Friday, 21 September 2007

The franchise approach and the dangers of not being in control

Had an joyful customer service experience from a couple of franchise operations today that, as well as infuriating me, are very relevant to a book I'm reading at the moment. E-myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, has as it's central tenet that to make truly successful business one should view it as a franchise prototype.

His view is that if you build the business as if you're going to replicate it, even if you have no plans to franchise, then it will make the business able to operate without the involvement of the principal and therefore be far stronger.

Being a 'new man' of the nineties, I can share with you that I was shopping for face wash. My wife convinced me to try several varieties and the one I settled on, ie it didn't feel like several layers of skin had been stripped from my face, was from Clarins. So off I went to the local franchise at Debenhams in the city centre.

No one was behind the counter. Eventually someone arrived, she proceeded to tell me she was dealing with another customer, it wasn't her stall and that anyway the other person was at lunch. Needless to say I didn't stick around.

Off to the John Lewis franchise next and a totally different experience. Someone was there, in fact someone came over from a different franchise to help me because another customer was being dealt with.

I noticed that they had a 30ml version of the wash in a travel pack so I asked about buying one of those separately. Annoyingly the standard size is 125ml so too big to take in hand luggage on a plane currently. They couldn't sell me one but did find me several testers for my next trip.

So confidence restored, but it could so easily have not been. What if I had been a new customer, recommended to try out their products, or buying something for a friend? A customer lost, the Clarins brand tarnished.

One of the things we pride ourselves on at Esendex, and something we receive plaudits for, is the quality of our customer service. It's going to be one of the key challenges we face as we continue our rapid growth.

Back to the book, it's a good easy read but I've only just started the section on how you do it. Will let you know.

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