Learning Online - Educating franchisees for the business fight of our lives
If this were a professional fight, the ringside announcer would be ringing the bell to announce round nine. This recession, regardless of the 3.5-percent GDP increase announced recently, is not over yet.
Franchisors should be looking at ways to cut system costs by investing in those areas that offer solutions with the best chance to pay long-term dividends. Historically, the winners coming out of recessions have been the companies that invested in improving their customer-service performances and personnel capabilities to retain and attract new customers while intelligently reducing costs.
Since we’re all doing more with less, one area you will want to focus on is to elevate the training of your staff, plus the franchisees’ management and staff. Training is the DNA that enables companies to deliver on their brand promises consistently from location to location. But adding to training has historically been a resource-driven decision that often seems counter-intuitive during periods when cost-cutting is the norm. If the goal is to grow the system’s bottom line with less top-line performance, increased system training at every level may be the smartest investment a company can make.
There are several web-based solutions that offer management tools designed specifically for franchises. Three such companies, IFX, FranConnect and NetSolace, each have electronic tools designed to improve communications and provide essential management tools for franchise system growth and management. (For the sake of disclosure, recently my firm, MSA, entered into a collaboration with NetSolace, originally developed to support the Edible Arrangement frachise system.)
Online platforms generally offer a suite of secure software solutions with franchise system management tools focused on financial management, operations, communications, franchise sales management, unit development, and training. Each has different costs and capabilities, but the goal is to have a robust platform that is easy to use, has expandable and customizable capabilities, and in this economy, delivers heightened efficiencies designed to improve brand performance.
One critical area often targeted for cost reduction during economic downturns is training, and franchisors have been turning from live training at headquarters and in the field to CDs and other alternatives to ensure brand performance. Delivering an online training solution as part of a blended approach can significantly improve system and local performance at a lower cost of delivery.
Pros of online training
Online training’s benefits include:
- Extending the franchisor’s training capacity for both staff and franchisees without the cost of sending trainers to franchisee locations or staff to out-of-town seminars;
- Ensuring consistency in the training message that might otherwise be altered when delivered by training personnel in the field;
- Providing training that can be accessed at the user’s convenience and from any location;
- Pre-training for franchisees on important issues prior to “live” training;
- Security, as information is generally password-protected, so that only appropriate users are exposed to proprietary material;
- Ability for franchisees and franchisors to track participation, including completion and testing for comprehension;
- Instantaneous and automatic updates so that every franchisee will have the latest training programs and information;
- Training material can easily be linked and written for the readers’ knowledge level, and in languages other than English:
Online training can include simple Webinars that have been recorded for later access, to complex programs that can be facilitated live and supported by a library of manuals all linked and searchable in a Google-like setting.
Remember, though, that online training is considerably different than live training. Modules need to be developed to take advantage of the video and audio capabilities of the new technology, while understanding its limitations. Each module needs to be delivered in short bursts, as comprehension tends to decrease when sessions get too long. Effective training linked to online delivery and searchable manuals reduces costs, since franchisees are better educated and require less direct support.
The emergence of on-line communication and management platforms is one of the most important improvements to franchise system management, and is essential for every franchise program regardless of its maturity or size.