Here’s a story that was shared with me during our last recession. I recently thought about how such an experience can ultimately affect a franchise brand (or any brand, business or organization) today. So, franchisors, and anyone else that may want to chime in, please keep the following questions in mind:
- How would you handle this situation if you became aware of it through a customer complaint?
- If asked by a franchisee about what to do in a situation like this or how to avoid it completely, how would you respond?
- Are scenarios like this covered in initial and ongoing franchisee training?
- Ultimately, if similar situations are repeated, how could it affect the franchisee’s bottom line and how could it affect the franchisors’ bottom line?
- How should a franchise organization go the extra mile in working and communicating with its franchisees about customers, ultimately, the brand’s customers?
When the story was shared with me, I immediately thought about a question that had been posted on a discussion board about what companies were prepared to do in order to retain customers during a recession or time of economic uncertainty.
Late one morning, a client of mine was told by his boss to purchase gift cards to be given as prizes for that afternoon’s golf tournament. The company had decided to increase the number of prizes as the response to participate by local businesses was overwhelming. The tournament was to start at 12:30PM and my client was playing in the event and also had several of his clients playing with him. Therefore, it was imperative he make it to the golf course by noon at the very latest.
At 10:35AM he went to a national chain restaurant location and found it closed but saw a lot of activity inside by the front desk. He knocked on the door and explained his need to purchase $1000 in gift cards. He was rudely told the restaurant didn’t open until 11:00AM. My client explained his circumstances and the need to get across town to the golf course and not having to wait 25 minutes would really help him. He asked to speak with a manager. He was told the manager was not available and emphatically told once again, we don’t open until 11:00AM. The door was abruptly slammed shut before he could utter another word.
Instead of waiting, my client went across the street to another national restaurant chain location and found it also didn’t open until 11AM. However, as he was looking in, a cook noticed him from the back, hurriedly walked up front and opened the door. Upon listening to my client’s request, the cook cleaned his hands and with the help of two other staff members in the restaurant, they were able to put together enough gift cards to make up the desired amount and complete the transaction. All within a matter of minutes!
Here are a few thoughts to consider:
My client frequently takes clients out for lunch. Do you think he’ll frequent the first restaurant in the future? Do you believe he would go out of his way to dine at the second location?
The gift cards were given to ten participants at the golf tournament. Do you think they may spend above the gift card denomination when they redeem the cards? And is there a possibility their experience at the restaurant may be their first to the restaurant and if they enjoy the experience, they may visit in the future?
How many people will my client inform about his bad experience at the first restaurant and with how many people will he share his great experience?
The list of questions could easily go on with respect to my client’s boss, others in their organization, participants at the tournament, etc.
Yes, there’s a domino effect with a bad customer experience. However, the same is true with a great customer experience. Maybe even more so when the experience is positively memorable.
But the most important questions to ponder are, how much does a negative domino effect hurt a business or brand during a recession or time of economic uncertainty and conversely, how much does a business or brand benefit from a positive domino effect during that same period of economic challenges. And especially in an era of review sites, social media and influencers?