March 2015 Archives

Employees say the dandiest things when they call in sick. "My toe is stuck in a faucet" and "Someone glued my windows and doors shut" were among the least believable sick-day excuses heard by company managers polled in a recent survey by CareerBuilder .

One in 7 women have called into work and lied about being sick, the survey found. The number for men is 1 in 5 (what's going on guys?). And while it's not uncommon for employees to occasionally call in sick when they're actually fine, most every company has one or two sick-day abusers.

Here's what to do about employees who call in "sick" too often:

1. Merge "Sick" Days with "Vacation" Days

In an attempt to curb sick-day abuse, a growing number of companies now allot employees a specified number of paid days off for any purpose -- that is, both sick time and vacation time are considered the same thing and consolidated into one paid leave package. By doing so, employers effectively reward employees who don't have frequent illnesses and discourage employees from taking sick days off when they're not actually sick.

With such a policy in place, sick-day abusers may think twice before calling in because the absences cut into what could be their vacation. According to the 2014 Small Business Success Study, 67% of small business owner's aren't hiring , so it makes good business sense to manage your current employees well.

2. Do Away With Voice Mails

Some employees are more likely to abuse sick time if they don't have to speak with a supervisor and can simply get out of work by firing off an email or leaving a groggy-toned voice mail. With this being the case, employers should require workers, especially those whose attendance record is sub-par, to speak directly to an immediate supervisor when they call in sick.

3. Relax Your Policies

This one is a little counter-intuitive. But it's possible that your strict sick-leave policy is actually having the reverse effect and causing employees to skip out on work instead of preventing unscheduled absenteeism.

Studies show the majority of workers who call in sick at the last minute do so for reasons other than physical illness, citing personal needs and stress as chief reasons for taking time off. Workplace flexibility, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce worker stress.

In other words, giving employees more freedom, so long as their share of work gets completed, makes staff more appreciative of the company and less likely to take advantage of paid leave policies.

Finally it May be Time To Talk

Okay you've merged sick time with vacation time, done away with voice mails and boosted morale by increasing workplace flexibility, but there are still sick-day abusers at the company. Now it's time to take them aside for a sit-down and let them know that you've noticed the days off.

Emily Dusablon, an advisor at Insperity, a provider of HR services, suggests asking employees whether there's any reason in particular that is causing the absences. "Maybe you're not aware of an underlying condition," Dusablon says. "Maybe the employee needs a schedule adjustment or accommodation based on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Don't assume you know all the facts until you have talked with the employee."

And, Know The Law

If, after a sit-down, the absenteeism persists, and you choose to take action, it's necessary to first consider the laws associated with paid sick leave.

For instance, under the Family and Medical Leave Ac t, certain employers are required to offer their employees leave to care for themselves or sick family members.

Determining if an employee's circumstances qualify them for such legal protections, or if employers are on the hook for paying them during such times, is typically where things get sticky. In most cases, the safest bet is to consult an attorney before withholding pay or firing an excessively absent employee.

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LinkedIn is often seen as the place to go if you're recruiting new employees or searching for a new job -- not necessarily as a place to grow franchise sales. However, when you think about it, a franchise sale can be considered a new employee or someone looking for a new job. It makes sense that the number one social network for business professionals is also be the number one place for your franchise to grow.

According to the 2014 Franchise Development Report:

  • 42% of franchise sales are from the internet
  • Franchise sales generated through social media have 267% YOY
  • 40% of social media franchise sales originated from LinkedIn

If your franchise is already pursuing sales on LinkedIn, you're ahead of the game; but if you aren't, you're missing out on an area of opportunity.

No matter what level you are at, you can improve your franchise sales through LinkedIn with our starter kit. You can also download our printable cheat sheet to keep handy and track your progress.

1. Make LinkedIn a priority

Before your decide to start using LinkedIn -- to showcase your business and raise its profile to new franchisees -- you need to commit to it. I'm sure you already have a designated time where you check your emails and follow up on phone calls, you should also allocate time in your day (or week) to check-in and work on LinkedIn.

Once you make LinkedIn a regular part of your schedule, it blend right into your day-to-day activities and your franchise will start seeing positive results.

2. Investigate your competitors

It is always a good idea to stay up-to-date on what other franchises similar to yours are doing in the online marketing arena and LinkedIn is no exception. Start looking into how your competitors are using their LinkedIn company profiles and it will help you come up with new ideas about how you can grow your franchise. Whether you are the first or last one to the game, you will learn how they are positioning themselves toward a target audience (which may or may not be yours).

Make sure to take detailed notes, including:

  • Uploading pictures
  • Posting regularly
  • Sharing files
  • Listing specialties
  • Other tactics that help them stand out

These notes will help form your LinkedIn strategy to increase your franchise sales. While I don't recommend you copy your competitors verbatim (after all, you do have your own unique market proposition), seeing what others have done is always a good jumping point and can help you brainstorm ideas about what to include on your own page.

3. Have a profile that impresses

After you are done taking your notes, its time to analyze and implement your strategy to create a profile that grabs the attention of your target audience.

The best way to optimize your profile is simple: fill out each applicable section with the required content -- and don't do a half-a*s job! By putting the extra effort in now, your profile will get more bang for its buck and bring in more prospects.

For example: be sure to list any non-profit organizations that your brand supports under the "Volunteer Experience & Causes" section of your personal profile. You never know if a certain charitable affiliation will resonate with someone and be the reason he/she reaches out to you.

4. Showcase your franchise

LinkedIn showcase pages allow you to focus on the opportunity your franchise offers.

While your company page focuses on your brand as a whole, your showcase page is a good place to sell prospects on the many benefits of your franchise -- and how it can help them. Take a page out of your sales toolkit when creating your showcase page and start generating leads.

5. Update and engage

On both your company and showcase pages, you need to stay active and engage your audience by sharing useful and helpful information about your franchise, as well as any positive press your business receives. If you are dedicated to these pages, they will always be up-to-date so that prospects never have outdated information.

In addition, by regularly updating LinkedIn, you will also integration the platform into your regular sales routine and help increase audience awareness. When possible, you should go beyond your own page and join groups where you can network with others in your industry and discuss challenges and share success stories.

Bonus: Upgrade

If you want to give your account a boost, you can sign up for LinkedIn Premium which will give you a laundry list of sales perks. While this isn't necessary for everyone, when you start seeing success it can help you keep the momentum going by giving you access to advanced search and in-mail features, as well as the ability to send messages to almost anyone with a LinkedIn profile (connecting you with even more prospects).

Conclusion

Taking advantage of LinkedIn for your franchise sales can help you extend your process in front of entrepreneurs searching for their next step. Some of the challenges you face from a sales perspective can be tackled with LinkedIn's ability to connect you with your audience and groups throughout your community.

Download our LinkedIn Starter Kit and make sure your franchise is in front of users who are searching for their next business opportunity. Download Now

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Ever wish there were a "Moneyball approach " to managing multi-location restaurants?

It would be a business model where we would field dozens of "scouts " who could fan out across multiple locations, logging in data, observing and recording "in-game activity, " and making note of even the smallest thing ... like the fact that the day the dumpster was overflowing, the location sold 23 fewer desserts.

Or that when the men 's room was dirty, the bar take was down 29%.

Or that at Saturday lunch (when the young wait staff looked as though they'd come directly from an afterhours party) you got only two table turns and not three.

