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Ask the Experts: Ensuring multi-unit franchise consistency

By Steven Kramer

Q: What management problems do you see with multi-unit franchise ownership?

Steven says:
With multi-unit franchising scenarios, franchisors will often reduce the fees and royalties for the franchisee, who can also save further money by employing fewer ‘back-of-house’ managers to oversee operations—but while such an arrangement is certainly economically efficient, it can lead to significant hurdles in streamlining communications between the franchisee and the various store managers, shift supervisors and crew members. It’s easy for the lines to get crossed.

A recent study found nearly half of decision-makers in the service industry do not inform store employees about policy changes, product launches and promotional campaigns. This lack of communication is especially problematic for franchisees, whose success relies heavily on consistent branding.

And the problem can go both ways. Another common struggle for multi-unit franchisees is a lack of visibility of each of their locations’ daily operations.

Q: What are the solutions to these particular types of problems?

Steven says:
Franchising success requires an efficient line of top-down, unified communications, so front-line customer service representatives (CSRs) can accurately implement upper management’s messaging—such as instructions for assembling a promotional display or preparing a quick-service restaurant’s (QSR’s) newest sandwich—in a way that is repeatable from one location to another.

With today’s digital technology, franchisees can easily send messages and push notifications to their employees via mobile devices. This way, individual store managers do not need to spend time repeatedly making announcements to each employee in sequence.

In turn, employee assessments, polls and surveys can be managed digitally to collect larger troves of useful data for the franchisee, making it easier to compare performance across locations and identify any areas that need improvement.

Q: How can all of this information be acted upon to improve the business?

Steven says:
As mentioned, one of the keys is to ensure consistency across all units. If the franchisee conducts a poll of customer satisfaction and finds it is higher at one location than another, he/she might implement a training module for employees at the less successful location, so as to help elevate their performance.

Videos and quizzes can help ‘gamify’ training for employees, so they feel more actively engaged. This way, even veteran employees are likely to accept new instructions, rather than instantly tune out any suggestions of change.

Increased visibility also opens the door to better employee recognition, as franchisees can take notice
of individuals’ positive work. Employee recognition has been shown to boost both engagement and retention
of staff.

When customers walk in the door of a franchise, they expect a familiar, positive experience, which will only be possible to deliver when there is consistent brand messaging. This is why multi-unit franchisees must foster effective, unified communications, not only with their store managers, but also with employees at every
other level.

Steven Kramer is  co-founder and CEO of Montreal-based WorkJam, which develops workplace software for retailers and the service industry. For more information, visit www.workjam.com.

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