At a recent focus group, a participant’s comments really caught our attention. The participant, a professional woman in her late 30’s, told us she stopped going to Brand “X” restaurants (we never disclose customer or brand names) because her local Brand “X” location was under new management and standards had gone down. From a brand equity perspective, this is tragic for two reasons:
1. This person hasn’t just stopped going to a particular location, she had stopped going to all brand “X” locations. In her mind, this location’s standards are a reflection of the chain. She no longer trusts the brand to deliver the product and experience she once enjoyed. Customers don’t know whose name is on the franchise agreement, each location IS the brand and is expected to represent it every time, everywhere.
2. When asked “who did you share this with?”, the woman told us she told family members, friends and co-workers when the topic of this popular restaurant chain came up. Recent studies on social trust have demonstrated that people trust their closest connections the most (over stangers’ feedback or advertising campaigns). Disappoint one customer and ten are going to hear about it. The problem is exacerbated by the use of social media. Disappoint one customer and one hundred of their closest “friends” are going to receive the update.
The conclusion is two-fold:
a) Each franchise operator is a brand ambassador who speaks for the entire brand. A failure to execute and meet the brand’s standards doesn’t just hurt this operator’s sales and reputation, it hurts all other operators’ bottom line.
b) The onus is on head-office to have the processes and systems in place to ensure that standards are communicated, measured and followed-through.