Just like in Moneyball, an "overlord " manager would sit at a computer and view a dashboard of data, some of it raw, and some of it synthesized, based on algorithms. He'd make decisions based not on guesses. Not on theories. But on facts, gathered in real time in the field. It would be a Big Data solution for multi-location restaurants.

Impossible to put in place, right? Too expensive!

Heck, you 'd need to field a team of scouts out there walking the floors of your locations.

(Wait, don 't we have that now? Aren 't our managers walking the floors and building grounds already?)

And they 'd all have to be carrying tablets or iPads.

(Wait, everyone 's got tablets or iPads now. If not, the costs are minimal.)

And the data would have to feed a system that analyzed it.

(That exists today as well, and plus, these days, customizing analysis of data streams is not cost prohibitive, especially given the amazing ROI that's achievable.)

So, with the workforce in place ...

And the technology in place ...

The only thing missing is a protocol, a process, a workflow that would prompt the workforce to start collecting data.

The question is: Which data? What things should our "Moneyball scouts " be looking at?

That 's where SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocols come into play.

With the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol, you can leverage your workforce to collect data, which will let you draw correlations between operations, sales, and costs. That will help you determine your shortest path to optimized profits.

Old Pilots Don't Crash. Old Restaurants Managers Do. Ever see an old pilot skip a pre-flight checklist? Nope. That 's why so few planes crash.

Ever see an old restaurant manager (over confident that he knows it all) crash a restaurant? Yup. Happens all the time.

That's why we have to bring the rigor of the preflight inspection to the management of restaurants.

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Microsoft has discontinued MapPoint starting this year, which was used as a territory mapping software.

This left many users with an urgent need to replace it.

However, the big question here is, what exactly does a business, like a franchise, need in a mapping package?

The Biggest Feature Needed Isn't A Map

The biggest features that I hear are needed in mapping software are: something they can use quickly, get decisions fast, have cloud ability to collaborate with other team members and ultimately to the franchisee. Microsoft taught us that creating something that only works on a PC no longer works.

Benefits of a Map

Selling Franchises

Of all the bells and whistles that Microsoft offered, the one that is most important is whatever allows the franchisee a means to make decisions faster for buying into what the franchisor is selling.

Saving Time

The main "pain point" from franchisors depends on what you're using mapping for. Such as this post relating to Microsoft going away is one big example. As many franchisors have told me, "Franchise territories are the most important things to our company." The feature for territory mapping needs to handle decades of old territories mixed with new territories and edits. In can be incredibly time-consuming for a retailer to manage all of this.

Few Extra Things Needed

Franchisees also have a need related to territory mapping. They want a starter package from mapping suppliers.

Not an expensive product and they definitely do not want a product that they need to purchase a full subscription to use the product.

They need minor demographics, simple site management and one or two territories. Low friction to usage is again a highly desirable feature...meaning "non-technical users".

Uploading a list is still important. Usually any locations of existing or proposed sites.

Routing for franchisors is also desired to generate sales leads.

Again, all for ultimately selling to a potential franchisee.

Lastly, sex appeal. It helps to make it shiny and new.

Summary of Top Desired Mapping Options From Franchisors

Features

  • Quick to use, they don't need to spend all day on it.
  • Easy to use so anyone in the company can use it.
  • Collaborative with decision makers, perhaps even the franchisees themselves.
  • Allows multiple users on the same plan.
  • Demographics, of course, how detailed depends upon its use, but usually not very detailed.
  • Sexy product that looks cutting edge.

Benefits

  • Sell franchisees.
  • Allow franchisees to have faith in the franchisors.
  • Provide strong communication between the franchisor and franchisee.
  • Builds trust between the franchisor and franchisee.
  • Allow franchisees to expand and grow.
  • Sexy product that is cutting edge helps to sell franchisees, shows one's being in touch with the times.
  • Sell franchisees (so important I had to list it twice).

So to sell, sell, sell is the main benefit.

Save time, time, time is the second benefit.

The map is just the means to the end.

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For years I have been working with companies to upgrade, tweak and help with scripts their sales and/or customer service reps.

Fast forward.

Now we're trying to get our clients who ask for help with a script to consider going to conversations with aided recall.

There is danger and pitfalls to both scripts and conversations though. Let me explain.

Scripts were designed for actors. Actors know how to read a script. Most folks don't. It's that simple.

When you give a person a script they tend to 'read' it. Well what's wrong with that Nancy? Aren't you suppose to read a script?

Yes, but it's the old 'HOW' you read it that counts. We have all been accosted by a phone call and someone poorly reading their script. Yawn, yawn or worse.

And in the professional scripts there are words for everyone (all actors) to respond. In your business script there's normally only words for what the rep is saying. There are no words for the customer - the responder (the other actor).

Oh there may be some things like "if the customer says this, you say that;" "if the customer says that, you say this." Do we say, "Excuse me, sir, that's not in my script?"

Here's a big time tip: If you want to continue using scripts, that's fine; however, we suggest you have the person who will be reading the script READ the script to you.

Or better yet, over the phone to you, as well. How does it sound? Tape it. Let them hear it too. Let them go to another room and call in on your cell or another phone. It's not a big deal. And the best time to do this is in the interview.

But what happens if you already have them on board and now after reading this you realize they're just reading the script blah, blah, blah? We can lose a lot of business that way.

DRAMA 101.

That's when you have someone you really want to hire (or is already on staff), but you're not happy with the 'read' or the audition.

Bring in a newspaper or magazine article. Tell them they're being interviewed for FOX News or CNN and have them read the article as they would on the air. It's very sobering.

Scripts are ok and if used right, even great.

But those that use scripts need to be great IMPROV folks. Improv isn't easy. But it's a great exercise in having a conversation. Some of us are good at it; some are not.

Let's face it. The folks coming into the workplace today, the millennials and such, aren't very versed in 'conversations.' After, "Hey, how ya doing?" or "Hey, what's up?" there's not much else. So we're going to need to teach them - show them -

One other thing about scripts.

I'm a professional actress and have worked with some big names over the years. We all memorized a script. What you find when you read a script is a possessiveness from the author. Anyone who has written a script doesn't like you to change the words. And you shouldn't. They were written with a reason.

Take Neil Simon, the brilliant play writer. If we changed his words we might not get the same laughs, the same reaction. So when you're given a script and you want to change stuff, ASK about changing words before you do it.

Changing authors words without permission could cause collateral damage. Like your job!

(Next post, I will give you a quick tip on on converstaions.)

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It's harder than ever to get your franchise candidate on the telephone.

You and I both know you can't sell a franchise until you have further qualified the franchise candidate for your offering. And that means engaging in verbal dialogue with your interested prospect. Not exchanging emails. Dialogue. The coin of the realm for sales.

salesman on phone.jpgIt is tempting to let your franchise recruitment website & a high powered CRM do all the heavy lifting.

But that would be a mistake.

Your top of the funnel inquiry process should result in a franchise candidate having a telephone call with you. Done right franchise buyers will be asking you when would be a good time for you to have a call with them. (If doesn't then you need to address the issues in Why You Cannot Get Your Franchise Leads on the Phone & What to Do About It)

The first call with a franchise candidate has to be all about them.

And all the real candidates have these same 3 basic questions.

  • How much does it cost?

  • How much can I make?

  • Is my area available?

But, here are the 3 qualifying questions you need answered from the candidate.

