A successful franchise delivers a consistent brand experience for customers and a clear vision across their franchisee network. Consistency starts with well-defined standards and a strong commitment to ensuring compliance at every level of the company and every franchise location.
When a gap opens up between franchisor and franchisee, it tends to have a snowball effect. A small issue builds and becomes far more complex to fix. When your compliance standards are compromised, it places both parties in danger of legal challenges as well as a loss of loyalty from your customers.
Here are seven ways to ensure franchisees are fully compliant and telling the correct story to customers.
#1 Clearly Define Brand Standards
Maintaining consistent brand standards in your franchise network cannot happen if you haven’t written them down. Your brand guidelines shouldn’t cover only how your company logo is used or what the aesthetic of your business is, it should go much further. Operations, company culture and models for client interaction are integral to a consistent brand image and experience.
A fully developed brand standards handbook must answer the core questions. Who will be using these guidelines? What is gained from using them? Where and how will they be accessed and why are they being produced? Strong brands start with big ideas. Supporting this vision is dependent upon daily tactics that reinforce that vision. Whether this is a consistent customer greeting, employee uniforms, the way your location is merchandised or the marketing logos and color schemes, there should be clarity around the model so that when asked, every franchisee can repeat the standards back to you.
It’s critical that brand guidelines are not simply suggestions. Just like the answers to the questions above, it should be exceedingly clear that the guidelines are mandatory at every level.
#2 Train a Dedicated Team
Once you have your brand standards on paper, making sure your new franchisees are up to speed is critical. Training personnel should be brand champions, they are the ones that believe in all aspects of your products, services, and most importantly customers. They are the face of your franchise and often the only person your owners will see regularly.
As the compliance teams train new franchisees and check in on current ones, they should be building strong relationships that secure them as welcomed minds and tools in the franchise’s success.
Training should be ongoing, and tests or compliance reviews should be scheduled to ensure you are being heard. Entrepreneur.com maps out a helpful franchise training to-do list.
#3 Review, Inspect and Consult
When I need my kids to help out around the house, I ask them nicely. They also know what tasks should be consistently done. If I periodically check on their chores, they are more likely to do them without my asking. If they slack off, I don’t ask anymore, I tell them. What we don’t debate is that the tasks need to be done and have always been the same.
You should be engaging your franchisees regularly. If your standards are objective, clear and measurable, you should be able to review and score them without much cognitive dissonance.
These reviews should be in person, straightforward and simple. Your corporate compliance teams want to get hard data on how your owners are doing. This can be achieved in your visits but the best way to actually effect change and drive corrective behavior is by scheduling your reviews, communicating clearly with the owners beforehand on what you’ll be looking for and then spending some time on site listening to the owners and learning about the challenges in their markets and recognizing their own ingenuity for overcoming challenges. You can’t expect to build relationships with your customers and create an emotional appeal to your brand if you don’t have that with your owners.
#4 Collaborate Effectively with Compliance Software
Tools like Action Card can help measure how your franchisees are doing according to your brand standards. We designed our mobile franchise compliance review app because we knew that the altruists in the field needed to focus on relationship building and selling your brand, not inspecting and auditing franchisees like the IRS does.
Your field managers need an easy tool to quickly schedule and conduct reviews, take pictures, add notes and communicate action items and dates to their owners. Your owners should be part of this process too. Making the review process collaborative by centralizing the reviews in the cloud not only saves time, it keeps your owners dialed into your model and on the same page with your field consultant. Having centralized data allows you to easily aggregate it and run reports showing how your locations stack up to each other, where you might need to better communicate certain standards and when it’s time to retrain.
#5 Follow Up
What is the status of the action items you identified on the visit? Did you promise to get them any marketing materials or additional support? Did you thank them for freeing up time to have you visit? Remember, to communicate next steps clearly. You should be able to track the before and after of visits and provide summaries to your franchisees immediately. Don’t forget to provide dates and times for the next visit during the current one. Putting off compliance visits can be a slippery slope. People get busy, so plan ahead and use the power of follow-up tasks.
#6 Ask Your Customers
If you don’t already conduct customer satisfaction surveys or employ mystery shoppers, you should. If your customers’ feedback reinforces your own assessment of your franchisees, it is easier to sell the model. They also communicate to your franchisees your commitment to brand standards. Good franchise owners also know that a rising tide lifts all ships. If their peers are doing well, the brand benefits. If their compatriots are not complying with the standards, customers are less likely to come back and less likely to promote and recommend your brand, which hurts everyone.
#7 Reward Compliance
When things are going as planned for specific locations, highlight what they are doing right. You don’t need lavish gifts, but an honorable mention in front of the whole company or their families (and a place to show their names) encourages them to keep doing it. Acknowledgement and admiration can give any owner or employee the confidence to take action.
Don’t Stop When Things Are Going Well
Remember, there is no finish line when it comes to compliance. As your franchise network expands and grows with more locations, holding onto a clear brand identity becomes harder.
Keep compliance at the forefront of your franchise network goals, be vigilant and don’t be afraid to step in when standards start to slip. With scalable tools like Action Card, your franchise can reach new levels of efficiency, compliance and consistency. Request a free demo to see how our brand standards software can boost your franchise compliance.