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Franchise Today Review: Franchisee Relations with Michelle Rowan

We continue our recap series on the Franchise Today podcast with the November 12, 2014 episode. Michelle Rowan, president of Franchise Business Review was the guest. Franchise Business Review is a consulting company that specializes in franchise relations, franchisee satisfaction, and customer satisfaction. It’s early, but an overarching theme for this season seems to be franchise culture. Some highlights from the episode follow:


Make no assumptions. Many franchisors don’t keep track of satisfaction and validation within their system. “The list of reasons why people don’t do any kind of measurement of their franchisees boggles my mind,” says Michelle. “They’ll buy into the idea that you have to measure your customers, your end customer satisfaction, and sometimes they buy into the next level that it’s important to measure employee satisfaction. But, for some reason, there’s a mind block on that relationship with the franchisees. They say, ‘we know what they think,’ which is amazing because when you think of every marriage or relationship you’ve been in you probably could say that you know what the other person thinks. But I’m sure you’ve caught yourself in several conversations and thought ‘wow that’s really not the takeaway I got from the conversation we had.’ It’s always good to check your gut on the customer, employee and franchisee end.”


Business People Joining Hands in Collaboration

Relationship building starts at the very beginning. For franchisors, it’s important to realize that earning the trust of a franchisee begins when the franchisee is a candidate. In fact, it may determine whether the candidate becomes a franchisee of the franchisor’s network at all. Michelle spoke of a franchisee who chose a franchise primarily based off of the relationship he established with the franchisor during the exploration process. The franchisee told the franchisor, “I chose Wild Birds because of the interactions I’ve had with the people I had with your team.”


Fear of accountability is a deterrent to accurate measurement, but knowing can be freeing. What scares franchisors from measuring franchisee satisfaction? According to Michelle, it’s “the idea of if I ask people how they feel and they’re not happy, I have to do something about it. It’s now on paper and I’m accountable to make a change.” But sweeping the emotional dirt under the rug doesn’t clean the relationship, it just creates a larger mess for later. “If you don’t give your franchisees an opportunity to formalize their opinion of you, you can’t move past it,” says Michelle. “They’re always going to keep bringing up issues, or think [of things] you didn’t do right from 5, 10, 15 years ago…that you can’t go back and fix.” By getting it out there with them, and “working with them to say ‘I hear what you’re saying. How are we going to move forward?’” is a way to relieve yourself from a big weight on your shoulders from an unresolved situation. 


Culture is not just a selling point. “I think it’s imperative that franchisors have a culture of accountability, not just to [their] franchisees but to each other,” says Michelle. Don’t just talk about culture and core values, act upon them. And being accountable doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be a positive challenge for employees. Acknowledge those who deliver value in a positive way. Draw upon the natural competitiveness of people and promote the standouts among your network.


Main Takeaway: The effort to create positive and memorable experiences shouldn’t be just for customers.


Also of note from the episode, Franchise Business Review will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Franchisee Satisfaction Awards at the 2015 IFA Convention in February.

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