It’s the small things that make the big differences

I write my final blog of 2012 from a hotel room overlooking the Las Vegas strip, and contemplate my franchising observations of the last few days here in the United States. These are a few things I have noticed in my travels to date that are relevant to consider for both franchisors and franchisees.

Multiculturalism at work

Menus and signage in Spanish, and the overwhelming presence of Hispanic workers indicate how US systems have embraced multiculturalism in both retail and service franchises, particularly in California and Nevada. Staff may often be required to converse with customers in a language other than English.

Brands such as Taco Bell and Taco del Mar offer meals to suit a growing national appetite for Mexican food, and are as common and as inexpensive as many of the larger fast food brands also found in Australia.

Retailers offer exceptional service

It may just be a function of the type of retail outlets I have visited here, but customers are almost always greeted on entering a store, and offered assistance right from the outset. Staff are visible, and willing to help. Despite the substantially lower wages that US retail employees are paid compared to their Australian counterparts, there seems to be a genuine service culture in operation which distinguishes the retail experience here from that which I have encountered when shopping in Australia.

Always, always, always upsell

Every franchised or company-operated service or retail outlet at which I have shopped has made an effort to increase the value of the sale. Without exception, these store owners and their staff have followed a tried and proven formula for increasing profits by maximising the sales from the customers they already have.

It’s not rocket science, and is built into the operations and procedures manuals for most franchise systems in Australia, yet are not pursued with the same gusto as I have observed here. Again, it appears to highlight a cultural difference in the small business environments between the two nations, rather than due to an oversight in the operations of Australian franchise businesses.

Customers should feel special

Not only are customers greeted at the door in most establishments, but frequently referred to as “Sir” or “Ma’am”. Not that I’m thrilled to be called sir (or ma’am for that matter), but it’s a preferable step up from “mate” which seems to have found its way into the retail and service vocabulary in Australia when dealing with customers.

Australian slang is a beautiful thing, but the use of the word “mate” is an unflattering familiarity when used by someone in a transactional context where no degree of “mateship” has been established through respect earned or trust gained. Business owners who understand the need to build rapport with customers to improve sales effectiveness will understand this point only too well.

Business owners have great pride in their operations

Not for a minute would I suggest that Australian small business owners and franchisees are not proud of what they do, but that sense of pride somehow seems more evident in the United States, and follows through to service and price-matching guarantees that are cheerfully offered and honoured.

During this Christmas trading season, reflecting on how these observations translate into reality may be worthwhile for both franchisors and franchisees as they contemplate the challenges of the year ahead.

Best wishes to all readers of this blog for a happy and safe Christmas season. New blog postings will recommence early next year.

Jason Gehrke is the director of the Franchise Advisory Centre and has been involved in franchising for 20 years at franchisee, franchisor and advisor level.

He advises both potential and existing franchisors and franchisees, and conducts franchise education programs throughout Australia, and publishes Franchise News & Events, a fortnightly email news bulletin on franchising issues and trends.


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