The business environment is shifting drastically by the second, especially in the last decade. Ideas and concepts we’ve never even dreamed about are now realised, developed and easily accessible for young professionals and seasoned business people.
One of the sectors that have benefited the most is the e-commerce industry and franchise businesses. Putting customers and automation at the centre of everything, modern technology offers a variety of options and opportunities for start-ups and developed companies.
So how does the world of franchises benefit exactly from this mind-blowing advance in tech?
We’re here to give you a glimpse of this amazing environment and hopefully shed some light on the benefits of implementing high-end technology in your franchise business.
Online booking forms
One of the main groundbreaking pieces of technology that truly changed the e-commerce landscape, not just the franchising world. It saves a lot of time for both the client and the service provider. It also gives the sales team enough team to chase and work with already existing clients.
Here are just some of the many amazing features:
- A user-friendly process that attracts customers. Nobody wants to talk on the phone anymore or spend time sending contact forms, waiting for a response, compare schedules, etc. An online booking system will be able to set an appointment for the client in no time, without any interaction. This will certainly make any client come back since their experience was pleasant and easy from the very beginning. Nowadays, it’s really important to win clients even before the service itself and a convenient booking form is one of the best ways to do it.
- Automatically updated schedules. The contractor no longer has to manually update appointments to their calendar. An OBF will automatically put them in so that the client has constant access to a current schedule. The same thing happens when somebody cancels a service, the newly opened slot will be added automatically, notifying the service provider immediately.
- Confirmation emails. There is a lot of important information, especially in the service industry, that clients need to know when booking appointments. Automated email confirmation gives the chance for the franchisor to provide vital information to their clients without having to write it all on the page where the booking happens. It also helps clients keep track of their appointments as most emails now even add them automatically to their calendar.
- Monitor user behaviour. It will show you if there is something that needs to be improved with your UX by analysing how the clients interact with it. For example, you might need to add more information about the service or display the hidden fees in a more obvious place. Whatever it is, service providers can work on constantly improving the relationship with their clients as well as the overall experience.
- Cross-selling and up-selling services. This can easily happen during the booking process. If the client wants to book an End of Lease service, for example, there can be a suggestion to book deep carpet cleaning as well. Or if someone is buying a PC monitor, maybe they will need a mouse and a keyboard as well. It’s an easy and convenient way to offer extra products and services in a way that is not too intrusive and annoying to the customer. You can also put current offers and promotions – the choice is yours!
Automated marketing campaigns
We’re talking about email and SMS marketing. Whenever the company has a new product, a promotion, an event, or basically anything else you want the clients to know about, they will get notified about it. However, the provider needs to also create an easy way for the customer to opt-out from any marketing so they don’t create any negative emotion towards the company.
You can also use it to conduct surveys, ask for feedback after the service has been completed or the product was delivered.
Social media marketing
For professionals that don’t have the time to do daily updates and scroll through social media, automation software allows post scheduling for months ahead. It can also follow trends, hashtags, analyse user behaviour, post ads, and much more!
It’s still recommended to have a special team or at least one person who will be a social media expert, but having that automation certainly makes the whole process a lot easier. Especially for people who are just starting with their business and cannot put a lot of money aside for marketing campaigns and a social media team.
AI is definitely shaping a very interesting future, not just in business and franchising, but life as a whole. Most people when they hear the term AI, imagine an army of robots and a grumpy Will Smith. Obviously, that is not the case and while we can’t predict the future with certainty, we can confidently say that we’re nowhere near this vision.
Instead, let’s see a few ways Artificial Intelligence can help grow and sustain a franchise business!
Build and maintain a website
E-commerce is constantly growing, especially in the last 2 years. Nowadays, businesses that don’t exist online, have a very slim chance of surviving. With that being said, having a website is probably the most important step in a franchise business.
However, it’s not a cheap service and when you include hosting and maintenance, it becomes almost impossible for a new start-up or a small business to cover all the expenses and still survive.
