Is anyone out there listening?
The operations and procedures manual is at the core of every franchise operation. Without it, the network simply cannot function. New franchisors accept that and create an operations manual that does the job well enough. So far so good! If only they would keep it up.
Every experienced franchise consultant has come across instances where a network’s operations manual has become hopelessly outdated. To allow this to happen triggers a chain reaction:
Franchisees don’t use the operations manual because it is outdated. If they have an operational problem, they phone Head Office for advice, and who can blame them? Of course, this doesn’t always work that well because the person who could give them the answer they require is in a meeting…
The franchisor doesn’t bother to update the operations manual because franchisees don’t use it anyway. If they have an operational query, they phone Head Office. (Try telling anyone who is involved in franchisee relations that he/she is not easily accessible and they will instantly slip into a state of denial. This human weakness aside, realities dictate that nobody can be accessible 24/7.)
What happens next is predictable, and sad. The franchisee faces an irate customer who wants a problem solved. Being unable to obtain guidance from Head Office, the franchisee has no option but to improvise. It is easy to see that over time, this can have a devastating effect on corporate identity and service integrity.
It is clear, therefore, that the operations manual must remain the network’s bible. The Germans know that and have introduced a scheme whereby companies who produce and/or update an operations manual in keeping with clearly laid-down standards qualify for a government subsidy.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a similar project off the ground right here in South Africa? It would be money well spent. It would also do wonders for franchising as well as for consumers who have to bear the brunt of slipping levels of service and support.