Do you really know what your franchisees think about you and your brand?

Bob McDevitt


Mar 16, 2017

Frankly, the thought of doing a survey of our franchisees at Golden Corral was not totally foreign to us. A number of years ago we regularly did surveys in an attempt to get general opinions on things like overall satisfaction, attitude about the relationship, the company’s values and culture, and specific feedback about training, Franchise Service Consultant support, marketing programs and the like.

The problem was that the franchisees were generally reticent to provide honest feedback (a 30% response was common) and the senior management attitude was somewhere between “it couldn’t hurt” and “why are we doing this”… not exactly unbridled enthusiasm.

Not surprisingly, after several years of trying we gave it up.

With that history in the back of my mind, last year I was presented with the opportunity to have an independent franchise based media company (Franchise Business Review) field a franchisee survey for us.

Michelle Rowan, the President of FBR, made a good case for why independently conducted research makes sense and, after a painful (on her part) eight months of selling me, I reluctantly agreed we would try it.

Now this is not a plug for FBR, even though it looks like it. It is a plug for the idea of researching your franchisees and the value in having that research independently conducted. Here is what we learned.

  1. Franchisees really do want you to know how they feel. We got a 70% return rate on the surveys.
  2. The skepticism surrounding your reasons for doing this is still there but it’s less of an impediment. Very few franchises raised objections or questions.
  3. We learned several things we really didn’t expect. One in particular was of real value. What it was is not important but suffice it to say that if you think you have a weakness or problem the franchisees are unaware of or would have no reason to know, think again.
  4. We all have communications problems but with an independent survey you will learn more about how deep and how wide.
  5. You will get an honest assessment of how they think management is doing and where they feel more attention is needed. On our survey the feedback was businesslike and professional without emotion. Nice!
  6. And, finally, all this input is benchmarked against other franchise businesses, our industry, and our segment of our industry. FBR does thousands of these and they have a significant base of surveys from which to isolate large relevant sample sizes for comparison. So you not only know how your franchisees feel, you know how that compares to the franchise industry and your business…that has real value.

A few closing points about surveying your franchisees.

Don’t do it unless you are prepared to share the results. Not everything is going to look great so get comfortable with the thought of showing and discussing some input that you might not like.

Don’t do it if you are not prepared to demonstrate a willingness to act on the feedback. Nobody will expect a wholesale change of strategy. But after results have been shared you should prioritize issues you all agree on and put together a plan to address them.

With the top 2 thoughts in mind you will get a lot of credit just for doing the survey. As long as you have the right attitude about it, the credit is deserved. Every franchise organization, no matter how large, needs to keep its ear to the ground and this is one good addition to the arsenal of tools to do that.

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