Franchise Tip #13: It’s true in any business but we’re going to say it anyhow: excellent customer service is key to your success.
Though it may seem at times that good customer service is becoming a thing of the past, it tends to be the one thing that both franchisors and franchisees seem to zero in on when asked how to make a franchise unit successful.
Common sense gestures such as greeting customers, making their time spent at your business an “experience” that they would return to, and guaranteeing that they are satisfied with the product are basic tenets to follow.
However, going above and beyond what might be expected can even more firmly cement the relationship between your brand and the customer. It’s also a great marketing opportunity.
Dennis Saller set out to create “raving fans” of his Burger 21 franchise in Orlando from the time he first opened in November 2012. His was the first franchise outside the corporate stores headquartered in Tampa.
He sees it as part of his job to make the guests feel welcome. He stands at the entrance to the restaurant and greets his customers personally and engages them before they take a seat.
“If you’re going to be successful in any franchise, you’ve got to be a hands-on operator,” Saller said. “You need to have a presence with the customers, especially when starting out. I’m at the front door greeting people. They know me now. I’m talking to them. When they start seeing that the owner is there, that he has a presence, they feel a lot more comfortable.”
Once he has them in, Saller encourages them to sign up for the B21 Club for specials, promotions, and information about events. He also does his best to not only keep them coming back, but to help spread the word about the restaurant as “ambassadors”. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing, he said.
Andy Kmiec, associate vice president of real estate for Auntie Anne’s pretzels, says customer service might take the form of sampling, which works well for the company’s units usually located in a mall. A complimentary taste engages customers, and creates an opportunity to build brand recognition and talk about the product. This is also a good time to hand out a promotional item or coupon.
“Sampling is something that’s going to be really crucial to the store’s success. It was something that Auntie Anne herself would pound into us,” Kmiec said.
Customer service should even factor into staffing decisions, he said, like making sure the person behind the register, the front-line contact with customers, is the best person on staff. “The person behind the register is going to be the most important person in the store.”
And sometimes going above and beyond just means making sure people are happy.
Jack Page opened his first Menchie’s frozen yogurt store in May 2013. He says he wants his employees to think of it as a full-service restaurant in the way they greet and serve guests, stop at tables to remove cups when customers are finished, and check to see if the guests would like anything else.
He says it’s part of building customer loyalty. His store attracts large numbers of children. So, if accidents happen—and they do—he allows kids who might spill or drop their yogurt on the floor to return to the yogurt dispensers for a free refill. Adults receive the same treatment.
Owners should also be willing to remain open past their posted hours if customers come in at the last minute, he said.
“We never really want to turn anyone away at any given time. It’s an opportunity for that guest to fall in love with Menchie’s,” he said.
And it’s a good way for a business to be remembered for its excellent customer service.