a restaurant franchise that fails, fails because the franchisee loses interest or lacks the commitment to make it work. Selecting the best franchise for you as the investor, or as a restaurant entrepreneur, is the most important first step you can take towards success, so do the homework.

Don’t assume that because you are buying into a successful brand that it will be a success – business is not an exact science – you need to do your own due diligence and take responsibility for your business, because it is after all your own investment.

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Company Posts

We Want To Invite You To Join Us On The Hi-Q Journey And Become A Franchisee

As the leader in the tyre replacement and service industry, we are invested in providing our network with the tools needed to thrive and grow in an ever-challenging market.

HI-Q

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This is an invitation to all innovative entrepreneurs who are seeking new and exciting opportunities – here’s your chance to become part of a winning team.

As the leader in the tyre replacement and service industry, we are invested in providing our network with the tools needed to thrive and grow in an ever-challenging market.

The Hi-Q Way

  • Hi-Q’s been voted the 1 tyre retailer by South African consumers in the Ask Africa Icon Brands Survey from 2010 – 2017.
  • Over the years Hi-Q has established itself as ‘the one you can trust’, with customers, the network and suppliers.
  • Hi-Q prides itself on first-class service, a multi-product/multi-brand offering as well as ground-breaking product innovations such as TyreSurance on all tyre brands.
  • Hi-Q has an extensive network of over 130 franchisees
  • Hi-Q has the support of the Goodyear value proposition.

If you are looking to join a new franchise and you share Hi-Q’s values and vision, please get in touch.

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