last updated 14/05/2020
Helping franchisees #10 – The rise of online shopping
last updated 14/05/2020
In the last of our lockdown case studies, we talk to InXpress about the impact of Covid-19, and the impact of the growth of online shopping
InXpress helps small to medium businesses easily book their domestic and international shipments online, receiving one single InXpress invoice across all carriers. InXpress has over 380 franchisees who work as freight consultants, providing their customers with local support using the InXpress shipping platform and helping to navigate individual customer needs. James Buck is Country Manager, Australia and New Zealand for InXpress.
1. James, how did your franchisees cope during Levels 4 and 3? Presumably some customers were still operating?
Freight and logistics is considered an essential service so our franchisees were working although not all our clients have been able to. However, although some customers became temporarily inactive, we did gain new customers who were after alternative express freight options. That meant the overall impact on revenue was not dramatic. Because our franchisees are freight consultants rather than couriers, their focus is sales and customer communication. The very nature of the InXpress business model means they usually operate remotely, so the vast majority are working from their home offices and conducting business electronically or over the phone.
2. How are you supporting the financial well-being of your franchisees through this period?
The InXpress franchise is what we call ‘asset light’ – our franchisees don’t operate vans, equipment leases (other than a PC/laptop and mobile phone) or hold any leases over property in order to operate. That means that they were not carrying heavy fixed overheads going into this crisis.
InXpress charges a percentage of the margin per shipment, charged from the franchisee to the customer, so our franchisees don’t incur fixed fees from InXpress. We also pay suppliers on behalf of our franchisees as we hold the relationships with all our core carrier partners. Because of this, and the fact that our franchisees are trading in a business-as-usual environment, we have not needed to initiate any financial assistance programmes within our network.
What we have done is bring in external experts to host webinars for our network around various financial support programmes available to them as small business owners, and we have utilised our accounting and franchise industry networks to do so.
3. How are you supporting the personal well-being of your franchisees? What communication systems are you using?
Our team at head office have been in overdrive to support our franchisees during this time including providing additional marketing and sales resources, virtual sales training and coaching, and increased customer communications.
Communications to the network have also ramped up, with updates from a Global, Regional and Local level consistently going out each week. We have regular weekly meetings with the network and invite key speakers along from the industry to answer any questions the network may have.
We’ve also introduced improved operational processes to ease the burden on our franchisees and we’ve set up a Franchise Task Force that allows us to vet ideas and quickly get things out to the market.
4. How are you supporting yourself and your head office team in working from home? What are they able to do?
Since InXpress is a global company, most of our staff members are very familiar with working remotely; however, our Head Office staff are almost 100% remote during this time, including our support call centre.
Rosters have been developed to assist with home learning for staff members with school-aged children.
All meetings are run using Teams, Skype or GoToMeeting, and we have introduced soft phone technology on each user’s laptop to monitor all inbound and outbound call activity between our franchisees and our Helpdesk and Collections teams.
To improve efficiency of collections from customers, which is so important, we recently introduced SMS functionality to support franchise and customer communications during this time. We also fast-tracked our online payment solution so customers receive a text to their mobile and can follow the link to our secure online payment portal and effect payment. This has improved our ability to collect funds owed as we are able to contact all customers each week – especially beneficial in the current remote-working environment.
5. What steps are you taking to help franchisees to reboot their business as we move into Level 2?
Given that we are an essential service and were able to maintain operations as usual, our strategy from the outset was to focus our efforts on customer retention first and foremost, with sales a secondary focus given the sensitive nature of the market globally.
We have coached around the need to pivot to alternate sales methods which are normally secondary to our preferred face-to-face method. These include web-enabled lead generation, prospect identification and telesales. We have been activating new customers at a similar rate to what we were for the three months leading into the current situation.
We are providing a lot of training and coaching through weekly guest speaker programmes, with access to industry best practices and other general business education around the importance of staying close to customers. The ultimate goal is for franchisees to build rapport and understand where their customer is positioned personally and commercially so they are best able to support them, and also to best manage our own risk – eg. risk of slow payments impacting our franchisees’ income, ensuring their aged debtors book is efficient and healthy. If opportunities grow from being closer to the customer, then franchisees are able to activate new business.
All of these activities will continue to support the network long after restrictions are lifted.
6. What do you think will be the long-term impact of this period on your franchisees?
One of the things about the lockdown has been that both customers and companies have had to embrace online shopping, which has accelerated an already strong trend. It has also required smaller businesses to adopt digital strategies.
This has opened their markets up beyond their local communities, but of course they need to be able to manage an efficient and economic delivery programme, which is not their core business – but it is ours. Consequently, despite the inevitable downturn, we expect to find growth opportunities in all sorts of areas.
Thank you for sharing that with us, and good luck to all the InXpress franchisees and support team.
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