Bad Customer Service – It Only Takes Once!

Today I had a customer service experience that made me so angry I had to blog about it! Although it was not in a QSR or other food service establishment it happens every day in businesses like yours.

The company that services our heating and A/C at home has always been a very efficient, helpful and fine company to deal with. The woman who handles the scheduling and customers is always kind and makes the customer experience a pleasant one. Last night our A/C stopped cooling and I called and left a message after hours for a callback. This morning I got a call from a lady who started the conversation like this; “This is Dawn from XYZ company, I have your message and we will have to wait to hear from the owner of the house before we send someone out.”  “Ahh?????” I said (or something like that, being so taken aback!).  When I informed her that the owner of the house lives in Germany and has a service contract and that we had NEVER had to wait for approval in the  past she replied “well that is our company policy.” Ok, I then asked to speak with Alison who is always very pleasant. To which she replied “ She’s off today and I am Alison’s boss!” WOW!! The boss….I hope they keep her locked in a dark room in the back away from any customers!

The experience further deteriorated when she proceeded to argue with me about the most recent repairs and when they were performed, she was wrong but didn’t apologize when she realized such.  So we have a customer service person who is a) aggressive  b) argumentative,  and c) unapologetic. Any one of these is grounds for termination or a strong warning.

In the end I went from being a champion of this company to an angry customer who will most definitely express my feelings to the owner. How many people just say, no way, never again?  And you never hear about it. Most.  And they will likely not be kind to your business in the local community. It only takes one. One person. One attitude. One moment of rudeness and you lose a customer and their goodwill.

Franchise Restaurant Expansion – Are You Ready?

For the last few years I have been doing some work for a large coffee franchise as mentioned in my last post. This franchise has in the past gone through some enormous growth in unit numbers but is still basically an owner operator business with the majority of franchisees owning only one store.

As per most coffee stores, average check is low and cost of goods, with a commodity like coffee, is high and does vary greatly with the market.

The single most asked question from the franchisees is….. should I open a second store?

My answer in 85% of the cases has been a resounding no!!

I know that it is a bit of a blanket answer but, just because you have a successful business does not mean that you can translate that success into a second store.

It does not matter how good you are, there will always be some dilution of your skills, standards and business acumen when you are spread out over twice as many outlets. You cannot be in two places at once which means that you will have to take a big step and trust someone else to do the important things that you have always done yourself.

So where are you going to get this clone of yourself? From your existing store of course. Now you have taken your best employee and moved them to the new store leaving the second best to take up the slack. Good thinking considering you will only be at your existing store 50% of the time. Oops, that’s wrong because the new store will take up a larger percentage of your time for at least the first three months. That means with you spending only 30% of your time at your existing store your second best employee is looking after your livelihood!

Geez what is wrong with this scenario?

Let’s also take into account the added financial burden as well as significantly more hours spent at work and less time with loved ones. We all know how much stress these add to our lives.

It is not impossible and many people become successful multi-unit franchisees, but plenty of care and forethought are needed prior to this decision. Months if not years of planning and successional training are required to ensure even the operational aspects are in place let alone the financial planning and forecasts needed.

So if you are planning to expand for the first time, good luck and good planning.


Managing Social Networking For Your Restaurant Franchise

Managing the social networking in your restaurant franchise requires skill and forethought. I recently helped a couple who had been in a large coffee franchise for more than 10 years to exit the system. They were one of the first franchisees to invest in this particular coffee franchise and had bought and sold numerous stores during that time. At the time of my meeting with them, they still had 4 stores and were looking to sell one and purchase
another in a downtown area

Over the years in this system and previously in other QSR franchise concepts they had become successful business people who enjoyed being in business and all the perks that went along with it.

Part of my brief  was to evaluate their stores along with the other stores in the region and give suggestions to the franchisor as to who met the criteria for further expansion. The result was somewhat surprising to the corporation –  this couple did not meet the criteria for expansion! Their franchise representative and other franchisees around them were not too surprised as they had been unhappy with their performance for quite some time. But the corporation saw them as almost “founding franchisees” and had treated them as somewhat of a protected species.

So what had happened to them? Like a lot of people who have been in business a long time, they were more in love with being “in business” than running the business. They loved being local celebs. They were members of the local Rotary Club, gave talks to schools and business organizations, she was the president of the local women-in-business group, they led charity drives etc, etc.

Networking and being involved with the local community is very important to building your business and every effort should be made to be seen as part of that community. What went wrong here is that they forgot the reason for being in all of these organizations in the first place…… their own business! As more and more of their time was taken up with the non money making activities the result was that their business suffered. Sales and cleanliness standards fell, costs rose and productivity and profit plummeted.

What had happened was that they had lost the passion for the business and had replaced that passion with a list of things and groups they thought would help grow that business. They actually thought they were doing the right thing. Their problem, apart from the fact that they needed to get out, was that they went too far with the social networking.

Join as many groups as you wish but there is no need to be the president, chairman or secretary unless you have the time to do it. I don’t know many food franchisees that have that sort of time.

So, what happened to the couple ?  Well good news, they listened to what was being said to them, gave up a few of their social/business commitments and went back to work in their business. It took a few months and a lot of hard work but they tightened up their store, got their business back along with some of the profits and were able to sell their remaining stores. They are currently taking a break before looking for another venture to keep their fires burning.

So why didn’t they rekindle the passion for their existing business? They were already tried and tested in this concept. Simple. Everything has a shelf life and for them coffee had reached that shelf life, it was time to move on. They had lasted over ten years in one concept where the average was three to five years. Once you lose the passion for a business it is time  to have that hard discussion with yourself and make a decision that will be best for you and the business in the long term.