  • Does the franchise candidate meet or exceed your liquidity and net worth standards?

  • Is where the franchise candidate wants to open their franchise a fit where it makes sense for you to develop?

  • How interested in your franchise is the candidate and do you want to move on to the next step?

How you ask these questions can make or break the sale.

The best franchise sellers have a script for all their calls.

But getting the first call right is imperative in order to earn you a second call. And to determine if the franchise candidate is qualified to deserve more of your time.

You can see how this is an exchange of information between you and the franchise candidate. They get what they need to maintain their interest in your franchise & you achieve your qualification objectives. It is a negotiation dance between you and the franchise candidate. They have to get the sense that they earned the information they got from you. You cannot just dump this information on a website without getting something in return.

The negotiation dance on the first call is what determines whether the franchise candidate is going to buy. Get it right, get a sale. Get it wrong, and you are wasting your time & the franchisor's money.

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Customer loyalty programs can be simple, such as a buy 10 and get 1 free, or more complicated like an Airmiles program. But, it can be easy to misunderstand what even the simply loyalty program is doing.

For example, consider the Subway customer appreciation program, which used the following simple device to reward it loyal customers:

This seems straightforward enough - buy 10 and get a discount. What is hard to understand?

Well, Seth Godin, reminds us what the key to a customer loyalty program is:

Loyalty is what we call it when someone refuses a better option.

If your offering is always better, you don't have loyal customers, you have smart ones.

Don't brag about how loyal your customers are when you're the cheapest or you have clearly dominated some key element of what the market demands.

That's not loyalty. That's something else.

Loyal customers are temporarily not thinking as mere economic agents.

That is what your loyal program should be cultivating or testing - which customers who are not price shopping, right now.

Dan Ariely, in his always fascinating book, Predictably Irrational, contrasts market norms with social norms. We don't like to be offered payment for favours we do. Confusing the two would be like going to Mom's for wonderfully prepared family meal declaring it the best meal that you have ever had and then offering to tip Mom "something special".

To keep your customers loyal, ask them to do you favours, give them referrals to competitors, from time to time.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that a loyalty program is simply a way to lock in customers for purely economic reasons.

Investors are taking a fresh look at income producing real estate. Other investors are hanging on to their existing income real estate investments wondering how they will be affected by the vagaries of this vicious down cycle.

In either event, the focus is on prudent, professional management. Believe me...I've been around this block a few times.

At the very heart of good property management is a sound, well written lease, the contract between the landlord and tenant and the crux of their relationship.

While I have put on a three day workshop on writing a good lease, I will just address some key principles and concepts on this article. (Look for future articles to address many of these subjects individually and in more detail.)

The term "good fences make good neighbours" is the rule of thumb here. If the three most important words in real estate are "location, location, location", the three most important words in leasing would have to be "clarity, clarity, clarity".

Using an industry standard form produced by an organization such as the American Industrial Real Estate Association (AIR) is a good start. They have versions to fit almost any situation. But avoid defaulting to your old lease form or the form used by the previous owner. The AIR forms are constantly revised to keep up to date with evolving legal precepts.

Here are some basic bullet points.

1. State the name of the parties accurately or you may have trouble enforcing the lease later in case of a default. Don't think you know which legal party has what legal name. Find out.

2. Enter the date at the top of the lease: this is unrelated to the lease term dates, but will serve as a critical reference in all future official or legal correspondence. As a property manager, I, received, too many times, a "fully executed lease" from a national institutional client, authored by their $500/hour attorney, without the lease date filled in. Amazing!

3. Clearly state the rent schedule iin actual dollars (i.e. $3,250.51 per month) instead of dollars per square foot ($2.05 per square foot per month), as the latter focuses attention on the size of the premises. Size can be contested down the road by sophisticated commercial tenants and gadfly consultants, but actual dollars cannot.

4. Accurately and clearly spell out the parties' mutual repair and maintenance responsibilities. This is a key to avoiding fights later.

5. Address respective insurance requirements thoroughly. In particular, this is an area that has evolved legally.

6. Make sure the default provisions are clearly spelled out. These will serve as the rules of engagement in case of a dispute.

Finally, Your property manager should be fluent in all practical lease matters. If he or she isn't, keep looking!

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Validation can take up an enormous amount of time when recruiting new franchisees.

Most all prospects want to hear from existing franchisees about their experiences and get answers to their burning questions. If you let prospects call on a list of your key owners over and over, those franchisees would never get their work done!

There is a simple way to speed up the validation process - use a validation video. The key benefit of using a validation video is reducing the validation process from days (or weeks) to one step that can be completed in a single day or even less.

A validation video is the story of your Franchise as told by some of your current franchisees.

Choose some of your best, most experienced and diverse owners and film them addressing the same issues and talking points. When edited into a final video, you will have a totally credible presentation of your franchise from the owner's point of view

Be sure to have each of the selected franchisees address the same issues.

When a prospect can hear several owners answer the same question in their own words, there is no doubt about the authenticity and honesty of their comments - it is totally convincing. Plus, you still retain control over the message. You don't want to put words in their mouths, but you do want to avoid inaccuracies or misleading the potential buyer.

Franchisee Conventions are the perfect time to film validations as they are together in one space and a filming room or location can be dedicated to process.

Conventions are ideal because the owners are usually in a very positive frame of mind and you can select the best in your chain - especially if they are receiving recognition awards at the event. Another advantage of filming videos at the convention is the option of using the beautiful venue or resort as a backdrop for filming - after all, going to a great resort for a convention can be a powerful component to sway a prospect's decision.

Another option is using Skype to film and assemble the interviews. Using top notch digital cameras and quality microphones, Skype interviews can achieve excellent picture and sound quality that approaches live filming.

For the 5 Most Fascinating Stories in Franchising, a weekly report, click here & sign up.

Aranco Productions has been producing highly effective validation videos for many years and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can help you produce your own validation video. It just might become the most effective tool in your sales kit.

In a society where poor customer service is rampant, a well-trained company staff can shine if everyone adopts and commits to some simple service approaches.

The result can mean not only keeping your customers happy, but also keeping them period!

What is the biggest and most costly customer service mistake in business today?

My answer is simple - "We're just not friendly enough."

Customers should be treated as welcome guests when they call your office. Instead, they're often treated like an interruption or, even worse, an annoyance. More than 90 percent of all customer service starts with a telephone call. That said, customer service mistakes happen anytime and in many ways.

Customers can communicate with your company through any one of the six touch points of communication and any one of these touch points can damage a relationship, often permanently.

  • Email
  • Voice Mail
  • Snail Mail
  • Phone
  • Fax
  • Face-to-Face

(We left off texting on purpose. Let's leave that out for now. More on that later.)

Two of these communication tools are what is known as "synchronous;" the other four are "asynchronous."

Synchronous is instant communication, when two or more people are able to communicate immediately between each other, i.e., the telephone and in person.

Asynchronous is one-way information, with a lapse of time between initial contact and the response, i.e., email, snail mail, fax and voice mail.

With synchronous communications, you can easily signal your friendliness because you either have facial expressions or a tone of voice with which to befriend a member. With asynchronous, these relationship-building signals are not available, except perhaps for voice mail, when you can hear a smile. Thus, in written communications you must be an obviously friendly communicator. I'll focus on the telephone for now, but these tips and techniques are for all six modes of communication.

