Happy customers are your most important business asset. Without them, it doesn’t matter what else you do or how many franchise locations you have.

From the CEO to every franchisee and employee in the company, customer service needs to be a top priority in order to deliver a consistent brand experience across the company. Investing in customer relationships is everyone’s responsibility. This results in improved customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty, which ultimately means bigger profits and lower costs for you and your franchisees.

Meeting Customer Expectations

First and foremost, be sure you promise only what you can deliver. Outlandish claims set you up to fail when customer expectations cannot be met. The most obvious that comes to mind is mouth-watering images of burgers, salads, and other delicacies that fill colorful menus, but the actual delivered product doesn’t measure up. (Yes, I have actually sent something back and requested that it match the picture.)

This example may seem trivial, but the principle is not. Make sure that what you promise is what the customer will receive, whether in product or service. Customer service is part of a buyer’s decision and it’s not unusual for someone planning a considerable purchase to check out a company’s customer service record before they buy or sign a contract.

Customer service begins with the very first contact of a prospect so ensure that their experience is a satisfying one by meeting or exceeding their expectations. They are less likely to look around for something better if they are satisfied with your franchise’s performance from the beginning.

Customer Service is More Than Handling Complaints

An effective customer service policy is sensitive to customer experience at every step of engagement, not just kicking in when there is a customer complaint. By then, it’s often too late. A recent survey found that 82% of defecting customers were loyal until some final indignity sent them scurrying to a competitor. And compounding that tragedy is that 96% of those unhappy customers won’t even tell you why they’re leaving, they’re just suddenly gone.

Thus, an important part of customer service is talking to both your existing and defecting customers about their experiences with your franchise. Ask the hard questions, what they like as well as what they don’t like. Demonstrate genuine concern for a customer’s satisfaction and let them know that what they have to say really does matter.

Talk to defecting customers and go onto review sites to see if there are common complaints. If lots of customers have the same complaint, it may be time to reconsider your processes. Look for issues that all or most customers go through and seek to improve them. Sometimes a small change can make a big difference in customer retention if it impacts a large number of customers.

Knowledge is power, and the more you know about why customers leave, the better chance you have to improve the experience, get them back and, hopefully, prevent others from leaving.

Dealing With Customer Complaints While Keeping the Customer

Customers will complain when their expectations are not met with either the level of service, product quality, timeliness or personal interaction. And no matter how committed to excellence your franchise may be, problems will arise.

To facilitate handling customer complaints, your franchise should have policies in place to address conflict resolution including what can be handled at the franchisee level and how specific issues are resolved. The more “standard” solutions you can document, the more streamlined the process will become. Some fixes will be easy, some challenging, and some may even be impossible, but the goal is always to try to satisfy the consumer and keep them as a customer.
  • Listen. Let the customer tell you exactly what the problem is, don’t assume you know.
  • Be patient. They may already be angry, especially if they’ve had to tell their story multiple times.
  • Empathize. You can validate the customer’s anger or distress without admitting any fault on behalf of the franchise. (Yes, Mrs. Smith, I can see how that would be upsetting…)
  • Put yourself in their shoes and treat them as you would want to be treated.
  • Be polite and respectful at all times, whether in person, on the phone, or online.
  • Resolve every case. If you have the authority to work out a resolution, do so as quickly as you can. If you have to refer to a supervisor, assure the customer that you will do so immediately and get back to them with an answer as soon as possible, preferably giving a time frame such as within 24 hours, by end of day, etc. Every case may not be handled to the customer’s total satisfaction, but never leave someone without a final resolution.
On average, it costs six to seven times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer. Keeping your customers happy should be a strong focus of your franchise’s business culture and the goal of each individual franchisee. By working together, a reputation of excellent customer service will extend across the entire brand, resulting in increased customer retention and improved sales.

Do you know what your customer service reputation is in the marketplace?