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How Franchisors Can Stay in Touch with Franchisees During the Coronavirus Crisis

Three franchise executives tell 1851 Franchise why it’s more important than ever before for franchise brands to be providing support for their local owners.

While no one knows how or when the global economy will bounce back from the fallout following the coronavirus crisis, there’s one thing that businesses — including franchises — can all agree on: Communication is key.

Because things are so uncertain right now, it’s more important than ever for franchisors to be communicating and supporting their franchisees, regardless of what industry they’re in.

Jack Child, founder and president of G-FORCE, said, “Every industry is so different. Some are able to bring in income, even if they had to change their business model like those in the food industry.”

Those types of changes — even if they aren’t as significant as altering an entire business model — require a lot of communication between franchisors and their franchisees. First and foremost, this type of communication should include how to engage customers while brick-and-mortar locations are closed.

Paul Pickett, chief development officer for Wild Birds Unlimited*, said, “We created multiple layers of marketing collateral so that our franchisees could begin communicating with their customers on two different levels. First, we knew that our customers would have more time to be at home and birdwatch, so we wanted to focus on getting the message out that this activity can help give you some reprieve from the current situation. Second, we created a whole new set of marketing materials for people who needed to continue getting product in a safe way in order to continue feeding birds. That meant creating signs for stores and digital collateral for websites and social media for our franchisees.”

Franchisors also need to be communicating with franchisees regarding their own business-centric questions. Pickett continued, “We set up a specific coronavirus email address so that all of our franchisee requests go through that and a hotline number. That’s helped us focus on emails and calls that need to be streamlined. We have a schedule of who monitors that inbox and hotline on a regular basis, too, so that we can be more productive internally.”

Justin Waltz, vice president of operations for Big Blue Swim School, agrees, noting that the first thing his system did was get all of their franchisees on a call together.

“When we first decided to close our corporate pools, we did a State of the Pools address with franchisees, which is our State of the Union. Typically, we do that every quarter in order to get in front of our franchise system and tell them not just what we’re working on, but what our beliefs are,” said Waltz. “Our next steps are to work with our franchise advisory council as a coronavirus committee to get in front of our community.”

Because the situation is changing rapidly, the conversations that franchisors are having with their franchisees need to continue indefinitely.

“Because things are changing so fast, we want to be in front of our franchisees. That’s why we’re having our local owners submit questions for a town hall that we’re going to do with our leadership team. This way franchisees can ask us about things that they’re seeing in their own locations and see what we’re handling on our end,” Waltz said.

In addition to coaching franchisees through the current situation, it’s also important for franchise brands to be preparing to come out on the other side of the coronavirus crisis. That means speaking with franchisees about how they’re going to ramp back up once consumers are spending again.

“A lot of people are also thinking about life post-coronavirus and what the consumer response is going to be,” said Waltz. “It’s important to communicate how we’re going to hit the ground running on the other side of this.”

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.