Over the years, Telephone Doctor customer service training programs have been presented to many conferences. It doesn't matter where I speak, someone from the audience, a member of the corporation, comes up to me afterwards and asks if I can bring a program to their company.

After a few needs analysis questions it pretty obvious training is needed. Read on.

Personal Note: I was a longtime member of an association and eventually became its president. Several years later, I decided not to renew. When I called to cancel my membership, all I heard was the perfunctory, "Okay, thanks." No one called. No one wrote to ask, "Why?" I figured no one cared - at least that's what I perceived.

Ya know what? It is NOT "okay" for a customer to be unhappy; to leave you without finding out WHY or what happened.

HINT: When someone calls to cancel an order or complain or not renew a membership, it is not "okay." It's often a failure attributable to disinterested treatment, rudeness, or generally poor customer service. I'm not saying the entire staff is bad, rude, or unfriendly, but what I hear most is that the little things - the things that customers expect (and rightfully should get) are missing.

We need to feel a cancellation, non-renewal or a complaint is like a death in the family.

Another common thread is the lack of an organized employee orientation program on customer service and telephone skills.

The usual scenario is: interview, hire, then train using trial by error - or worse, on-the-job training from someone else who may not have had any customer service training.

Let's dust off the Welcome Mat.

Here are some helpful customer service tips to help you start, or benchmark, your own customer service training program.

Bring your staff together at a time when everyone can attend and talk about any frustrating customer events. Discuss how they handled them versus how it could have been done. The meeting can be (and should be) short, maybe 15-20 minutes, and it doesn't need to be daily - but it does need to be done!

Not having a customer service training program in place can cost your company revenue and obviously customers. Also, poor service creates a negative image for the entire organization, no matter how wonderful the programs, products, or publications are that you offer.

Consider taking the serviceskills.com Tour. The 2:20 min Explainer Video.

And if staff has the attitude that no competition exists for the customer to go to, tell them that may be right, but if one customer tells another about a negative experience and so on down the line, you'll probably lose more customers. Then staff jobs will be lost, and eventually, bang - no company.

Take heed, it doesn't matter if the staff is large or small, they still need to be trained.

Here are three of the biggest mistakes in customer service:

MISTAKE 1: NOT SMILING

Solution: Smile! It sounds insanely simplistic, doesn't it? We're taught early on, that a smile can get us a lot. This is true even as adults, especially on the telephone. Since the telephone is the most commonly used mode of communication, your staff needs to understand why a smile works - because you can hear a smile. I recommend keeping a mirror by your desk, so when you pick up the receiver, you remember to smile and you can see yourself smiling.

Sometimes we don't feel like smiling. Smile anyway. The caller doesn't care if you feel like smiling or not. At Telephone Doctor, smiling before you pick up the phone is a condition of employment; not smiling is grounds for termination, and, yes, I have exercised that option. With customer service as our top priority, we simply don't tolerate not smiling before you pick up the phone. Frankly, I'd rather have the caller think your office is closed than to have you answer the phone in a negative mood. (YES, the caller CAN HEAR the smile.)

MISTAKE 2: NOT ACKNOWLEDGING A CALLER'S REQUEST

Solution: Rapid responses - RR. Use what we have called our 'mental stamp.' That means 'this request or piece of information needs an immediate and rapid response.' When we receive an email, fax or note, we immediately send that back to whoever sent it with the words, "Received and will handle." That way the person who asked for the information knows you got the request and everything is moving in the right direction. And it's good communication.

Another very good habit to get into is to ask the caller when they ask for something is: "And when would you be needing this information Mr. Jones?"

Our surveys found that when a caller is asked when he or she would like to receive the needed information, 80 percent of time they did not automatically respond, "I need it now," as you might expect. Thus, you don't have to promise, "I'll get that to you right away." Often, callers won't need something until tomorrow or next week. Asking for a timetable of delivery is good customer service. And remember, "as soon as possible" is not a time. Confirm a date.

MISTAKE 3: IMMEDIATE REJECTION OF A REQUEST

Solution: Be a "double-checker." It's so easy to tell people, "It's too late," or "We ran out of that report" or "we're out of widgets."

Instead, try: "Let me double-check on that for you." It's a wonderful way to defuse any disappointment about you not having what they called for in the first place. This simple statement of double checking immediately defuses some of the tension of not being able to fulfill a request completely. And often when we do double-check, we find a way to get what the person wanted after all.

You now have three techniques (simple as they are) to kick-start your customer service training program.

Remember, the entire staff, from president to maintenance needs to embrace the customer service program or it won't work. Be firm. The company's entire image is at stake since it is unlikely to get a second chance.

Don't have time? Make time. What or who is more important than customers? You'll be surprised at how much fun it is to hear a caller say, "Thanks, you've been super."

For the 5 Most Fascinating Stories in Franchising, a weekly report, click here & sign up.

For a complimentary copy of Nancy's eBook, Hidden Gems of Customer Service, please click here.

Nancy Friedman, president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, St. Louis, MO, is a popular KEYNOTE speaker at franchise, association and corporate conferences.

For a DEMO of Nancy in action, call 314-291-1012 or log on to: www.nancyfriedman.com or email her at [email protected].

Pet services have been the fastest growing product segment for the Pet Stores industry over the past five years.* Pet services include full service grooming, haircuts, baths, toenail trimming and tooth.

As the demand climbs and the need to fulfill customer demand grows, a feisty mobile pet grooming business, Aussie Pet Mobile Canada, who was voted #1 in Pet Services category by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2012, came looking for a territory answer.

Why they came to us?

They came to us looking for a better way to manage territories for their mobile franchisee's. They wanted to talk to a person who could listen and strive to fill the need they had. They were frustrated with the current solutions which required a dedicated computer running Microsoft.

What they needed?

1. They wanted to build territories for their franchisee's from any computer.

2. They wanted a way to share and collaborate this information with their franchisee's live.

3. They wanted to add their own list of data to visualize what was important.

4. They wanted something with flexible pricing options and they wanted it to be used for all their franchisee's.

(More information on what Franchisor's have recently been looking for can be found here; What Benefits and Features Franchisor's are looking for)

What we did for them?

We built them a system that is based in the cloud. A true software as a service option that can be run from anywhere and shared with anyone.

For collaborating, they can now have a franchisee watch live as both parties collaborate on the territory definition. They can give the franchisee edit rights and they can build what they think is a rough draft.

We gave them a "master" territory project that could prevent encroachment automatically. We gave them the ability to share each individual territory to its prospective owner.

For sharing, each project can be shared internally or externally with view/edit rights so they had control on who gets do do what.

Does it pay for itself?

A thousand times over in just time alone. The goal was to have a central repository of all their existing and potential territories, something that they can share instantly vs taking screen shots and emailing them.

This is a dynamic system so as time goes by, the franchisee can grow into more territories if needed and see what is available in the surrounding area and make decisions quicker.

It gives that sex appeal that you're using the latest cutting edge tools to your franchisee's. There are easier solutions, but these don't give the answers they needed, aren't collaborative, only run on PC's or roughly on the web, don't update with new data automatically and are overly complicated.

Is there something you need for a better territory solution?

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* SOURCE: WWW.IBISWORLD.COM/2014

When it comes to I-9 forms (you know, the federally required employment eligibility verification forms required whenever you hire someone) a few lucky employers will deal with common circumstances 99% of the time and won't be overly fazed by compliance issues if they are meticulous and well-educated on the law.

