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In the most recent article, I built the case for why you should focus on Building Layers of Loyalty into all aspects of your franchise. Short answer? It’s the foundational Pillar and strengthens your business. In other words, loyalty keeps the cash flowing when times get tough and allows you to invest your time finding new clients and new ways to grow your business.
In this article, I’ll provide specific loyalty building suggestions for each stakeholder target: clients, employees and community partners.
Build Loyalty with Customers
The simplest form of building loyalty is being present in your business. Who is the first person you notice when you go out to dinner, aside from your server? The owner or general manager. They may greet you when you come in or stop by your table to check on your satisfaction. Here is the key: They make their presence known because they know that’s a rock-solid way to build client loyalty.
In my book, I talk about LuAnn Linker, a top performing Wild Birds Unlimited franchisee. LuAnn bought her franchise, an underperforming store, in April 2001 and immediately set out to be present. She learned client names and made sure they knew she cared about their needs and interests. When the most violent terrorist attack in US history happened a few months later, the relationships she built in that short period of time made a big difference in her very challenging first year.
The best way to explain the impact of being accessible is to share an exchange that was repeated numerous times in the front lobby of my franchise. A parent, often a new client, has a concern or issue and asks to speak to the owner. With a smile on her face, the manager would respond, “Of course. That would be Miss Christy. Her cell number and her home number are posted right over there on the front door.” The client then skeptically says, “Really?
Right there? You’re kidding! And that’s her real number?” The manager, perhaps now chuckling, “It sure is!” Please tell me about your concern, and I’ll let her know you may be calling.”
When the concern was re-stated, the manager committed to the resolution, and the matter was settled on the spot. Do you want to take a guess how many disgruntled calls I received? Maybe a dozen. That’s it. Total. Not per year. Over the entire 15 years. I find it hard to believe myself. That’s why I had to share “Be Accessible” with you. It’s too easy not to do. A high level of trust was built with that one simple interaction and shared information.
Every single one of your clients wants to feel that his or her business is appreciated. Find a way to convey it. Here are a few simple suggestions:
Thank you display or a small gift such as a treat, cup of coffee or pen might be enough. I frequent one particular dry cleaner because they always have fresh coffee brewing. I once received a business portfolio from a food vendor on their 25th anniversary that I used for years.
That vendor recognized that I was a ‘sweet spot’ client and personally delivered his gift.
Frequent buyer promotions can drive loyalty and revenue. Who isn’t delighted when the cashier says, “this one is on us!” and thanks you for your business. Celebrating your business anniversary lets clients know that you consider them an important part of your success and that their loyalty matters to you. In my book, I show a picture of Shannon Kemp, a Style Encore franchisee in North Carolina, and her team poised to greet clients on her anniversary. If you guessed that Shannon is a top performing franchisee, you would be right.
Build Loyalty with Employees
You Don’t Know if You Don’t Ask
I probably skipped a year here or there, but most years I’d ask the staff to complete a survey. It covered a variety of topics and it was always highly confidential, i.e. for my eyes only. The surveys helped gauge the success of employee loyalty programs, a manager’s effectiveness and likeability, and what was ‘missing’ from the job. They knew I cared because I asked. They gave me their loyalty because I responded with honesty and without delay in terms of new plans and immediate action where needed.
Mix it Up
Employees get bored
Put together a diverse team to come up with some fun activities that can be implemented without much cost. You’ll be surprised how creative they can be. When you notice something in a business that you frequent, take a picture or make a note. Consider how it might be applied to your organization. Even new procedures that address old problems can boost morale and add to your loyalty pillar because it shows that you (still) care and are concerned about their well-being and the organization as a whole. That adds a layer of loyalty to your growing pillar.
Build Loyalty with Community Partners
Connecting with Your Community
In my book, I introduce readers to Eddie Titen, a top-tier Sonny’s BBQ multi-unit franchisee. Eddie does the epitome of connecting with his community by carrying out the franchisor program dubbed Random Acts of BBQ. In short, a deserving community partner, such as a first responder or charity organization is the designated recipient of a full Sonny’s spread. The random act is straight from the heart and the goodwill it generates in the community keeps Sonny’s BBQ in the forefront of many BBQ lovers mind. The local media have been known to feature his random acts in their broadcasts.
Here are a few other ideas for connecting with your community:
- Become a board member for a nonprofit – especially good if it aligns with your business.
- Write educational articles for local publications.
- Volunteer at community events.
- Volunteer as a guest speaker.
Building layers of loyalty does not happen overnight. Neither does building a business that is strong enough to withstand some of the thunderheads that will come your way over the coming years. Unfortunately, competition and downturns in the market are unavoidable. One thing is for sure, building loyalty layers into your business- one layer at a time - will ensure that the sun will come out once the thunderheads pass through.
Christy Wilson Delk is a former 15-year franchisee, Business Professor at Rollins College and industry speaker and writer. Her book, Adventures in Franchise Ownership 4 Pillars to Strengthen, Protect and Grow Your Business is available on www.Amazon.com and ww.BarnesandNoble.com. Download the Introduction and Chapter 1 through her website www.ChristyWilsonDelk.com