Field visits are expensive and time consuming for franchisors and
franchisees. In this extract from a new book, The Franchisor's
Guide to Improving Field Visits, Greg Nathan explains how to
make every visit count.
How field visits add value
Field visits are an essential component of most franchise systems.
When implemented by capable people with a clear purpose and supported
by efficient systems, field visits will deliver the following benefits
to a franchise system:
- Improve franchisee profitability - One of the main priorities
of an effective field visitation program should be to help franchisees
measure and manage the drivers of profitability in their business.
It is amazing how such a basic and important priority can so easily
get lost or forgotten.
- Maintain customer service standards - If franchisees
are not delivering good customer service you simply do not have
a sustainable franchise system. If there has not been some discussion
about customer satisfaction during a field visit, the visit has
been incomplete. Whether you are a franchisee or a franchisor,
the main game must always be customer satisfaction.
- Keep the franchisor team in touch with the coalface
- It is a big mistake to assume you know what is happening in
customer and franchisee land without checking first hand. While
it may take some effort to escape the administrative demands of
a head office environment, franchisor executives often report
feeling enthused after being in the field and getting back in
touch with the customer interface.
- Maximize local market share - Franchisees often underestimate
the size of their local market and the amount of business they
could be generating. A well-structured field visit will help the
franchisee to better understand their local competition and, more
importantly, capitalize on local sales opportunities.
- Build franchisee commitment to your vision and brand values
- It is easy for a franchisee in the thick of their day-to-day
operations to lose sight of the bigger picture. They regularly
need to be reminded about what's important. For instance, while
your brand may stand for professionalism and quality, a franchisee's
store signage may look amateurish or they may be cutting corners
with production. The best way to explain this gap is face to face
communication in their business.
- Enhance the franchise relationship - The franchise relationship
is like the oil in the engine of a franchise system. If the goodwill
in the franchise relationship runs dry, your franchise system
will start to seize up. Research by our team at the Franchise
Relationships Institute has shown that franchisees who believe
their franchisor genuinely cares about them are significantly
more likely to recommend the franchisee system to prospective
franchisees, essential for growing a franchise system.
The psychology of the field visit
While you may have sophisticated field management systems the most
significant variable for producing good outcomes from your field
support will always be the quality of the relationship established
between franchisee and field manager.
The fact is that in themselves techniques, checklists and systems
alone will only ever make a minor impact.
To understand this point further let's look at research compiled
on the effectiveness of different types of therapy. The relevance
of this will become apparent.
People go to a psychologist or a coach because there is something
in their life they want to change. Despite claims by these professionals
that one technique or system is better than another, the specific
technique used is actually relatively unimportant. The best predictor
of successful outcomes is the quality of the relationship developed
with the client, what is known as the "therapeutic alliance".
In other words a psychologist or coach's tool kit of techniques
is not as important as the relationship of care and trust they build
with their client, which in turn comes from the client feeling respected,
listened to and valued.
While field managers are of course not employed to conduct therapy
on franchisees, they are employed as change agents to motivate franchisees
to be the best they can be. A field manager's success in influencing
franchisee attitudes and behavior will ultimately come primarily
from their ability to build a relationship of trust with their franchisees.
I'd go as far as to say that a field visit where there is an absence
of mutual trust and respect is unlikely to be of much real benefit
to a franchisee or franchisor.
How will you know when you have established the right relationship
with your franchisees? Simple. They will tell you what they honestly
think and what is really going on - not just in their business but
also in their life. (Let's face it. When a franchisee's performance
goes off the boil it's often something beyond the business that's
causing the problem.)
Do field managers make a difference?
Realistically how much difference can a field manager make to the
performance of an individual or group of franchisees? The following
evidence is quite compelling.
For a start we have found that field managers have a significant
impact on franchisee satisfaction and their intention to stay in
or leave the franchise system. While long-standing franchisees are
more likely to want to sell their business, a multiple regression
analysis on data we have collected across many different franchise
systems has revealed that a franchisee's intention to sell is significantly
related to their satisfaction with the support they are receiving
from their field manager.
In one study of a franchise system with over 300 franchisees divided
into 12 regions, we found four times the number of businesses for
sale in the region that also had the lowest satisfaction with their
regional (field) manager.
A case in point
In another study, the national morale of 240 franchisees was tested
using a survey instrument known as the Franchisee Mood Monitor.
The mood of franchisees across the country was shown to be quite
positive and buoyant except for a particular region where franchisees
were feeling despondent and ambivalent toward their business and
The manager of this region was replaced and twelve months later
retesting with the Franchisee Mood Monitor showed the overall satisfaction
of franchisees was now significantly above the national average.
On a specific scale which measures the extent to which franchisees
feel their opinions are valued and listened to, franchisee satisfaction
in this region had increased by 39%. Furthermore franchisee satisfaction
with their financial performance had increased by 33%.
We subsequently questioned the new regional manager, Mark, as to
what he had been focusing on. He said he had made an effort to encourage
franchisees to attend area meetings and provided plenty of opportunity
for constructive open discussion on issues of interest to them.
I was so interested in this turnaround I personally observed Mark
for two days as he interacted with franchisees individually and
in small groups. Several aspects of his behavior stood out:
- He was clearly interested in how his franchisees were going
and asked specific questions to quickly gain relevant information
about their business. He never reacted to whatever was said. He
- He kept conversations focused on positive outcomes. If a franchisee
complained about something Mark was not defensive. He would merely
listen and draw out their thoughts on how it could be improved.
- His body language indicated a keen interest in the person he
was talking to. Every conversation was treated as though it were
the most important thing happening at the time.
- He let people finish before putting his own views forward. If
he disagreed with a point of view he would say so but he always
explained why, giving facts or examples where possible.
- Mark was consistently enthusiastic about the business. Not a
phony over the top enthusiasm, more the natural enthusiasm that
comes from wanting to be the best at what you do.
- Finally, Mark didn't take himself too seriously. He was happy
for others to have a joke at his expense.
What came across from all Mark's interactions was a genuine helpfulness
and respect and it was clearly paying dividends.
So, can a field manager make a significant difference to the performance
of a group of franchisees? You bet.