Thankfully, now there are plenty of website hosting companies that will build an attractive website for your business, provide hosting, and offer maintenance, as well. Most of them are easily connected to a CRM system, as well, which makes them even more convenient.
AI algorithms’ main function is to learn and adapt. So they will do exactly what you need! Just a few examples:
- Create and follow a schedule for ordering new products and supplies, according to your needs and habits;
- Connects easily with multiple employee devices so it can be controlled by the relevant people at any time;
- Analyse an enormous amount of data about user behaviour, making accurate demand predictions and optimising the stock accordingly.
- Create product listings, descriptions, and optimise the content in order to rank on Google.
All of this and more can make the job of inventory managers so much easier so they can focus on everything else that really needs a human touch.
Good customer service is at the core of every successful business and retaining customers is rightfully becoming a priority for many companies. One way to do this is to provide a 24/7 support system that is easily accessible.
Chatbots are the essence of Artificial Intelligence. Their goal is to quickly learn, adapt and provide the customer with the help they need. The longer the time bots are a part of your company, the better they will perform.
Not only can they answer common or even complicated questions, but they can also connect your clients to the right people, depending on their specific problems. This will save a lot of time both for the customer and your employees.
And most importantly, it will leave a great long-lasting impression, increasing the chances of that customer coming back to your business and recommending it to other people.
Research competitors and trends
Another great benefit is for AI to analyse customer and business data, competitor behaviour and their strategies. Monitoring the market and rival companies is key if you want to prosper.
Especially with the rise of franchise businesses in the past few years, everyone is trying to be one step ahead. And without AI, being ahead is simply impossible. Business analysts need reliable and consistent data to do their job and sometimes that data is really hard to go through, distribute and be used to its full potential.
AI gives all the needed information to the analysts so they can concentrate on the truly important things and not get lost in the numbers and data.
CRM systems with connected mobile apps
A cloud-enabled Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is something that almost every business had nowadays. However, franchise businesses need a bit more.
How about a CRM system that is automatically connected to two mobile applications – one for the clients and one for the service providers?
Well, that just makes communication and synergy work like magic!
Imagine a scenario where a client wants to book a service through the mobile app of a company. They use the online booking form we talked about previously and get the real-time availability of all experts. The second they click book, their data is transferred to the main CRM system, along with their payment details, requirements for the appointment and who will attend it.
At the same time, the scheduled service also arrives in the mobile app of the appointed professional and service provider (if they are different people, they both receive it). So now they know, they have a job next Tuesday, at this address, with this person.
In a matter of seconds, an abundance of important information is transmitted between three different parties. Now, if the client calls the centre with a question, the agents can easily see what they booked, who is doing the service, how much does everything costs, etc.
It’s convenient and fast for everyone involved. Automating this process is also something that will free the time of sales agents, so they can chase clients who are not using the app or just need a more humane push towards purchase.
Digital payment and commissions
Speaking of payments, we live in times where almost everyone prefers to pay online. Even if they go into a physical store. Digital wallets are becoming increasingly popular, especially Apple Pay and Google Wallet. People feel more comfortable sharing their bank details because of the increased security in that sector, and technologies like verification and double authentication.
Businesses that don’t offer online or digital payment, suffer from loss of profit and customers, compared to companies that have adopted this method.
Many banks offer contracts with a smaller tax on payments, increasing the commissions that service providers and franchise chains will get at the end of a purchase or service.
And just to sneak in another function of the CRM system – it also automatically calculates the commission a franchisee will get at the end. This makes the whole process a lot more transparent and honest, making it impossible for big companies to try and cheat on small franchise owners.
Technology is everywhere and every ambitious business owner needs to embrace the fast pace at which the world is moving. It’s not scary even though it can look overwhelming at times.
In moments like this, don’t be afraid to look for help and, most of all, to experiment. Keep your employees and customers best interests at heart, and you can’t go wrong!
About the author: Ralitsa is a Content Writer, PR specialist, and trainer for Fantastic Services Group, Australia. She is currently doing a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Linguistics and Business Communications, consulting on freelance projects and sharing her experience working in a diverse office environment.