When a Franchisee Calls

What do people in your Franchise Support Office say when a franchisee calls? If part of the conversation is "Don't bother looking at the manual, it's out of date", it may be time to take a fresh look at this highly underrated franchise success tool.

We regularly hear franchisor executive grumbling about franchisees not following the system. However when questioned more deeply about why this might be so, they admit their franchisees probably receive mixed messages about policies and procedures. How can you realistically expect franchisees to deliver a consistent customer experience if your standards are not clearly defined or relevant to the current operating environment? This is where the operations manual, boring as it may seem, can play a vital role in the success of a franchise network - and I might add, in reducing conflict in the franchise relationship.

There are two reasons why your operations manual may need a review. Firstly, it's likely your business model has evolved, resulting in changes to systems and standards. Secondly, people on the franchisor team are going to leave from time to time and take important knowledge with them. While you can't control these two factors, (and you shouldn't as change is an important part of continuous improvement), you can control the loss of vital operational knowledge by ensuring you have an up to date operations manual.

But keeping an operations manual up to date is not as simple as it sounds. Your operations team may understand your business inside out, but they are unlikely to have the instructional design skills, or the time, to convert this knowledge into clearly written guidelines. Over the years we've developed a 6-step process for creating fresh, relevant operations manuals that position a network for further growth, which I'll share below.

6 questions to evaluate your manual

Here are six questions you can use to evaluate the health of your operations manual.

1. Culture friendly. A good manual captures your values, culture, language and feel. It's like part of the family furniture, reflecting the character of the business. Does your manual fit comfortably with the people who are supposed to use it?

2. Up to date. The contents should contain everything needed to guide and support franchisees to success. Have the contents of your manual kept up to date with the evolution of your business model?

3. Brand aligned. Every sentence in the manual should align with your brand, which is the reputation you are wanting to create in the mind of your customers. Do all elements of your manual clearly link to and support the ideal customer experience?

4. Connection point. An effective manual connects every element of your franchise system together. Does your manual connect to your operational checklists, templates, learning resources and training programs?

5. Online version control. You and your franchisees need to have easy, online access with user friendly navigation. Can you conveniently create updates and can franchisees conveniently find what they need to know?

6. Accepted go-to-guide. Ultimately it's not the manual but how it's used that makes the difference. Do your franchisees habitually consult the manual before calling field consultants or support office for help?

How'd you go? If you think it's time to take a fresh look at your operations manual we have a team of instructional designers who would be happy to walk you through where you're at in the 6 step process. Wouldn't it be great if next time a franchisee calls, you could confidently say "Have you checked the manual?"

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