Standing out from the crowd
Facing much competition, professional service franchise systems must find unique ways to provide top-notch customer service throughout the year and gain additional clients.
One of H&R Block’s main products for franchisees to help customers is the Advantage Prepaid MasterCard.
“If a client comes to us and wants his/her money right away, we can offer it on the card,” says Whelan. “We preload it right in the office with their money and they can use it to shop in stores or buy items online with no fees attached.”
Additionally, to help attract clients, H&R Block offers a free service called ‘second look.’ The franchisee will review any prior year’s assessed tax return done by H&R Block or another tax company if the client brings in the notice of assessment (NOA), to ensure nothing was missed and no errors were made. If the franchisee finds a deduction or credit was missed, he/she will then file the adjustment for a small fee.
Whelan says another competitive advantage is Canada’s U.S. tax preparation, which some franchisees are trained to offer.
“Our U.S. specialists are all certified by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS),” explains Whelan. “This service is quickly growing in Canada because more than two million Americans live here and the IRS recently introduced legislation to track them down if they have been living outside the U.S. for a few years. Some may not even realize they are obligated to continue filing tax returns to the U.S.”
Beyond tax season, Liberty Tax is available to help clients throughout the year with questions about the CRA’s post-assessment reviews, file prior year returns or provide copies of tax returns that are required when buying a house or completing a mortgage.
To promote such services, the chain has turned to ‘guerilla marketing’ techniques to make new customers aware of where the franchises are located and what they offer.
“We use ‘wavers,’” says Bushey. “We have a maple leaf mascot called Leafy waving to customers as they drive by, to build our brand and draw attention to our tax offices. Leafy is used in Canada while a Statue of Liberty is used in the U.S.”
Liberty Tax also implements business-to-business (B2B) and people-to-people (P2P) marketing strategies where franchisees visit neighbouring businesses at the beginning of each tax season, taking coupons, cookies, donuts or pizza. This way, franchisees reintroduce themselves each year, because in the summer, clients are not necessarily thinking about taxes. As January and February approach, the topic comes back up and they want to ensure they are top of mind when it comes time to start thinking about filing tax returns.
Bushey says Liberty Tax also spends a lot of time training franchisees to retain customers and capture referrals from them, especially by being polite and friendly with them. There are also efforts to make franchises kid- and family-friendly with toys, colouring books, movies and TVs. Snacks, coffee and water are also offered to customers as they wait for their returns to be completed.
“We are not just a tax office, we are a customer service office helping clients year-round,” says Bushey.