Keep those lines of communication open with your franchisees
Franchisees often look to their franchisor as a "parent figure" - a pillar of strength to lean upon and a chief source of advice, knowledge and creative inspiration. If you as a franchisor fail to live up to this larger-than-life image and do not provide sufficient advice and direction to your franchisees, they will feel they are being shortchanged on the basic services that they are paying for.
As a franchisor, you can offer needed guidance to your franchisees through a structured communications program that is carefully organized and administered. The franchisor would serve as coordinator of the program. Franchisees' questions and problems are submitted to the coordinator who would then (i) route them through the proper channels in the organization and (ii) always follow them through to a satisfactory conclusion.
Ongoing communication is the essential tool needed for this system to function. Communications methods can include:
- Phone calls - a good place to start, as personal contact is the basis of effective communication.
- Video conferencing (Skype, Facetime, etc).
- Email and text messaging.
- Snail mail - not as effective these days due to its inherent inability to meet expectations of speed and instant gratification.
- In person meetings.
- Ongoing collaboration among franchisees.
- Regional meetings and conventions.
- Franchisee advisory councils.
- Social networking.
Phone calls and video conferencing
The telephone is still one of the most effective tools for motivating, instructing, and guiding franchisees. It is your key resource for keeping in personal contact with them, through:
- pre-arranged phone calls,
- cold calls (which can elicit a more honest, less rehearsed conversation),
- conference calls with several franchisees who have expressed similar concerns,
- Skype or Facetime video calls which provide a more personal face-to-face environment.
Email and snail mail
If you don't make regular written contact with your franchisees by email and regular mail, they may begin to feel stranded and isolated. They may experience lower morale, which could lead to a drop in performance and corresponding downturn in sales. Therefore it is important that a regular policy for mail and email contact be established which can include:
- regular newsletters with monthly or quarterly reports, Q&As, business tips, and items of interest;
- flash bulletins with important and timely news;
- personalized letters which reduce the distance and establish rapport between franchisor and franchisee;
- report forms to be completed and submitted by a franchisee - communication is a two-way street, after all.
It is vital to establish one-on-one personal contact to further the franchisor-franchisee relationship. In-person meetings can help you achieve the following purposes:
- troubleshooting issues that the franchisee is having with the system, with business goals, with marketing, etc.;
- sales support to help the franchisee achieve targets and grow the business;
- service support to help ensure that the franchisee is providing the highest level of quality to customers;
- training of staff and management;
- overall guidance and direction.
Ongoing collaboration among franchisees
Inter-franchisee cooperation is an invaluable tool for strengthening the franchise system. If pre-existing behaviors or attitudes are hampering lines of communication between you and a franchisee, it can be difficult to achieve your desired results. That is when you want to enlist the aid of one or more successful franchisees to help out their peers who are struggling. The "weaker" franchisee may be more willing to accept business coaching and assistance from a fellow franchisee with a proven track record.
Cooperative pairings of this sort can be accomplished by setting up a "buddy system" where franchisees can seek advice from each other on specific topics, or can mentor each other to achieve certain goals.
Regional meetings and conventions
Conventions and regional meetings offer an exciting forum for communication between a franchisor and its franchisees. For franchisees, they offer an opportunity for discussing issues, problems and methods of operation. For the franchisor, conventions and regional meetings provide the means to present sales promotion programs, advertising campaigns, future developments and other important plans to a large number of franchisees at one time. Their motivational appeal is unmatched. It is therefore imperative that these types of meetings be properly planned and carefully executed to ensure that they fulfill their potential and meet the expectations of the participants.
Franchisee advisory councils
A franchisee advisory council gives franchisees a means of providing valuable feedback to the franchisor on how they believe the franchise system can be improved. The council asks franchisees for input which is then evaluated in terms of its applicability to the franchisee community as a whole. Suggestions for changes and improvements which will benefit all franchisees are then presented to the franchisor. The franchisee advisory council gives all franchisees a change to not only make their concerns heard, but also to be a part of the decision-making process.
Set up a Twitter stream, Facebook page, Youtube channel, and Google + circle to keep in touch with your franchisees and keep them up to date with the information, guidance, and resources that are important to their business. Social networks establish instant and ongoing communication with franchisees, area representatives and other members of your franchise team.