When a business expands, there is a lot to consider. When you’re franchising, there’s even more at stake. You want to be sure that you survive the growing pains as easily as possible, but it can be difficult making sure that the new locations and franchisees are branding appropriately and holding their staff to the same corporate standards that you do.
This is where mystery shopping can really help. We see a lot of clients coming to us for help when they reach 8-10 locations, or they start expanding out of state. Travel expenses can add up quickly, leaving you without the chance to check in on new locations as frequently as you’d like. You also can’t get a true sense of what is happening when you visit anyway – they are likely to know you’re coming and will prepare to put their best foot forward during your stay.
Mystery shopping can be an objective, third party evaluation of a business, making sure that a franchise or new location is measuring up to expectations. This can be anything from:
- Uniform compliance
- Brand messaging within the location
- Promotional signage
- Menu consistency – shoppers can take pictures of their meals to ensure they are presented correctly
It’s a cost effective method for ensuring uniformity during the periods of growth. In our experience, this has been useful for many companies and franchise shopping has uncovered many situations the clients would not have been aware of otherwise. Below are some examples:
1. A fast casual chain conducted mystery shops on their franchised locations as well as the corporate owned locations. Two franchised locations were found to be experiencing issues. The first would not adhere to business hours; shoppers would visit close to opening or closing time, only to find the location closed. The second location had a more serious issue – over a brief period of time, corporate noticed that their mystery shopping scores plummeted. Upon further investigation, they found that the franchise owner was no longer interested in running the business and was letting it run without her supervision. It was clear that this needed to be addressed immediately, and was likely handled sooner than it would have been without these measures in place.
2. A retail chain found that one of their retail locations was surpassing all of the others when it came to performance scores on their mystery shops, as well as overall foot traffic and customer satisfaction. Because the report contained a narrative detail of the shopper’s experience, they learned that this location implemented steps that were not originally part of corporate expectations that went above and beyond. Seeing the success with this, they were able to have this franchise owner assist in developing this standard across all of their locations, making their brand even better.
3. A business that was just starting to franchise and expand across state lines was nervous about maintaining uniformity. They implemented the mystery shopping program and used the scores from their corporate locations as a benchmark by which to measure the franchised locations’ performance. This objective, third party metric was helpful in guiding new franchisees as they built their business.
Growing pains can be tough, but thinking ahead and planning to put the right steps in place to alleviate some of the potential issues can help make expanding successful in the long run.