By Alicia Miller, Managing Director, Catalyst Insight Group
Congratulations on completing a survey of your franchisees!
The two main indicators of a high quality franchise brand are: (1) strong unit level economics, and (2) strong franchisor-franchisee relationships. Completing a franchisee survey signals that you actually care what franchisees have to say. In some franchise systems, franchisees don’t feel that’s true! So kudos for taking that important step.
Now that you have the data, what’s next? How do you turn survey insights into ACTION?
1. First, read the report. In its entirety.
Note the major issues – both positive and negative. Look at benchmarks to determine where your brand performs significantly above or below all other franchises surveyed. Your senior management team should read every franchisee comment. Every. Single. One. I recognize that this is time consuming! But if your franchisees took the time to participate and share their honest feedback, you owe it to them to read their comments! It is surprising how many companies participate in surveys then stick the report in a drawer. Or, they only read the summary, and not the detailed comments.
Basically, the report is solid gold. It provides a terrific dashboard for you and your senior management team, if you choose to use it as a tool to gain insight and prioritize investments.
2. Meet with your senior team. Discussing the survey results should be your only agenda item.
Once your leadership team has digested the survey information, schedule time to discuss the findings. Don’t cram it into an already busy weekly staff call. It deserves your management team’s full, and undivided, attention.
Talk through the main themes and leading indicators. Resist the urge to dismiss any negative commentary. Resist also dismissing the feedback of certain franchisees who are known to be ‘vocal.’ Set the tone from the top, and ask your team to approach the feedback through the lens of, “Maybe they’re right,” to allow for open-minded discussion. Are there any surprises? What does the team agree with? Disagree with? Are you aligned with franchisees about any specific issues or perceived gaps? Were new ideas mentioned that merit further investigation?
What is the overall tone of the report? Does it signal optimism, franchisee commitment and an interest in expansion? Are there pockets of issues or widespread concerns? Does it signal disengagement, resignation, or unhappiness? What should you expect for validation? In other words, is this a growth story or a potential turnaround situation?
Do not be discouraged if your team received some tough feedback! If your franchisees were 100% checked out, they wouldn’t have bothered to respond in the first place. Take any criticisms or suggestions for improvement as valuable feedback and turn it into positive action.
3. Call out primary themes and areas for improvement. Build your action plan.
What are the top themes in the survey? Separate tactical, strategic and foundational issues.
As you list the main themes, start grouping them by time and investment needed, issues that require further study, issues by department, etc. The survey should also call out the relative importance of the issues to franchisees, which will help you prioritize.
If you think your relationship with franchisees is great and they don’t mirror that back, fixing that disconnect should be one of your top priorities! No matter what other issues need to be addressed, put the health of your franchisee-franchisor relationship at the top of your list.
4. Create a franchisee communication plan and feedback loop.
Next, let franchisees know you heard their feedback. Share the survey summary with them and talk about areas for improvement. Get additional feedback about prioritization and ask questions. If you have a Franchise Advisory Council (FAC), they can also help you distill the themes into the top priority items. Don’t boil the ocean. If the list has 30 items to potentially fix and also 30 great new ideas, you can’t address everything at once. Stack rank the top 5 issues or ideas. Then prioritize the next 5, and so on. If franchisees love the changes you made to the marketing plan, making additional investments in what’s working should also be considered in your prioritization list. This isn’t always about fixing issues. Prioritize solving pain points, investment areas, and support needed. As a final scrub, look at the list through the lens of franchisee profitability. Deprioritize things that are ‘nice to have’ but won’t move the needle for the majority of franchisees.
Go back to franchisees and say, “We heard that these issues are the top priorities. We are going to work on a plan to address those issues, and we’ll come back within 30 days to share and get your feedback.” If some things simply can’t be done, or must wait for whatever reason, just say so. If there are great ideas, celebrate those and commit to investigating the most promising options.
5. Identify areas where ongoing change management support is needed.
Note that if you have received critical feedback due to prior change initiatives, one of your ‘top 5 actions’ will be to invest in additional communication and franchisee support. Change is hard. Ongoing change management work is often needed to ride through prior or ongoing change initiatives. The goal is to ensure that the franchisee community trusts the overall company direction, has faith in the leadership team, understands the need for these changes, and will see changes through. If you haven’t ironed out kinks in prior change projects, say so and commit to doing better. Franchisees want to know that leadership hears their concerns, and are committed to working through any remaining issues.
6. Don’t forget to celebrate what’s working!
Even if you receive some tough scores or feedback, there will likely be bright spots. For example, your IT department could have received tough feedback this time around, while your Franchise Business Consultants (FBCs) received glowing reviews. Take the time to celebrate positive feedback and recognize great performance. This is particularly true if there’s been a turnaround of scores in a particular area.
Celebrate also that your franchisees participated in the survey in the first place and are highly engaged. It is well known in franchising that many of the best ideas and innovations come directly from franchisees! Compliment their engagement, and thank them for their candor and feedback. Your system will be so much stronger because of those gifts!
Strong franchisee scores should also be celebrated with the greater franchise community and your partners. Great Franchise Business Review scores can be publicized and included in your franchise marketing. Your partners will also appreciate knowing that they are working with a brand that has high franchisee satisfaction scores. Of all the ‘best of’ lists to be on, best in class franchisee satisfaction is the most important!
7. Auld Lang Syne
Commit to repeating the survey every year. Did changes and new initiatives improve your scores? Are franchisees energized and excited about the future of your brand?
Iconic brands do a continuously great job of engaging with their franchisees. Make an annual franchisee survey part of your management toolkit. Don’t stick it in a drawer! Create value for your franchisees by demonstrating real alignment. Great franchisee satisfaction scores and consistent growth go hand in hand….so don’t “look for growth.” Instead, find ways to drive franchisee satisfaction, and the demand will be there.
Six Strategies for Turning Low Satisfaction Scores into a Win
Surveying franchisee satisfaction is a giant step forward in becoming a high-performing brand. But what if your scores aren’t what you hoped? This free eBook outlines six key strategies to effectively use your survey results to strengthen personal connections with your franchisees, build a culture of transparency, and get franchisees excited about their future with the brand.