Published September 21, 2012
Catherine Monson and Mark Jameson of FASTSIGNS discuss the benefits of surveying franchisees with a third party.
Did you use any type of survey before FBR’s? If so, was it internal or another vendor?
Many, many years ago—at least 8 or 10—we used to do an internal survey, and then, for some reason, FASTSIGNS stopped conducting an internal franchisee satisfaction survey. For the last 5 or 6 years, we’ve been surveying with Franchise Business Review. I’m a big believer of both the FBR survey and internal surveys. In fall of 2009, not long after I joined FASTSIGNS, we started conducting an in-depth, granular internal franchise partner satisfaction survey. We also use another outside vendor—Franchise Research Institute. Timing is critical. We don’t want all three surveys to hit our franchisees at the same time, so we try to space them out throughout the year.
Why did you decide to survey your franchisees with FBR?
That decision was made before Mark Jameson and I joined FASTSIGNS. I used FBR when I was at PIP [Printing & Documenting Services]. We both believe it’s important to have an unrelated, third-party conduct all or some of the surveys. FBR is recognized as a leader in independent, third-party franchise satisfaction surveys.
Mark: The FBR survey helps us with the franchise candidate process as well. Candidates aren’t just hearing the good word from us; they are benefitting from our franchise partners’ feedback directly from FBR and can trust what they see from FBR because you’re an unrelated, unbiased third-party. And they can deep-dive into specific areas. The FBR report helps prospective franchisees conduct their due diligence without having to physically call 100 franchisees.
Were you surprised at all by the results?
We are a company that has always prided ourselves on very strong franchise partner satisfaction. But we don’t rest on our laurels. Our work with our Franchise Advisory Councils, out in the field, and all the ways we survey and gain input from our franchise partners is ongoing. It is the culture here. We truly believe that it takes happy, profitable, successful franchisees to be a successful franchise system and a successful franchisor.
Do you share your results with your franchisees? If so, what reaction/feedback have you received?
Always. And they agree with findings.
What are the top three ways you use your franchisee satisfaction data?
1.) Constant improvement – not only do we look at gross scores, but we look at all the comments.
2.) Franchise validation
3.) Management and employee development
An area of our survey that is often rated low is top-down communication with franchisees? How do you ensure that franchisees feel “in the loop”?
It’s our culture. It’s something that we do constantly. All of our key managers spend a significant amount of time in the field, face-to-face with franchise partners, asking them how we can futher improve.. We are holding 27 town hall meetings this year, led by the 3 key executives of the company. We are consistently getting together with our franchise partners, giving them valuable info on how they can improve their business and also asking them what we can do to improve things for them.
We tend to see higher dissatisfaction among franchisees at the 2-5 year tenure point. How do you ensure that your franchisees still feel supported down the road? What do you provide in the way of ongoing training once your franchisees are on board?
We customize our support based on each individual franchise partner’s needs; it is not a cookie-cutter approach. We hire smart team members who have small business experience; we ensure they understand our FASTSIGNS operating systems: Business and Financial Management, Marketing and Sales Management, Production Management, and Personnel Management. Then we expect them to customize the support they provide to franchisees. We have a broad range of training programs, from those held in the field, in the corporate office, or online; these are offered to our franchise partners and their employees. We are constantly asking ourselves what does a new franchise partner need, what does a franchise partner with 3 or 4 years in the business need, what does a multi-unit operator need…to make sure we’re giving them the right support.
Some CEOs tell us that their franchisees are inundated with surveys and emails and they just don’t want to send them something else. What would you say to those CEOs?
We actually conduct more than the three franchise partners satisfaction surveys. We also conduct training surveys, equipment surveys, financial benchmark surveys, wage and salary surveys. It is a very fine line to walk—trying not to inundate them but trying to get valuable information. I would rather err on the side of asking for too much information than on the side of not asking enough.
Mark: When we survey our franchise partners, we share the results. As long as they know we’re doing something with the results, they’re okay with it.