But there are a surprising number of nuances that even experienced employers may not be aware of.

For superb guidance, the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides an easy to read, 69-page brochure.

Don't be put off by the number of pages. This color brochure, replete with photos, is an excellent reference guide, addressing just about anything you might encounter, including re-hires and the hiring of minors, individuals with disabilities, lawful permanent residents and refugees. The format is well laid out, uses clear language, and provides samples and Q&As.

All employers, but especially those new to human resources, small businesses just starting out, and employers with more unusual hiring and documentation situations, are encouraged to review it thoroughly. Because of its friendly format, it's well worth the read.

We don't want to replicate such comprehensive USCIS guidance here; but the following are a few basic tips to help you avoid compliance trouble:

  • I-9 forms must be completed for all new employees, hired after November 6, 1986, even if just for one day of work. The form is never to be completed by applicants, only new hires or those who've received an offer of employment. Also, don't use the form with bona fide independent contractors.
  • As soon as a candidate accepts your offer of employment, let him or her know the I-9 form is a requirement of employment. Send the form with the list of acceptable documents in advance if there's time. The law says the form needs to be completed within three days of hire but get it done on the new employee's first day. The employee may fill out Section 1 at any time after they receive an offer of employment until their first day of work.
  • Remind new hires, through email or by phone, a day or two before their start date to bring their ID-one from List A will suffice OR they may bring one from List B and one from List C.
  • Acceptable documents must be original, not copies. If the employee has lost a document, such as an original Social Security card, you may accept as documentation a receipt of their application for a one. The receipt is good for just 90 days; after that the person has to show you the newly issued document.
  • Providing a Social Security number on Form I-9 is voluntary for all employees unless you are an employer participating in the USCIS E-Verify program, which requires an employee's Social Security number for employment eligibility verification.
  • According to the law, you don't have to photocopy the documents the person provides but it's a good idea and may demonstrate your good faith effort to comply. What you do for one employee, however, you must do for all. Always apply your policies and practices across the board to avoid any appearance of discrimination. Also, if you retain photocopies, keep them in the employee's file or with their I-9 form.
  • Keep I-9s separate from the employee's personnel file. I-9s can be retained either on paper, microform, microfiche or electronically. See pages 23-25 of the USCIS brochure for the specifics of these various retention formats.
  • If you rehire someone within three years of the date the employee's original verification, the original I-9 may be used by completing Section 3. Otherwise be sure to use a new form.
  • You must retain an employee's completed I-9 for as long as the individual works for you. Once s(he) terminates, the form is to be kept for either three years after the date of hire, or for one year after the date employment is terminated, whichever is later. It's a good idea to weed out I-9s you are no longer required to retain. As long as you remain methodical and meticulous about destroying only those no longer needed, your risk exposure will be reduced in the event of an audit. Fewer forms, fewer mistakes.

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Why is Defining Territories so Brutal?

Building territories is an undertaking that is part science, part art, and mostly psychology. It's typically a collaboration between two parties whose interests are not necessarily aligned to the same goal, but they have to meet in the middle. Defining territories is similar to signing a prenuptial agreement because it involves a lot of passion and stress, yet requires a delicate balance to place the right restrictions on the one you love. Both parties pursue their own interests, but ultimately they want the relationship to work out and last a long time.

Let's look at the issues around a franchisor-to-franchisee relationship.

The franchisor wants to create the smallest territory possible for the franchisee. If the territory is too large, the franchisor may lose lots of potential customers, lots of potential revenue, and open the doors to a competitor capitalizing on what the franchisee can't fulfill, especially when contracts can last a decade. If the franchisor makes the territory too small, they can pinch a franchisee's potential income, or worse, put them out of business. When a franchisee can't make a decent living it's bad PR, looks bad on the franchisor's books, and makes it harder to entice more potential franchisees to join the company.

The franchisee, on the other hand, usually wants the largest territory possible because they truly believe they can sell to and support a customer base of that size. If the franchisee gets too much, they may potentially take on too many customers and fail to take care of the ones they have. Or, the franchisee might have to pass on new customers leaving the market ripe for a competitor takeover. Failure by success, so to speak. If the franchisee gets too little, they may go broke and may need to extend their boundaries. The franchisee may be angry with the franchisor for misleading them or they might feel cheated. None of these situations are good.

Take these four steps to lessen the difficulties associated with defining territories.There are several key issues to consider when defining territories. We'll give a quick summary and go into more detail on each item in separate posts.

1. Understand the demographic and trade area needs of your business model.

Each business has a unique demographic profile for their existing customer base. Doing a simple exit survey can put a physical location to a customer as well as provide insights into customer characteristic (e.g., gender, age, race) without being intrusive in the process. Even an online business has great location data. Match this data to the demographics that the customers live in and search for correlations against sales. It sounds complicated, but it's easier than you think and highly beneficial for finding out who your customers really are. This step also serves up a huge bonus for defining your territory.

2. Determine the minimum performance requirements relevant to the business.

Based on pro-formas, gut feelings, analogous stores, each business has a minimum performance requirement that must be met.

3. Decide on what rights, if any, a franchisee has for marketing and providing services outside their territory.

This can include a temporary territory assignment agreement. It is especially useful for allowing a franchisee the ability to cover a new market while the franchisor brings on new franchisees to the area.

Keep the territory structure simple.

It is easy to slip and overcomplicate the territory structure, which may lead to confusion by both parties, lost prospects, or drawn out negotiations while competition blankets the market place.

Defining territories is brutal, but with a little forethought and planning, both parties can be transparent and negotiate their "prenuptial" agreement in a calm and loving manner.

What examples do you have about creating territories?

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Recently, we've been talking about the different types of buyers we work with and how the buyer market has changed during the past few years; some good and some "to be determined".

In this article, we talk about the private equity group (aka PEG) of buyers and what that means to sellers of smaller privately owned businesses like yours.

There's been a lot of news recently about PEGs, mostly in a political and tax related context (e.g., Mitt Romney's success as a partner with Bain Capital and the income tax rate he pays). We'll stay away from that. That's a whole other discussion!

What is a PEG?

They've been around since the 70s starting as larger, "mega" buyout firms (Bain, etc.)

They are investors who have private funds (a combination of personal funds and investor funds) to invest and are seeking alternative investment opportunities (i.e., privately owned businesses) where financial returns can "beat the market"

They buy companies across all industries and usually want a 100% ownership, or at least a majority ownership (51%) in the companies they buy.

They typically buy mature, established companies - not early-stage or startup businesses.

The goal of the PEG is to improve and grow the company with a goal to "exit" their investment in the next 5-10 years, at which time they return the gains to their investors and "close the fund".

What's this mean to you?

Here's the change that's going on. In the last 3 years, we've talked with numerous nationally based PEGs who are investing in smaller privately owned businesses. A typical investment opportunity is a company with:

  • gross revenues of $2-$20M
  • a stable management team
  • a growing industry and
  • an opportunity to either grow or combine a new opportunity with a similar business they already own.

Specifically, the PEGs we've talked to and met with are interested in businesses we represent in the following markets:

  • Health care services
  • Distribution
  • Food Service.

If you are considering selling your business, especially in one of these industries, we believe that, in the right circumstances, PEGs are a legitimate pool of potential buyers that should be considered.

