No matter how big your business, getting your customer service right is essential if you want to be successful. However, that is far easier said than done – especially in a post-pandemic world. Whether you are new to franchising or an established multi-unit franchisee, failing to provide top-notch customer service spells disaster. As the old saying goes, “It takes months to find a customer… seconds to lose one.”
We surveyed some of the industry’s top franchisors to identify their networks’ most common customer service problems. To address these issues is franchise veteran and customer service expert, Tim Morris. Having spent the majority of his career in the franchise sector, Tim is now the Managing Director of inbound communications specialist, Cymphony. He gives his expert advice to tackle some of the biggest customer service challenges faced by franchisees today.
For our franchisees, lead follow-up is essential but reaching out fast enough is difficult.
Ah, the age-old problem of lead follow-up, or as I like to call it, ‘speed to lead’. When running your business, you can be forgiven for struggling to find time to make calls and email prospects straight away. However, a Harvard Business Review study concludes that you should aim to respond to leads within five minutes, as it greatly increases your chances of converting them into new customers. Another statistic from insidesales.com shows that up to 50% of sales go to the business who responds to its leads first – the phrase “early bird catches the worm” springs to mind. This demonstrates exactly why a fast response time is such an important priority for your franchise.
If you are struggling to reach out to leads within five minutes of them submitting an enquiry, I recommend using an inbound communication service. This will enable you to have your website and email leads handled instantly and ensure you make that valuable first, and quick, connection with a potential customer. Because this service is 24/7, it ensures that you are responding to leads around the clock, putting your business on the front foot when it comes to speed to lead and greatly increasing your chance of converting prospects into customers. Responding to a lead within five minutes results in contact potential being 10 times higher than if the lead was waiting only 10 minutes.
Customer expectations have become much higher since the pandemic. People are now more easily frustrated and less tolerant to mistakes.
Undoubtedly, providing a great customer experience has become one of the most critical differentiators in the marketplace today. A customer-first approach is mandatory if you want to sustain and build a successful brand. No matter the industry you operate in, your focus as a franchisee should always be on satisfying your customers and providing a high-quality service.
One way to have a customer-first approach online is to enable self-service through a knowledge database software. This software is a tool that helps you create, organise, and manage self-service content for an audience. When you have resources for your customers to find the answers they need right at their fingertips, you save your customers and your team time, ultimately reducing their frustrations.
Being able to connect quickly, with minimal fuss is by far the best way to ease customer frustration. To achieve this, you could choose to outsource your inbound comms to a specialist provider. This allows you to communicate with your customers and prospects responsively, clearly and with understanding, as well as ensuring consistency of brand personality and messaging. I recommend finding a provider that uses human operators instead of AI when outsourcing these services. A human operator can gauge the level of emotion your customer is feeling and can be empathetic when they are annoyed – reducing customer frustration. A bot cannot.
Inbound communication services are also available 24/7. This will massively boost your customer service ratings because they make your business accessible to your customers whenever they need you. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting on hold, hearing you are in a lengthy queue or simply being unable to speak to anyone between 5pm and 9am, especially when you have an urgent issue or a question you would like answering.
Because our franchise territories are often solo-run, customers struggle to get through to someone when they call the business. Outsourcing communications is out of financial reach for many franchisees.
Now more than ever, franchisees need to look at where their money is going – especially if they are just starting out and the purse strings are a little tighter than usual. However, when it comes to outsourcing communications, most people would be surprised to learn the huge value it can bring to franchisees. Answering all calls, responding to web form enquiries, dealing with web chat can all result in increased numbers of new sales opportunities, which far outweigh the flexible cost of the service.
Ask yourself how many calls you miss daily while driving, in meetings or away from your desk. Is it one, two, three, or maybe more? Now, add that up over six months. Say just 50 per cent of these calls are new enquiries, you could potentially be losing tens of thousands of pounds of business. Outsourcing your communications ensures you never miss a call and effectively saves you money in the long run, as well as enhance your revenues and your profitability.
Outsourcing is actually far cheaper and more effective than hiring a full-time staff member. The main benefit of inbound communication services are that you only pay for the time you use (down to the second in the case of Cymphony’s clients). When hiring someone full-time, you are not just paying a wage. You are also paying to set them up on your systems and spending a lot of time upskilling them to ensure they are familiar with the business and comfortable handling the call volume. Outsourcing eliminates these issues by allowing you access to an extensively trained and dedicated team of specialist personal assistants who will answer your calls, web chats and social media 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Plus, you will no longer have sicknesses or holiday cover to deal with!
A common issue within our network is that franchisees often find themselves wasting time answering customer service problems. This can really disrupt the flow of their day.
Time is money when it comes to running your franchise territory. And one of the most time-consuming duties franchisees find themselves focusing on is answering calls and responding to customer emails.
To remove the distraction of customer emails, I suggest using email autoresponders. This allows you to schedule time into your day where you can address customer service issues instead of jumping in and out of them. A customer wants to know that their email has been received and that help is on the way. When customers’ concerns, problems or complaints go ignored, additional frustrations can emerge, which may affect your long-term relationship with them. By using email autoresponders, you automatically let a customer know you have received their email and that they should expect action to be taken soon. Most importantly, ensure you respond in the time frame you have committed to and meet the expectations you have set for your customer.
To cover all bases, outsourcing your inbound communication services is a fantastic way to ensure your business fields all calls and social media messages too. It also allows you to get back to doing what you do best, knowing that a team of professionals is handling your customer communication.
Our franchisees’ biggest challenge is the recruitment of staff. Getting good people into the business is hard and time-consuming.
Unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since 1974 so employers must be attuned to the fact that employee expectations are now entirely different. Not only are applicants looking for the best employer, but employers are also now competing against each other to secure applicants before they are offered other roles. This means the recruitment process must be easy to follow, quick and include very clear communication. Outsourcing part of the process to ask a few qualifying questions to applicants and get them booked into the franchisees calendar for a first stage interview is key.
How you portray yourself online as an employer is also vitally important when you are looking to recruit. This all starts with your website. Ensure that you are showing your brand personality through the wording of your web pages, blogs and videos. Conveying the role with more than boring bullet points brings it to life and helps candidates visualise what it’s like to actually be part of the team.
You must also reach your prospective employees on a channel of their choice. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or another platform, giving prospects the ability to contact you via their preferred channel not only makes your business more accessible and, therefore, appealing, it also helps prospects to feel more engaged in the recruitment process. Showing a willingness from day one to be flexible and accommodating helps prospects to develop a sense of loyalty and connection with a soon-to-be employer.
About the author
Tim Morris is the MD of Cymphony, a communications provider helping thousands of clients to build customer relationships from the first interaction. Cymphony’s vision is to provide an exceptional inbound customer experience for all businesses in the UK.