Five-step Plan to Thrive in Tough Times
In the likelihood of tough times ahead due to South Africa’s rating downgrade to Junk Status, franchises can do a thorough review of the marketing and branding touchpoints of their business, i.e., any time a potential customer comes into contact with the franchise’s brand before, during or after they purchase something from them.
As a franchise business owner, you’re probably considering your response right now to the downgrades. Should you adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude? – after all, nothing much has really happened yet. The rand, inflation and interest rates have all held their own. Or should you try be proactive and do something to strengthen your business?
What you can do now
‘Waiting and seeing’ has its advantages – but it doesn’t address one’s desire to take positive action. What you can do is look for ways to make your business more efficient should the economy slow further, but avoid cutting costs for now as this may damage your business’ ability to grow in the near future. With most costs being inflexible, the only costs readily available for trimming are those such as marketing and wages. Cutting these puts you on the back foot when the economy revives. You may lose market share to bolder competitors.
You should rather turn this crisis to your advantage by making a sensible and strategic review of your business processes, identifying weaknesses and prioritising those improvements which improve productivity. This is about looking at the strength of your brand, and customer service. For virtually no expense, you can improve your business processes and position it rather for growth. This is done by fixing all ‘touchpoints’ between your business and customers.
Identifying your touchpoints
For example, customers may have located your business;
- online or in an ad,
- by checking your ratings and reviews,
- by visiting your website,
- visiting your retail store, or
- by contacting your customer call centre.
You might invariably deliver a great product, on time and with a smile – but one errant touchpoint like;
- off-target advertising,
- billing errors, or
- a clumsy website can scare customers off.
Busy franchise store-owners often have a blind spot to these touchpoints. You’re busy with;
- financial accounting, and
- the hundred and one other things a busy franchisee has to focus on.
This can create a skewed ‘inside-out’ perspective. Many of these touchpoints will be outsourced by you, and therefore ‘somebody else’s’ business. It is important to note that it is Actually still your business and these outsourced touchpoints will still have impact on your franchise even if it is not readily visible
Fixing these touchpoints rarely requires much capital investment – it is primarily a matter of management time and tightening controls. It starts with getting genuine customer feedback so as to gain the ‘outside-in’ perspective experienced by customers.
The potential for negative experience at one or other touchpoint has increased dramatically in the digital age, as much of a customer’s journey is online. Some of the other points to look at include:
- the online ordering process;
- satisfaction with the payment portal;
- the quality of the logistics – how and when a purchase is delivered;
- the customer-service attitude of the logistics provider when delivery takes place;
- and after-sales service.
With so much emphasis on technology, the customer experience can sometimes all but be forgotten.
So, what should you do?
Here’s a step-by-step checklist:
- Identify each touchpoint between the business and your stakeholders. Find its location (or the service provider that ‘owns’ it). We’ve mentioned some already:
- Your website
- Your advertising strategy could miss your target market
- Visit your retail store
- Review your customer call centre efficiency
- Check your billing processes
- Review your logistics
- Review your online payment portal
- How is your after-sales service?
- Each individual interaction forms a part of the customer’s end-to-end journey through the business, and these should be mapped out diagrammatically to be able to conduct an in-depth analysis of various points of interaction between the stakeholders.
- Identify which touchpoints have the greatest impact on the business and customer behaviour. This would be based on how well your business is doing, by looking at where business volumes decline. Perhaps you have minimal new business, or failure to attract repeat business, or admin problems with getting paid.
- Use customer feedback and such sounding-boards as you have within the business to identify failings in the touchpoints, by placing non-intrusive feedback requests at relevant touchpoints across your site, and develop remedial actions
- Prioritise them and develop an action plan to effect improvements on the most influential touchpoints. Don’t waste money or time on low-priority improvements
These should all also be reviewed when first establishing a new touchpoint. For instance, launching a marketing campaign which promises the earth to customers can harm the brand if the business is not capable of delivering.