Friday, February 21, 2014

Should I Buy a Franchise?

In some ways, franchise owners have the best of both worlds. They have the freedom, authority, and sense of accomplishment that comes with owning their own businesses with a support system from other franchise owners from the same company and a starting point—they aren’t building it from scratch.  There are a few good reasons to own a franchise, as well as some risks involved. If you’re considering buying a franchise, these points may help you tip the scale to see if it is right for you.

If you want to work for yourself and avoid the tough job market, buying a franchise can help you do that. However, you will have to deal with the corporate headquarters’ regulations and restriction. A really headstrong owner may want to incorporate unique ideas that are not part of the business model and will get rejected.  People who are excited about hard work will enjoy owning a franchise. The less well-known the brand is in the area, the more work you will have to do to increase its popularity. You need to be willing to put time and energy into the business while following the franchisor’s system to the letter. If you are considering owning multiple small businesses or you want to be a business owner with a lower risk, buying a franchise is a good place to start. The business model is tried and true and the corporate leaders will offer training and support you won’t get with a business completely your own.

Now let’s look at the reasons buying a franchise may not be a good idea. First of all, it is expensive. If you don’t have wealth built up or stellar credit so you can get a business loan, buying a franchise is next to impossible. Even with a loan, you may find you need more money than you thought at the beginning. That could mean taking out another loan or borrowing against your home. Franchise costs can range from $15,000 to up to $2 million depending on the complexity and total size of the franchisor.  Secondly, the risk is smaller, but still there. If your franchise doesn’t succeed and you need to close before the end of your contract, you can end up paying fees in the tens of thousands of dollars for breaking the contract.

After considering all these factors and more that apply to your individual situation, buying a franchise can be an adventure or a disaster. It’s important to do your research, make an informed decision, and decide when the time is right to buy a franchise.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Don’t Make Them Tell You a Thousand Times

It’s safe to say we’ve all been in a customer service situation where we wondered if our issue was ever going to get resolved. You may have had multiple concerns simultaneously or simply had to explain your concern one way and then explain it again…and again.

Recently, I was listening to a phone conversation my dad was having about a customer service issue in which he had one simple request and one simple question. They were not unreasonable and certainly sounded like things the company should have dealt with and taken care of on a daily basis. Despite his patience, I listened to him repeat the same two statements at least five times in the same phone call. He was transferred from person to person, each time having to start over and express in detail why he was calling and what he needed. He was on the phone for almost 45 minutes. I started thinking: There has to be a more efficient way of resolving this issue. Why isn’t he off the phone yet? My dad concluded the conversation fairly confident the problem would not happen again, but not 100% sure.

So why did it take the company so many tries to fulfill a simple request? Of course, not every associate will know how to handle every situation, but there should be a streamlined system in place to get customers to the right person in a matter of minutes. This company’s customer service procedures were clearly disorganized—make sure yours won’t be with a few easy tips.

First, associates need to be prepared for various customer service scenarios. My dad was very polite, but not everyone will be. Employees need to learn how to listen to the problem, remain calm, acknowledge the mistake, and if needed, ask for help. If they take every disgruntled attitude personally, they will never survive in their position. If the first person didn’t know what to do, he should have known who to put on the line to take care of the issue and that should have been the end of it. Second, policies and procedures for daily operations and simple requests should not only be taught in training to each employee, but also available in writing for quick learning on the fly. When ideas for improvement come about, they should be implemented as soon as possible.  Finally, no matter what the problem is, don’t make the customer repeat themselves a thousand times to explain the problem to several different people. If you are the first person they contact, listen carefully and take notes if needed so that if someone else (or more than one person) needs to step in, you can be the one to reiterate their request, not them. At the very least, you can tell them you will call them back within the hour if more time is needed to resolve the problem. This will save the company and the customer time and hopefully, keep them from getting frustrated. Make it happen.
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