The Truth About Franchisee Satisfaction Surveys – What Franchisees Really Want
Franchise Business Review has been in the franchisee satisfaction survey business for over 15 years and worked with more than 1,100 brands. During that time, we’ve talked with many franchisors who understand the value of franchisee surveys, but we’ve also encountered many who buy into myths and misconceptions that simply don’t hold water. Let’s separate fact from fiction.
Myth vs. Fact: Franchisee Surveys
Myth #1: Franchisees don’t want to be bothered.
Fact: Everyone wants to be heard – including franchisees. In fact, franchisor/franchisee communication is one of the most common issues that is flagged in our survey. The survey itself only takes about 10-15 minutes of the franchisee’s time and it’s designed to be easy to do online. Your franchisees will be glad you want to hear what they think – especially if you act on the feedback they provide and communicate how you are using the data to guide priorities for the organization.
Myth #2: Satisfaction is just a feeling – it isn’t measurable.
Fact: Franchisee satisfaction may seem soft and subjective, but it can be measured. Satisfaction is dependent on how franchise owners’ experiences compare with their expectations. By asking franchisees a standard set of questions with answers on a scale of excellent to poor, we can determine any given brand’s Franchisee Satisfaction Index (FSI) Score, which measures franchisee satisfaction and engagement in eight key areas, including training and support, systems and operations, financial opportunity, leadership, core values, and community, and benchmark your system against more than 1,100 franchise systems representing tens of thousands of franchisees.
Myth #3: A survey won’t tell us anything we don’t already know.
Fact: When it comes to the health and growth of your system, going with your gut just doesn’t cut it. Even if you already think you know what’s going on in your system, a survey can give you actual data so you’re not relying on just a few “loud” voices in your system. A survey provides peace of mind letting you know you’re right, or helps uncover issues you didn’t even know were there.
Using a third-party to survey your franchisees typically results in a higher participation rate and you’ll get more feedback. And with the option to remain anonymous, you’ll get more honest feedback.
Once you have actual, measurable data, you can break it down to look at specific markets, field reps, franchisee demographics, etc., to identify issues that may only be affecting certain pockets of your franchisees and need targeted responses.
This is a data-driven way to identify areas of risk and opportunity and track your progress.
Myth #4:Surveys are expensive.
Fact: Actually, you can survey your franchisees for free with no obligation. If you score well, you’re named an award-winning brand on our list of Top Franchises and published in our guides distributed to franchisees. You can promote your award winning status and highlight your franchisee satisfaction to candidates as broadly as you want – all without paying a dime.
If you do decide to purchase the data we collected with the survey, the average annual cost to survey is less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day over the course of a year. Or think of it this way: the cost to work with a broker is $15,000 – $20,000 or more per deal. But, if you choose to invest in your data (a fraction of the cost of a broker), not only do you open up a world of opportunities to close more deals, but if you bring just one more franchisee on board using your data, the survey has more than paid for itself.
Myth #5: Only really big systems survey their franchisees.
Fact: It’s important to establish a formal feedback loop with your franchisees from the very beginning – much like an annual review that you might perform with employees. It helps set the expectation with your franchisees that you value their input, and ensures their continual involvement in the direction and growth of your system.
We encourage systems to start surveying as soon as they have 10 owners open and operating for six months. If you’re growing, your franchisees are spending a lot of time fielding calls from candidates who are going through the validation process. Surveying them can effectively alleviate that burden on them. You’ll have data available to share with candidates before they validate, so your current owners have to spend less time on the phone answering candidates’ questions and can focus on growing their business instead.
Plus, if you have strong results, you can share that data publicly to attract more buyers and continue building your brand.
Myth #6: Surveys are just an opportunity for franchisees to complain.
Fact: Sure, there are going to some naysayers in your system, and yes, there will be some feedback on the survey that is hard to hear. But part of why surveying is so important is to separate the complainers from the complaints. A formal process done annually gives franchisees an outlet to provide constructive feedback. The more you communicate, and the more you talk to your franchisees (the good and the bad), the better you’ll be able to identify weak areas that need to be addressed and weed out the loud voices that simply want to complain.
Myth #7: If a brand is successful, the franchisees are happy.
Fact: Just because your brand is growing and franchisees are profitable, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are satisfied. Our research shows that nearly 1 in 5 new franchisees rate training and support “poor” or “average”. That’s 20% of new franchisees who are unimpressed right out of the gate at a time when they should be raving about everything your system does for them. Imagine, then, what franchisees who have been in the system for 10 or 15 years might be feeling. The only way to find out where and when franchisees are falling through the cracks is to survey them and ask for their feedback. These warning signs can tell you if your system is already at risk.
Myth #8: An internal survey works just as well as a third-party survey.
Fact: It’s true that any effort to collect feedback from your franchisees is a step in the right direction. However, using a third-party survey gives you so many more advantages. For example:
Typically, a survey conducted by an independent firm gets a higher response rate, giving you a better representation of the satisfaction of your owners and more honest feedback.
Many potential investors and private equity firms now require satisfaction data when considering whether to invest. Data you collect isn’t as meaningful as data gathered by a non-biased firm. In fact, third-party satisfaction data can even justify a higher valuation.
You can use the data as a sales tool. It’s important to use the data to improve operations, but if the data tells a good story, sharing an independent report gives it more credibility with candidates.
Myth #9: If the timing isn’t right, the survey will backfire.
Fact: There’s always a reason why the timing isn’t right – changes in leadership, new program roll-outs, the economy – but these are just excuses. A survey is about building trust between you and your franchisees, and being accountable to everyone in your system, which means being up front about why you’re asking for feedback and what you plan to do with the data. We can certainly help you understand when it makes the most sense to launch a survey in order to maximize participation, but simply pushing it off because it’s “not a good time” isn’t the answer. No matter what the responses, having a baseline benchmark will provide you with the business intelligence you need to identify priorities and focus your efforts on making improvements.
Myth #10: Surveying takes too much staff time.
Fact: Surveying actually takes almost no time for your staff to prepare and can actually save them time in the long run. All we need from you is a contact list of your franchisees and a copy of your FDD and we take care of the rest. We even provide you with email communication templates you can send to your franchisees so they are aware that we will be contacting them.
Once you have the data, we’ll walk you through the results. We do recommend that your teams spend some time going through the data, but spending a little time up front will give them insights that can save them hours in the long run by showing them where to focus their efforts.
Now that you know the truth, it’s time to survey and start growing your brand the right way. Learn more about our franchisee satisfaction surveys or request a free demo.
Related Content: Free Planning Tool
Thinking about adding franchisee satisfaction surveys to your annual operating plan? If you’re not already using franchisee satisfaction research data to identify organizational priorities and accelerate development, now’s the time! This free comparison tool will help you get the most for your investment.
Michelle is the president of FBR, chair of the International Franchise Association Women's Franchise Committee, and a Certified Franchise Executive. She has facilitated CEO Performance Groups and Executive Networking Groups and is also a mentor of UNH college students. When she is not at work she is usually reading, playing outside, or hanging out with her husband and daughter.
Franchise Business Review is the leading market research firm in the franchise sector specializing in franchisee satisfaction and employee engagement. Since 2005, we have helped more than 1,100 franchise brands drive better results. Let us put our insights to work for you.