“My decision to take up this franchise was not just about the money. The need for something more was deep within me and when this opportunity came along, I decided to quit my job and start being an entrepreneur. I was done being a partner manager and managing office politics. I love what I do now and hopefully my team does too, because I have made a conscious effort to make them feel comfortable”. This is a conversation I had recently, at an experience session for franchisee partners of a client. It is a good time to be an entrepreneur in India considering the consumer boom. To set up the business most franchisors provide the standards, processes and training as these form the core of the customer experience. However to deliver something extra, there is more that the franchisee needs to look into. This is because the franchisee is setting up a new organisation that blends the characteristics of the franchisor and their own.
Shared values and mindsets that work towards a common revenue goal tend to make stronger partnerships. Simply working with partners on the basis of a single parameter ie revenue potential is not conducive to a long term mutually beneficial partnership between the franchisor and franchisee. A partnership that is crucial in delivering the extra is the one that binds the franchisee and the team together. It is again shared values and then jointly working towards delivering that extra for the customer.
A Caring Culture
Would you want your team to take care of customers? The answer is obvious but does the team that cares get looked after as well. A culture that respects and encourages each member to grow not just in terms of skill but aptitude will also result in higher retention. All too often training, recognition and rewards are forgotten and the result is lost team members and customers.
“I don’t care .. i want you to ……” is a statement often heard in work environments. In a caring culture I believe this line has no role to play. It is the leader’s responsibility to care and understand why a situation has developed and take steps to resolve it. “Being Real” creates the best platform to connect. Understanding and learning from mistakes by self and others goes a long way in making the team feel as a single unit.
Engage your Customers
Each business has systems that track customer comments, complaints etc. Monitoring performance of your organisation is a good start. To do more, it is important to know the barriers that are being created by the organisation towards its customers. It could be long wait times on call, store etc or something more. There is a saying that if you want to really know how you are treating your customers, “stand in your own lines”. In doing such a simple thing, one would be able to gauge what is the actual experience at various moments in time and how the organisation treats different kinds of customers. There are moments when the experience may have slipped.
In moments such as these, knowing how the organisation responds is critical. Being engaged with the toughest customers provides an opportunity to not only come up-to their expectations but also to enhance processes and other related aspects. The details of an experience normally get shared in the social circle of the customer. Increasingly this social circle is also available online. It could be on blogs, social media sites and other forums. Keep a track of comments about your organisation on these sites. This information travels fast and can impact your organisation .
The blogger is a clear example of a new of way of communicating with customers. Businesses are finding it increasingly difficult and expensive to attract the attention of customers with traditional tools. In such a situation, word of mouth feedback by existing customers play an important role. This has now been extended to social site such as orkut, facebook and others.
Tools such as mobile phones, emails and social media sites are increasingly being used for for reaching customers though care should be taken to send messages only if the customer has permitted the same. Have you considered using Google Maps, Adwords etc? If not, try them.
One of the most interesting ways of communicating with customers and engaging them in a dialogue is a blog. Blogs are an inexpensive way of explaining services, sharing perspectives, learning something new and regularly updating subscribed customers through RSS feeds.
An avid blogger with fairly regular readers wrote about a service experience that was not so good. In normal circumstances, the organisation would not have even known the customer was dissatisfied as no complaint form was filled. However, since the franchisee was a regular internet user, this blog post was noticed and immediate action was taken to resolve customer concerns. The customer comments were addressed in less than six hours of the post. The customer was delighted enough to post another comment, this time praising the organisation. Not only that, this bloggers comments were picked up by a regular reader and put in a forum of enthusiasts who then visited another store and blogged about it and even put up photographs. It was positive feedback on the blog that generated more opportunities for the organisation.
The service and the experience that an organisation provides is the only real differentiator and this is now tracked not just internally but by current and future customers on the web.
Have you done something similar or do you know someone who has? Do try these tools and see the impact on your business. Share your thoughts ….