The way people communicate has been completely overhauled and revolutionized in the last two decades.
Not too long ago, people interacted one of three ways: face to face, via physical snail mail, or over the phone. Today, we can add any of these communication options when we want to reach out: instant messages, personal email, blast email, texting, live video chats, or photo sharing. With so many choices available, companies are left in the lurch when guessing the best way to communicate. The problem of reach isn’t just about marketing anymore, but has extended to franchise leaders who don’t know the best way to engage franchisees.
Clear, open channels of communication are essential to every business’s functionality and survival, and that fact counts double for franchise businesses. Franchises are run based on carefully chosen sales, branding, and operations models, so if signals become crossed and messages are mixed or missed, units won’t be able to keep up with the game plan. Poor communication can damage any business, but in franchising the stakes are even higher, since even one lower-performing franchise could not only lower franchisee morale, but potentially damage the entire brand’s reputation in the eyes of customers and franchisees down the road.
A winning communication strategy is planned, not haphazard. Communicators know their responsibilities and keep track of completed communications in a shared system visible to the corporate leadership group. Finally, a great strategy involves everyone, not just one or two people in the main office.
Choose your key communications platforms— and stick with them.
Trying to connect using too many platforms is not only confusing; it also wastes time, energy, and resources. Using every possible communication outlet leads to an overwhelming and scattered communication structure where people don’t know where to look for updates first. Choose a handful of communication methods that work best for your business, and then stick with them. When people know where to look for what information, information will feel more dependable and less difficult to keep track of. The mix and match of internal conference calls, video chats, and social media is up to you, but at a minimum, email blasts should share weekly brand updates and corporate leadership should regularly touch base by phone.
Track communications in real time.
Create a set communications schedule that outlines how often each channel should be used, then stick to the pattern and track connections in a shared database. When someone from corporate leadership leaves a franchisee a message just to check in, record the time and date so it’s clear someone just reached out. When blast emails go out with updates, archive a copy for reference and mark the task as completed for the week. Having a clear schedule keeps communication from a variety of sources frequent and current, and it also lets leadership quickly check on whether a franchisee has been tougher to reach or may be falling through a communications gap.
Corporate leadership should stay in touch.
Texting, instant messaging, and social media have made phone calls feel downright formal, but when someone’s unit is too far away to visit, phone calls can become the friendliest way to reach out and check in. Having people from the entire leadership team contact franchisees by phone doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but it’s guaranteed to make every single franchisee feel like a valued part of the team. Businesses with the strongest cultures maintain them through long-term relationships, and people who work for those companies are more successful, motivated, and energized. When you actually know the leaders, you feel more connected, and you’re more open to sharing great ideas that can benefit everyone.
Create a communication structure with a helpful go-between.
Every court case is important, but they can’t all be heard by the Supreme Court. Franchisees are going to have questions that may not be immediately covered in the operational handbook, but when someone has an urgent query or just needs to reach out, they shouldn’t have to connect straight to the top of corporate leadership. Franchisees should be able to rely on regional developers who will understand their specific needs and challenges and be there to encourage, give great advice, and build franchisee networks.
Connect franchisees with one another.
Franchisees in your business have a lot in common, but oftentimes franchisees don’t really know one another. When franchisees are connected, they can share struggles, get genuine encouragement from people who are dealing with the same issues, and boost one another’s achievement potential with helpful advice that they know works from firsthand experiences. When franchisees are encouraged to network with one another, they’re more likely to form strong bonds that help everyone succeed.
Kyle Zagrodzky is president of OsteoStrong, the health and wellness system that boosts bone and muscle strength in less than 10 minutes a week using scientifically proven osteogenic loading concepts. OsteoStrong introduced a new era in modern fitness and aging prevention two years ago and has since helped thousands of clients between ages eight and 92 improve strength, balance, endurance, and bone density. In 2014, the brand signed commitments with nine regional developers to launch 500 new locations across America.