As we've pointed out, the buyer pool is constantly changing and much more diverse than it was 3 years ago.

Today's business seller needs to be more aware than ever of how the pool is changing and what impact this has on potential sales opportunities.

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Franchise selling is competitive.

And it's getting more competitive as more franchisors come online offering franchises for their concepts. It doesn't matter whether these nascent franchise offerings are investment worthy or not.

What's important they are selling franchises to candidates that you could have recruited for your brand.

So here's what you can do, right now to increase your sales.

You won't need to hire a consultant, buy a new CRM or re-invent your franchise landing pages, etc... although those longer term fixes may be smart to implement as well, but not today.

  1. Franchise sales supervisors are the key to your new franchise recruitment success.

In my experience you should give your attention and support to improving sales supervision. Focus your attention on your VPs and Directors of Franchising.

Improved results are more dependent on franchise sales supervisors than on franchise salespeople.

  1. Stop your franchise salespeople's habit of simply spewing information at your leads and candidates.

Instead train front-line franchise salespeople to ask the right questions of candidates so they can help qualified franchise-buyers see how your franchise concept fits into their lives or for professional multi-brand & multi-unit franchisees how your brand fits in their brand portfolio.

  1. Stop paying lip service to coaching.

Franchise salespeople despite what they may say, want you to help them and manage them. Make coaching part of your franchise sales team's daily routine and give your salespeople the opportunity to bring their candidate sales problems to you for help.

A great sales supervisor who coaches daily can guide salespeople through difficult sales negotiations.

  1. Fewer leads mean more sales.

This at first seems counterintuitive but we all know franchise salespeople keep leads and candidates far past their expiration dates.

These expired leads are like soured milk and you need to eliminate them. If you do your salespeople can focus on the candidates that are "raising their hands" and moving forward.

Warning - salespeople won't like this since everyone loves a big pipeline, but they'll thank you later when their commissions are paid.

Now get up from behind your desk right now and start making these fixes happen with your franchise sales team. You'll love the results you'll get. Thanks for listening.

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Franchise owners and operators have many areas of their business to focus on. Opening the door every morning with a to-do list of tasks is challenging enough, having to be concerned with employee administration and compliance can be overwhelming for most.

Look at the wide-ranging duties of human resources, it's no wonder that companies are seeking outside help. "H.R. is supposed to be responsible for finding, developing, retaining and training the best people," Suzanne Lucas, author of a blog called the Evil HR Lady. "It can also be responsible for benefits, compensation, employee and labor relations, business partners, data collection and legal issues."

Fortunately, there are companies whose mission is to help small and midsize business owners and executives comply with the myriad of local, state and federal employment regulations.

Human Resource Outsourcing is a broad term that defines the performance of an HR service by a third party provider. It could be simply an ASO - Administrative Service Organization that provides a single service such as payroll processing, COBRA or 401k administration.

Some are Information Technology firms who have developed software programs to ease the burden of employee administration and HR compliance. Many HRIS - Human Resource Information Systems, Labor Management, Recruiting and Staffing software platforms can be customized to the requirements of any franchisee association, group or franchisor. Some firms offer a hybrid of technology combined with professional HR support services.

Employee leasing or PEO - Professional Employer Organizations deliver a comprehensive integrated model called co-employment which enable franchise owners to transfer most of their personnel administration, benefits and human resource compliance to a qualified HR partner.

The entire focus of these companies is making sure your franchise operates a safe and secure workplace, and complies with all of the latest employment rules and regulations.

"Outsourcing firms can take up various tasks, from payroll to benefits to recruiting, to free up a client to focus on its strengths, said Don Weinstein, senior vice president for product management at ADP, a large H.R. outsourcing firm. The new health care reform legislation, for example, will have a big impact on employers, some of whom may be overwhelmed by its complexities."

It is important that franchise owners and operators determine what services they require today and in the future, or as I like to say "what's broken". There are many providers to choose from, offering different HR service models and pricing formulas.

Trying to identify the right fit for your organization can be a daunting task, but once you do, you will never go back to managing your franchise employees on your own.

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Is Your Delay Putting Your Franchise Network at Risk?

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The costs associated with slow franchisee ramp-up are many.

A slow ramp-up puts your your franchisee at risk.

Slow ramp-ups affect not only the franchisee in question, but the entire network & your own staff are also influenced by those under-performing franchisees.

The costs of franchisees' slow ramp-ups include:

  1. Unplanned Expenses. When franchisees struggle, more unplanned training and support resources are necessary to remedy their situation. The money franchisors spend in this effort is often syphoned away from resources the franchisor would have invested in strengthening the system, hiring key people, introducing innovation, and improving the long-term stability of the brand.
  2. Poor Morale. As the franchisor's support staff appear to take one distressed call after another from a steady stream of "problem" franchisees, their own morale suffers. They begin to doubt that the system works. They become more detached and frustrated, which impacts the entire system.
  3. Fractured Franchisee Relationships. Struggling franchisees get frustrated and discouraged, and they share their disappointment with other franchisees, bringing down the morale of the entire system and fracturing the franchisee-franchisor relationship.
  4. Halted Momentum. The enthusiasm that franchisees experience during training is thwarted if they can't produce results when they get back home. Once lost, this momentum can't be recovered and a new drive must be created, which is not easy to do.
  5. Poor Validation. As frustration levels go up, validation starts to suffer as under-producing and unsatisfied franchisees share their frustration with prospects. Negative franchisee validation destroys franchise sales, halts growth, eliminates future royalty streams, and decreases the dollars franchisors can spend on tools and support systems to avoid the problem.
  6. Brand Deterioration. Under-producing, unhappy franchisees create negative customer experiences. If the unit or territory fails, customers will remember, and it will be difficult and, in some cases, perhaps even impossible to regain lost traction.
  7. Breakdown in Leadership. Struggling franchisees rally other franchisees or franchisor's support staff to their plight affecting the franchisor's ability to effectively lead the larger franchisee body. In many systems, the frustration engendered by this breakdown in leadership creates a culture of compliance and top-down authority, rather than a participatory culture focused on positive relationships and results.

Unfortunately, some franchisors actually add to the ramp-up problem!

And the the delays are all visible to the world, the Item 20 will show all the sold but not open franchise units. You need to make sure your Grand Opening process works, even if that mean hiring outside professionals to assist.

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The post Is the Slow Ramp-up of your Franchisees Costing You too Much? Is It Risking the Success of your Franchisees? appeared first on InFraSu.

EPLI covers businesses against claims by workers that their legal rights as employees of the company have been violated.

The number of lawsuits filed by employees against their employers has been rising. While most suits are filed against large corporations, no company is immune to such lawsuits.

Recognizing that smaller companies now need this kind of protection, some insurers provide this coverage as an endorsement to their Businessowners Policy (BOP). An endorsement changes the terms and conditions of the policy.

Other companies offer EPLI as a stand-alone coverage.

EPLI provides protection against many kinds of employee lawsuits, including claims of:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Wrongful termination
  • Breach of employment contract
  • Negligent evaluation
  • Failure to employ or promote
  • Wrongful discipline
  • Deprivation of career opportunity
  • Wrongful infliction of emotional distress
  • Mismanagement of employee benefit plans

The cost of EPLI coverage depends on your type of business, the number of employees you have and various risk factors such as whether your company has been sued over employment practices in the past.

