HOW CAN I MAKE MY FRANCHISOR LISTEN?
If a franchisee has a problem how can they make themselves heard by the franchisor?
Q. A year ago, I bought a franchise which has not been performing as well as I expected. The franchisor is over-busy, is not supplying appropriate marketing support and has not personally visited any of the franchisees' businesses for some time. From my own experience I have some suggestions for improvement which I believe might help but although I have spoken to the field support people about these and telephoned the franchisor himself, nothing has happened. I still believe the business is a good one - how do I make myself heard without damaging the relationship for the future?
A. The issue of how to complain effectively is an important one. If you have not had a satisfactory response by talking to your franchisor you should call again and state that you have made a request and have not yet received a response. Or, if you don't think this will make a difference, put your concerns in writing. Try this approach:
First, you need to be clear in your own mind about what it is that you need or want. The more specific you can be, the better. Your franchisor will respond far more favourably to a specific request than a vague complaint.
In your letter briefly state what has happened to date, ie. you have spoken with them over the phone about some concerns and have not yet received a response. Keep the tone factual and objective. Don't use critical or negative terms. There may be a good reason why you have not received a response so don't burn your bridges.
Next, state what your needs are and why this is important to you, eg. ‘I am concerned that my sales are still 30% below the budgets we did together. This is a concern to me because I have not yet broken even and will not do so until I reach at least $X sales a month. I need your help to increase my sales.'
You have now laid the foundations for your request which should be polite, specific, solution-focused and, preferably, with a time frame. So now state specifically what action you would like, eg. ‘I would like a monthly meeting with you in my premises to discuss local marketing issues.'
Or ‘I would like you to facilitate the creation of a Franchise Advisory Council before the end of the year, where franchisees can share sales building ideas with your team.'
Or ‘I would like to have permission to trial new products in my store.'
Also state that you are open to hearing the franchisor's thoughts on how your needs can best be met. Finally, state what action you would like in response to your letter, eg. ‘Could you please phone me or write to me by the end of the month outlining what you believe to be the best approach to meet my needs.'
Remember to stay solution-focused and constructive. Critical or negative remarks just put other people offside and will make them less inclined to want to communicate with you.
A final tip. You might want to call and tell the franchisor that you have sent them a letter and that you look forward to hearing back from them. This reduces the risk of the letter getting lost in somebody's in tray, or being misconstrued as negative criticism.
This article was first published in Franchise New Zealand magazine Volume 17 Issue 1.
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