“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality” – Walt Disney
The importance of the brand
Franchise image and brand management has become increasingly important and is a valuable resource to any franchise in terms of differentiation. Customers’ perceptions, patronage behaviour and loyalty are influenced by branding. Various tangible and intangible attributes influence the overall image as perceived by customers.
These attributes include:
- the variety and quality of merchandise,
- franchise outlet or location,
- franchise name or logo,
- communication methods
- as well as behaviour and service quality of employees at each encounter.
The face of the brand: Employees
Franchises can provide the best variety of products or services at comparable prices. But if the service quality is of a poor standard, and the customers’ experiences are less than satisfactory, it can be detrimental for survival in a competitive environment.
Franchises are starting to realize the importance of considering the critical role of employees in the management of the franchise image. Employees are becoming more engaged and are seen as a vital part in the success and sustainability of any franchise. They are the interface and direct connection to customers. Therefore they can influence perceptions and gain information to ensure a positive enterprise image or brand. The commitment and level of service quality rendered by employees will deliver the brand promise at each encounter with a customer.
I strongly believe that employees influence customers’ perceptions immensely. Not only by fulfilling their assigned responsibilities, but also going the extra mile in assisting customers with requests and creating an environment where customers feel important. Personal experience with many franchises has taught me that one bad experience with an employee can damage the franchise’s image. Few people will complain about the employee as an individual, they would rather refer to the franchise as a whole. Good employees go beyond their job descriptions to ensure customer satisfaction.
Franchises rely on employees to deliver the brand promise. Therefore high levels of consistent service quality are essential in the reinforcement of the image or brand. The problem arises when there are different levels of services rendered by the employees; not all employees provide consistent quality service.
Consistency is a crucial element of effective image or brand management and therefore employees need to comprehend the appropriate behaviour or actions to display when interacting with consumers. This should be based on the franchise’s image and brand core values, which must be developed and enhanced by the franchisor.
Retail franchises need to clearly communicate the image and brand’s purpose to employees to create an awareness and understanding of their role and responsibilities. The image or brand message needs to be trained internally so that employees’ actions and behaviour can be guided.
Internal branding or marketing
Employees should be considered as internal customers whose:
- Satisfaction in the franchise can be enhanced through brand management and internal marketing efforts
Internal factors such as:
- Internal service quality,
- Employee productivity,
- Employee satisfaction and
…has an impact on the external customer’s experience.
The employees who accord with the franchise’s image or brand will act more consistently in supporting the franchise’s values and also on how external stakeholders will perceive the franchise’s image or brand. It is not only essential for employees to understand the importance of the image or brand but for the franchise to understand and be aware of the employees’ role in image or brand management.
As a result the franchise should:
- Recruit personnel that are people focussed and sales driven
- Train everybody on the brand values and service principles and
- Retain employees committed to the culture and vision of the franchise to ensure service-orientated behaviour and performance
A good example of a company who has implemented these aspects successfully is Sorbet. As part of the initial training, all the staff are orientated to the company philosophy by the CEO personally. Staff are called “citizens” of Sorbet and the clients are “guests”. All of these actions help ensure pride to be an employee of Sorbet, which results in consistent client satisfaction and thus also consistent brand perception.
Employees play a critical role in the delivery of the franchise brand promise. The importance of training cannot be over emphasised to achieve the establishment of core brand values.
As the proverb indicates a house is not a home; it is merely an empty structure. Once filled with experience, character, ambience and feeling, in other words people; then we call it a home. This statement has been expressed and quoted throughout the ages and evidently it can be extended to franchising as well.