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  • Jun 24, 2015
  • British Franchise Association
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2015 bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year Awards: Award for Customer Focus – The finalists

Exceeding expectations has always been critical to a good business. In today’s world of online reviews and social media, where the consumer voice is magnified and views can be accessed freely and easily, it’s never been more important to make the right impression every time when it comes to customer service.

But those technologies can also be used to gain valuable, detailed insight into a customer base. The three shortlisted businesses for this award have combined modern methods with their brand culture to impressive effect, instilling the highest service standards across their networks of franchisees – with the results to prove it. This is how they’ve each gone about it.

Home Instead

2Customer Focus - Home InsteadThis is a people business. “It’s not about task or time. It’s about the relationships,” says Ruth Brown, head of development. That ethos permeates throughout: from franchisor to franchisees, from franchisees to caregivers, from caregivers to clients.

From day one, franchisee support is plentiful in attracting, training and retaining staff. By identifying caregivers’ key needs and developing softer management skills with their franchisees accordingly, Home Instead have highly engaged carers who build strong relationships with clients. And they can prove it.

Head office developed three key initiatives to monitor clients’ needs, identify trends, benchmark performance and encourage sharing of best practice amongst franchisees. One is a mystery shopper programme to develop call-handling skills of staff. The other two involve online, anonymous surveys: PEAQ (Pursuing Excellence through the Advancement of Quality) for clients and caregivers, and a franchisee satisfaction survey.

They’ve provided invaluable feedback, acted on by the franchisor to develop new strategies and community programmes that focus on customer service with laser-like precision.

With increasing numbers of clients living with dementia, a City & Guilds-accredited Alzheimer’s care programme was developed to meet staff requests for proper training in managing such conditions. To date over 2,000 staff have taken the training – the first developed by a domiciliary care company in the UK to receive such accreditation.

Clients’ families have been listened to as well. Leading on from the Alzheimer’s training programme, Family Carer Workshops help those living with a family member with dementia. Four one-hour workshops are offered free of charge, focused on recognising signs of dementia and modifying behaviour accordingly. More than 20,000 people, from firefighters to NHS staff to MPs, have already taken these workshops.

Community care is also on display with the development of a public education programme on preventing fraud involving older people. With clients and caregivers reporting increasing numbers of scams targeting seniors, Home Instead decided to raise awareness of the issue by providing tips and tools to families to avoid fraud schemes, and partnering with national anti-scam charity, Think Jessica. A toolkit was also created for franchisees to use in their local community to run Fraud Awareness Workshops.

So what have been the results of such a comprehensive focus on client care, feedback and satisfaction? PEAQ has revealed an engaged, confident and well-trained staff, proud to work for the company. More than 90% of clients reported that their caregivers take an interest in them and go the extra mile. And franchisees, 91% of whom responded to the call for feedback, reported strong levels of satisfaction and 87% said that head office “will act on the results of this survey”. They did. Measure, listen, respond: relationships go a long way.

McDonald’s

3McDonaldsMcDonald’s are well-known for their rotating menu items in campaigns such as Great Tastes of America, which regularly introduce new time-limited products to drive footfall to their restaurants.

Last year the brand began a campaign that took rotating food events to the next level with the introduction of the first crowd-sourced promotion in the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector.

Taking advantage of digital technologies to engage their customers and encourage greater brand connection, McDonald’s launched ‘My Burger’ – offering customers the chance to create their own burger using an online portal. An online customer insight forum, McChat, helped to determine a choice of over 80 ingredients, allowing for millions of possible combinations. Customers could vote for their favourite creation from the tens of thousands entered, sharing their selection via social media.

Hundreds of thousands of votes were cast on Facebook and Twitter to leave 12 finalists, who were invited to create their burger in the McDonald’s head office kitchen for a judging panel including the company’s UK MD, the president of the Franchisee Leadership Group and Celebrity Masterchef winner Phil Vickery. Winning burgers then featured on menus in restaurants across the UK in rotation, with all franchisees taking part in the campaign. My Burger was a big success. Being the first of its kind in the QSR sector, it positioned McDonald’s as innovative and had particular traction with the hard-to-reach millennials demographic. By incorporating franchisee input from the outset and carrying out extensive consumer research both before and after the campaign to assess its impact, head office ensured maximum benefits for the McDonald’s UK network.

Results showed a sales and profit uplift well ahead of projections, with a significant increase in average sales per restaurant. And being customer-led, it also increased brand affinity with a younger audience, something that benefits every franchisee.

As Gareth Pearson, head of franchising for McDonald’s UK, says: “Working together with our franchisees we’re better able to respond to what our customers tell us they want, at a pace which is right for them. Whether it’s the introduction of new menu items or restaurant reimaging – involving our franchisees in the development process isn’t just important, we believe it is fundamental to our success.”

McDonald’s continues to innovate and demonstrate an ability to keep ahead of a fast-paced consumer market, using research and analysis to ensure it meets the demands of a highly eclectic customer base.

Revive!

300 Revive f psdIn a business with multiple national contracts, the highest level of customer service is paramount; when the work is carried out by a growing network of different franchisees in an evolving marketplace, where just one slip could jeopardise the bigger contract, maintaining standards is a difficult but critical task.

To meet the challenge, over the last two years Revive! has changed its approach to customer care, led by a £200,000 investment in technology, new systems and new services in response to customer demand.

New initiatives include the Revive! app, which streamlines admin functions for franchisees to give more time to focus on customers. It provides online reporting, offers booking facilities and can generate quotes. One national account already uses this app exclusively for their work with Revive!

There been a particular focus on training too with the development of a dedicated training academy. Half of all Revive! technicians had achieved ATA accreditation by the end of 2014; head office hope that figure is 90% by the end of the year.

Feedback from franchisees has been listened to. Regional network meeting discussions highlighted the training wanted by the network, duly launched in a series of workshops, including customer service days led by operations director Terry Mullen, announced at the company conference.

But above all else, a single-minded focus on the customer has underpinned all developments. More customer-facing staff have been recruited at head office, including a customer service manager last year. A compliment card launched in January encouraging Revive! consumers to email head office with their thoughts; aimed at increasing direct customer feedback to head office, in one month they had more compliments than in the whole of the previous 12 months combined! And mystery shopping ensures brand consistency and standards across the network.

In direct response to customer demand, Revive! has also developed new services. Dealerships asked for faster alloy repairs, leading to new specifications for the company’s wheel vans which now service several wheels at once. And static sites have been increasingly popular with dealerships, with head office working closely with franchisees in four different towns to set them up.

The results from all the work on customer standards have been exceptional: new records are being set and broken monthly for both network and individual franchisee turnover, and several franchisees have broken £500,000 annual turnover.

Managing director Mark Llewellyn has a simple message: “Customer focus is the most important aspect of every business.” He certainly practices what he preaches.

Winners of the bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year awards, supported by Express Newspapers, will be announced at a black-tie gala dinner on 25 June at the ICC, Birmingham, in front of a record audience.

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