The policies will reimburse your company against the costs of defending a lawsuit in court and for judgments and settlements.

The policy covers legal costs, whether your company wins or loses the suit. Policies also typically do not pay for punitive damages or civil or criminal fines. Liabilities covered by other insurance policies such as workers compensation are excluded from EPLI policies.

  • To prevent employee lawsuits, educate your managers and employees so that you minimize problems in the first place:
  • Document everything that occurs and the steps your company is taking to prevent and solve employee disputes.
  • Create effective hiring and screening programs to avoid discrimination in hiring.
  • Post corporate policies throughout the workplace and place them in employee handbooks so policies are clear to everyone.
  • Show employees what steps to take if they are the object of sexual harassment or discrimination by a supervisor. Make sure supervisors know where the company stands on what behaviors are not permissible.

Lawsuits against Employers: Some Sobering Statistics

  • Employee lawsuits have risen approximately 400% over the last 20 years.
  • Of these, wrongful termination suits have risen more than 260%.
  • 41.5% of these lawsuits were brought against private employers with fewer than 100 employees.
  • When employee lawsuits go to trial, the employee wins more than 63% of the time.
  • The average cost to settle an employee lawsuit out of court is $75,000.
  • The average amount awarded to employees in jury trials is $217,000.

Consider the Costs of Defending Employee Lawsuits

  • Average court costs and legal fees when settled out of court: $15,000.
  • Average court costs and legal fees when the case is dismissed: $50,000 to $75,000.
  • Average court costs and legal fees when the case goes to trial: $125,000.

You need to review your current risks/liabilities in light of these facts.

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Due to convenience, the opportunity to receive a direct response and the potential to kick up a fuss when not treated as they expect, customers are turning to social media for customer service and other product and service-related support rather than dealing with call centres.

Despite this, a recent study shows that the top Singaporean telecoms operators together receive an average 1,700 negative customer comments a day via social media. Such volume requires dedicated teams to pick through the debris and assess which complaints should be answered and how.

Singtel's Facebook page, for instance, is testament to customers' frustrations with what they see as the company's poor 3G coverage, high costs and inferior customer service, to the extent that even the most anodyne promotion is belted with a slew of unrelated moans.

singtel_facebookcomplaints2

Yet very few of these complaints are responded to. Singtel and others cannot bury their heads in the digital sand and hope the problem will somehow disappear. After, customer satisfaction is critical to all companies' reputations and a positive experience can pay significant dividends in terms of more loyal customers, positive word of mouth and fewer calls to call centres.

But with customers increasingly taking to Twitter to escalate their unanswered issues - 40% of Air Asia's unanswered customer queries are reputedly placed on micro-blogs - it is imperative that organisations tackle complaints effectively.

Here are six basic principles for handling difficult questions and statements on the social web. These apply to communications, marketing and customer service issues as much as they do HR and other activities.

  • Move fast.

    The longer you take to respond, the more you risk appearing unresponsive, uncaring or, worse, secretive. According to NM Incite (pdf), users of Facebook pages expect to be responded to within 24 hours and Twitter users within 2 hours. In social media, it often pays more to be quick than 100% accurate.

  • Be accurate.

    Despite the pressure on speed, try to be as factual as possible - angry customers and bloggers love to highlight, question and poke holes in wooly or cagey responses. Make sure to double-check the facts with your sources and it you're not confident about the answer, at the very least acknowledge the question or statement, express concern and say you are looking into it. This can help buy you more time to find the appropriate solution.

  • Be flexible.

    Don't assume that either the complaint is 100% genuine (consider carefully its motivation) or that you are 100% correct in your response. If you don't have the full facts, say so publicly and communicate updates thereafter regularly. Appear anxious to help, as opposed to desperate to please. Backing yourself into a rhetorical corner can prove awkward when you have to extricate yourself publicly.

  • Be transparent.

    Admit if you have made a mistake. Denials, evasions insincere apologies as a means of quietening a community are often quickly spotted by the community and may simply inflame the issue. And while the tactic of trying to take a conversation offline can help diffuse difficult situations by buying you more time to assess the situation and/or find a solution, it can also be seen by the customer as a sign of weakness or withdrawal and lampooned as such.

  • Be sincere.

    If the complaint is genuine, apologise sincerely and with humility and in language appropriate to the audience. And yet an apology will mean nothing unless the problem is resolved in a reasonable manner. Sharing what you as an organization have learnt through the experience is also a good way of demonstrating that your empathy is genuine.

  • Be human

    . As The Cluetrain Manifesto pointed out, 'conversations among human beings sound human', and are 'conducted in a human voice' that is 'typically open, natural and uncontrived'. Look to use language that is accessible, engaging and empathetic while remaining at core professional and objective. Avoid jargon and respond direct to the individual or group using their actual names. 'Dear valued customer' doesn't wash it with customers increasingly expecting personal attention.
  • Be focused.

    Not all customers are equal, and while social media is leveling the playing field, some - the 1% - are most active in the community. You need to identify your top influencers, make sure to understand their interests, requirements and behaviours, and make sure your PR, marketing and customer service teams understand when and how to interact with them. This is not to say you should ignore the rest of the community which, clearly, must not be allowed to feel unwanted or ignored, but be aware that complaints from highly socially engaged customers, bloggers and other influencers may impact not just the community itself but can also make waves beyond it.

  • Follow-up.

    Once you have acknowledged the issue and responded, find ways to engage direct with the customer in question on an ongoing basis. Encouraging deeper discussion on the topic will show you are willing to listen and learn, and help make them feel like you care. Equally, walking away once you have responded can make it appear as if the customer is no longer a priority.

  • Add value.

    Following up also provides you with additional opportunities to add value to conversations and hence deepen relationships and re-build trust. Look to be helpful by providing options rather than just a single solution, or be seen to go the extra mile by pointing people to useful or relevant information. People will notice - and may comment on the fact - that you are bending over backwards to help them.

  • Take control.

    Negative comments on your community should be actively managed - it is after all your channel. Proactively rebut statements that are demonstrably untrue or misleading and, above all, don't run away from your page in challenging times as it will only make your detractors appear as victors. Ensure discussions remain within the parameters you have set in your Community Guidelines and enforce your terms regarding offensive posts, the sharing of confidential or personal information about company executives or other members of the community, third party advertising, repeat/verbatim comments etc. And remember that it is within your rights to ban members who consistently flout the rules, though you may want to explain why you are doing it both to the individual and to the community as a whole.

  • Avoid fights.

    Don't antagonize your audience or get into online arguments: as Nestle discoveredto its cost in the wake of Greenpeace's palm oil campaign, David usually wins against Goliath in the court of online public opinion. If the situation is volatile, step back and wait for the right opportunity to engage with the customer in question, meantime work closely with the relevant internal stakeholders - often Sales, Public Relations and Legal - to develop a reasonable solution. Appearing thin-skinned will only make you appear weak and vulnerable.

  • Don't censor.

    Nothing conveys a failure to listen and understand better than censoring or removing criticism from your official online communities or elsewhere. Realize that critical voices are a price of entry to the social web, and that deleting or demanding changes to negative posts can provide detractors with a powerful rhetorical weapon. Rather, always try to maintain the high ground, be seen to be responsive and listening and deploy a strong legal approach only as the final option: deleting content or threatening bloggers may simply result in the so-called 'Streisand effect' as complaints escalate and go viral.

