As a franchisee support representative, one of your most important problem-solving tools is a well developed questioning strategy. You can use thoughtful, well-crafted questions to define a franchisee's problem and to determine the franchisee's needs. But a good questioning strategy has a far broader purpose: it will help you gather useful information about the wider forces surrounding the problem.
Your questions should be crafted to help you to find out:
- the magnitude of the problem;
- the dollar cost of the problem;
- any preconceptions the franchisee has as to how to solve the problem;
- the time frame and logistics of implementing a solution;
- whether the proposed solution can be carried out with available resources;
- the degree to which the franchisee is open to change;
- the key players in the decision making and the role each one plays;
- the internal and eternal conditions affecting the problem-solving process.
Determining the Magnitude of the Problem
Sometimes a Franchisee's responses do not adequately convey the urgency of the problem. In these cases, you must probe beneath the surface by asking "feeling-finding" questions strutted to determine the degree of importance the problem holds for the Franchisee. Some good examples of these probing types of questions are:
- "How important is ________________ to you?"
- "How important is it to solve the problem now?"
- "Do others feel as strongly about ___________ as you do?"
- "What priority would you give this, on a scale of 1 to 10?"
- "How valuable would a solution to this problem be to you?"
The Cost of the Problem
Economics are a strong factor that will sway the franchisee, either toward a given solution or against it. Therefore it is important to determine the difference between present costs versus the costs of the solution you are advocating. To determine this difference, you should be asking frank, fact-finding questions regarding finances and the assumptions the franchisee is using to arrive at his/her estimation of costs. Later, you can use these same assumptions in justifying the costs of your solution. Some typical questions might be:
- "What expenses do you incur when this happens?"
- "What is the average cost of each ________?"
- "How much are you paying now?"
- "What do you charge for each _________?"
- "Does that include maintenance costs?"
- "What dollar value would you put on that?"
- "What is your total labour cost for those employees?"
- "Does that include fringe benefits?"
Important factors to inquire about are: labour, waste, lost sales, maintenance and repair costs, supplies, depreciation, and cash flow.
Uncovering the Preconceptions
Franchisees will often have a preconceived vision of the solution to a problem. Before you offer your solution, assess where they are in their thinking by asking questions such as:
- "What experience have you previously had with this?"
- "What are your current thoughts on solving this?"
- "What impressions did this experience leave on your employees?"
- "What do you think your employees already know about this kind of project?"
- "Do you think any of the people involved might have some misconceptions about the way this problem should be handled?"
Always give serious consideration to your franchisees' thoughts and preconceptions in implementing or modifying a solution.