Thanks to the time that you’ve spent designing comprehensive company guidelines and staff training, your customers will have come to expect an excellent experience from every forward-facing aspect of your brand.
When such a high level of investment has been made to ensure excellence, it’s vital that every franchise within the network complies with the same customer experience model that they have agreed to adhere to in the contract they hold with you.
If just one staff member is acting outside of the company policy, it is likely to have a detrimental effect on the whole brand. If the experience that the customer has is impacted, they may not return to the brand at all as they will tar each site with the same brush, not realising that they are independently owned. As a result, your company may not just lose that customer (perhaps without actually knowing why, as they will rarely provide feedback to you) but their family and friends might hear all about the negative experience too.
Mystery shopping is one method that franchisors use to observe whether franchisees are adhering to the company guidelines. Mystery shoppers can assess every touchpoint including your franchisees’ locations, contact centres, websites/landing pages and enquiry channels such as social media or live chat. Every interaction they have with your brand will mimic that of your typical customer base, giving staff the opportunity to shine. The shoppers will report back on their experience and the results will be available to you as well as your franchisees so that they can use the assessments to improve or reward where appropriate.
Adherence to Company Standards
A care home franchise recently approached Mystery Shoppers Ltd as they needed help assessing their wealth of franchises through visits to homes. The company wanted to ensure that their employees were always following up with customers after a visit.
In the first month of the mystery shopping programme, shoppers reported that only 53% of employees followed up with them through a telephone call or email. The team at MSL provided the care home with actionable recommendations and as a result, the care home franchisor sent communication through the network, reiterating the importance of following up and how this positively affected sales. Because the mystery shopping calls were recorded, the franchisor was able to include good examples in the communication and the mystery shopping programme then continued. The follow up rate rose to 73% and has consistently continued to rise over time.
Now the franchisor is focusing on other areas and carries out cost-effective performance monitoring on certain sites only, to help their scores improve to meet the higher-ranking homes.
Measuring the Effectiveness of Training
Mystery shopping can also be used to assess the effectiveness of training. To check that outlets were performing at the same exceptional level of their flagship stores, a global dessert franchisor approached Mystery Shoppers Ltd who designed a programme based around the client’s customer service, cleanliness and merchandising standards. Mystery shoppers made visits to the food outlets , assessing specific elements such as:
- Appearance of the premises and of staff
- Customer service skills of staff including their enthusiasm
- Company and product knowledge
- Store atmosphere
- Order taking and queue management
- Taking opportunities to upsell/link sell
Based on the data that the Mystery Shoppers provided during the initial stages of the programme, the franchisor created a new training scheme which consisted of four weeks of intensive training. The scheme was applied throughout their existing franchisees and structured into their contract for new franchisees. Once the scheme was in place, another wave of mystery shopping took place to evaluate the franchisees focusing on the new training programme, to assess its effectiveness.
Prior to the scheme being introduced, when shoppers were asked if they were a genuine customer, would they recommend the company to a friend or family member, only 35% of them said that they would. After the scheme, this rose to 73%.
The company now carry out periodic mystery shopping to spot check their franchise network and results are fed back directly to the outlets so that they can see how they have performed.
Branding Consistency Checks
Apart from necessary variations in the product or service offering, the brand and its core values must remain consistent for the customer to be able to seamlessly pass from one franchise to another without even realising and, like any effective marketing campaign, all aspects affecting the customer’s experience will need to work in harmony with one another. Each customer touchpoint needs to match branding guidelines and promotional materials need to be consistent. A vehicle rental company recently wanted to ensure that:
the most up to date promotional materials detailing current offers were being displayed in poster frames on the exterior of their branches
that email communication with customers had the correct signature and content matched the company style
Mystery shoppers visited their 120 sites to enquire about hiring a car and covertly took photos of all promotional displays. They gave their email addresses and waited to be contacted by staff, then took screenshots of all of the responses to show the email content. The franchisor found that 56% of their vehicle rental centres were using out of date email templates.
All photos and screenshots were provided to the relevant managers with an assessment form detailing which posters and email signatures required updating with files and instructions attached to allow managers to action the changes immediately.
Mystery Shoppers Ltd can also provide franchisors with overt auditing and customer satisfaction research, providing further consistency checks across the franchisee network.