It is essential that the teams managing official channels as well as interactions with third party online communities understand these principles and are properly trained in the art and science of handling negative opinion.

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Do you ever wonder how and why some folks are successful, natural born leaders and some aren't?

How some folks learn to deal with the ups and downs of life & find ways to make things better while others are so down and find the smallest thing to complain about? And keep complaining. They don't deal or play well with others.

Successful leaders seem to have a trait, or several traits as a matter of fact, traits which allows them to move forward in a more positive mode.

There are many traits successful leaders have. Here are seven we believe in and want to share.

1.Your Attitude is Your Choice - Successful leaders have great attitudes. No one else can make you have a great attitude but you. So you are totally in control of this factor. You can wake up, smile, and feel this is gonna be a great day. That's your choice.

Or, you can wake up and decide it's gonna be a crappy day. Again, your choice. Which would you rather have? And let's not forget, there is a difference between an attitude and a mood. Know what it is?

Attitudes are permanent; moods are temporary. Big difference. Those with a better attitude get out of bad moods quicker. Why? Because those of us with a great attitude do not want to wallow in the manure of a bad mood. (And yes, I cleaned that up.)

2. Visualize Success - Successful leaders visualize success. They see a positive outcome. If you watch American Idol (as I do), you know each and every one of those kids sees themselves as the winner. They visualize it.

Any political candidate running for office sees themselves winning. Whether they do or don't isn't part of visualization. It is, however, the key to how they got where they are. Seeing yourself winning is critical in having a great attitude. You know that old saying "whether you say you can, or you can't...you're right." (Henry Ford I'm told.)

3. Humor, Energy and Enthusiasm - A huge part of being a successful leader are these 3 magic ingredients. Successful leaders, laugh more, walk and work with energy, and they keep their enthusiasm up in all areas.

My dad told me years ago: "Enthusiasm is contagious; let's start an epidemic."

4. Resist Negative Tendencies - Successful leaders don't want to participate with those folks who want to bring you down. They keep away from them. They're downers. "It's too hot. It's too cold. I'm too fat. I'm too thin. I hate my hair." the list goes on.

No one wants to be with people who are constantly down and complaining. Keeping that positive mental attitude is very important. Successful leaders resist negative tendencies.

5. Be a Whatever It Takes Person - There's a wonderful poem I memorized years ago and while it's too long to print here, it's called "Somebody Said It Couldn't Be Done." Bottom line, it mean to be a double checker. Successful leaders take the time to double check.

Be a 'whatever it takes' person. It's a thrill to make it happen when someone else doesn't think it can.

6. Embrace Change - Difficult we know. However, those successful leaders realizing when and where there is change, it's normally for the better. And worse case, if it's not better, accepting and embracing change, will help the attitude.

My dad had a fun saying. He would say, "Nancy, the next time you change your mind, get a good one." The key to embracing change is to accept it. Successful leaders work with it. They make it work.

7. Be Grateful for What You Have - Successful leaders have no room for jealously. We can be envious of something or someone, that's a normal trait. Example, I'm envious of those who can sing. I'm not jealous; just envious. When you're jealous you can hold grudges.

(Successful leaders don't normally hold grudges.) Why wait for a life-altering experience to be thankful for what you do have. It might be too late.

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Nancy Friedman, president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, St. Louis, MO, is a popular KEYNOTE speaker at franchise, association and corporate conferences.

For a DEMO of Nancy in action, call 314-291-1012 or log on to: www.nancyfriedman.com or email her at [email protected]

I used to believe that franchisees and other business owners failed because they were under-capitalized, but I believe that's a myth.

Someone somewhere many years ago said that the main reason for business failure was under-capitalization and everyone picked up on that and it has continued to this day.

I don't believe it, anymore.

And with US disclosure laws, as well as the opportunity to speak frankly with active franchisees prior to investing in any franchise, there's plenty of opportunity for franchise prospects to learn how much capital they will actually need.

Of course, many franchisees do not do that, and that's generally an indicator that there are other worthwhile things they also won't do.

Here is what I believe to be the major issues.

  • First, many franchisors select the wrong franchisees, and

  • Second, many franchisors are incompetent at training and coaching franchisees.

  • Third, many franchise fees are too low.

All of those problems could be fixed and I'm happy to know franchisors who have addressed those issues and who have enjoyed more success as a result.

Most franchisors appear to be uninterested in matching a franchisee's skills and motivations to the requirements of the franchise business. Why? I don't know.

I guess it's another step in the recruitment process and franchisors don't like delaying that process.

Unfortunately their emphasis is on "sell now" and not "succeed later". I tell every prospect I speak to -- several thousand annually -- to run from a franchisor that does not formally address how their personality/skills/motivations complement the requirements of the franchisee's operation.

Others have mentioned the 35k franchise fee & it's not enough money to pay for the support and training needed.

People tend to think that franchisors use the profit from franchise fees to buy vacation homes, send kids to college, and drive expensive automobiles -- but that's not my experience (and I've worked with many dozens of franchisors in the last 30+ years).

Most franchisors lose money on the 35k franchise fee . . . and then they don't have the money to invest in the proper training and development of the franchisee.

Even smart people need more than a week or two to learn how to operate a franchise business, but franchisors don't see it that way -- takes too long and costs too much.

Unfortunately franchisors have the wrong focus. Making a sale doesn't guarantee making a profit . . .

Only making the right sale and then properly training and developing the franchisee over time will indeed generate long-term profits.

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Franchisors Need to Sell More Franchises

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The quality of franchise sales has decreased over the last twenty years. And I know some of the reasons why & what can be done to reverse the trend.

No Franchise Sales Coaching

First, we have to remember that there is no specialized franchise sales training or coaching available to many franchisors. Everyone agrees that coaching the sales staff is of paramount importance.

In contrast to Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Xerox, there is no sales as process, no question based selling or no consultative selling training offered to franchisors.

Despite having to sell a complex product with very large price tags, franchise sales is often treated like a consumer sale. "Here is our franchise agreement, one price fits all. Buy my stuff." Doesn't work well.

Technology Doesn't Sell; Franchise Salesmen Sell.

Second, there has also been an unfavorable growth in technologies - first CRMs and now web portals. The aim is to displace the salesman. CRMs and web portals are sold with the promise of making the machine or website eliminate the need for the consultative based sales force.

But, the end product is not a commodity and we cannot reduce the sales process to a mere transaction.

But, Many Franchisors have forgotten How to Sell Franchises.

Finally, many sales departments have forgotten their ability to sell.

Let me tell you about a little test I did, some years ago.

I gathered our top 50 franchisees in terms of gross revenue. I also found their initial applications. I then redacted their names from the applications, but nothing else. (Back then, we weren't collecting a lot of personal information.) I distributed the applications of what would be our top 50 performers to our sales staff.

How many of those top 50 performers would our sales staff identify and process acting only on the very incomplete application?

Zero!

We would have missed all 50 - because we were now more focussed on the demands of the CRM rather than selling. We now demand too much information before we begin the sales process - and most of the information is not needed. What is needed isn't asked for.

We have forgotten how to sell. We aren't mentoring our younger sales forces, the way I was mentored.

So, take a look at your online application. Ask whether you really need the candidate to fill out all the information just in order to start your sales process -- you will find that it is easier to start selling with some information & get the application filled out later on in the sales process. Here is to a better sales process & more sales for you.

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