By Michael Seid, Managing Director, MSA Worldwide
When a franchisor looks at ways to cut system costs, they should invest in those areas that offer solutions with the best chance of paying long-term dividends. Historically, the winners coming out of recessions or in slow-growth climates have been companies that invested in improving their customer service performance and personnel capabilities, to retain and attract new customers while intelligently reducing costs.
One area to focus on is elevating the training of your headquarters staff, as well as your franchisees’ ability to effectively train their management and staff.
Training is the DNA that enables companies to deliver on their brand promises consistently from location to location. Investing in training has historically been a resource-driven decision often seen as counter-intuitive during periods when cost-cutting is the norm. But, 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 franchise 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 delivers heightened efficiencies designed to improve brand performance.
Both for cost-saving and efficiency reasons, more and more franchisors have been moving some of their training to online learning, including mLearning which is accessed via mobile devices, delivering training content whenever and wherever it is needed. Providing 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” classroom and hands-on 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 range from 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 online 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.