It can be difficult to predict how the many challenges posed by the recent and recurring pandemic will affect your franchise, when you’re finally able to return to normal business. Perhaps you’re already there or maybe you’ve taken the first few tentative steps towards getting back to normal, or you could be biding your time until the path seems completely risk free. The frustration of taking a step forward, just to move backwards once again can feel like too much to handle. 

Here, we offer up some advice to franchises hoping to re-enter the world of business, in the hope that we can reduce some of the anxiety involved and present some solutions to help it all go a lot more smoothly.  

 

Leading the Way

As part of a larger, well known company, it is likely that you will lead the way when it comes to re-opening post pandemic. This is because you have the benefit of guidance and support offered by the franchise owner, for example they could have the financial ability to invest in research and strategy, unlike small independent businesses who simply have to learn by doing and can be so easily thwarted by small under achievements. Additionally, you have a strong reputation to fall back on and, therefore, a ready and waiting customer base to help kickstart business again. People are looking for security and reliability after such an unpredictable period of time, so you have chance to shine. 

This is sure to result in a period where you have the opportunity to boost awareness of your business even more, thanks to the increased visibility that stems from being one of few options available to consumers. 

 

New Opportunities

It is important to make the most of this opportunity to gain new customers. A key element of this is making sure you are ready for an increased volume of demand, that way, you can avoid making a bad impression and losing your leads. Will you be able to increase your supplies if needed? Could your recruit easily if the time came to? Could your customer service department handle more calls? Luckily there is a good solution for the latter challenge; outsourcing. Outsourcing is ideal when it comes to needing some extra pairs on hands for a period of time that is difficult to predict, or when you’re not sure when to expect increased interest in your business. 

Essentially, you can utilise the staff of a third party provider such as Cymphony, who specialise in communications like customer service, without the hassle or cost of hiring new full time members of your own team when you don’t know how long you might need them for. And the best part is the fact there are no contracts involved; you simply use them when you need them. Many companies find that outsourcing can also be a great permanent solution as a more affordable alternative to an in-house team. 

 

Making Up for Lost Time

As well as impressing new customers, it is also important to meet the expectations of returning customers. You have worked hard to build a relationship with them, so it is crucial that you don’t let this go to waste by failing to meet their new needs post pandemic. It is likely that consumers will be excited by the prospect of being able to return to their old habits of utilising the products and services your business has to offer, so make sure you’re ready to provide them. 

50% of consumers say they have reimagined their motivations as a result of the pandemics, and of these, 72% say they expect companies to understand and address their changing needs. Carry out some research by getting in touch with your customers, not only to touch base and let them know they are important to you and that you will be available to them again soon, but also to find out what they expect now that the environment has changed. We touch upon a few possibilities in this article but it is important to find out what the needs of individuals are too, in order to make sure you meet all expectations. 

 

Safety First

Something that every business should expect to have to offer to its customers post pandemic is a safe consumer experience. The worst may be over when it comes to the threat of this virus, but it is by no means over just yet and it is something that still hangs over the heads of many on a day to day basis. What can you do to make your customers feel secure in the knowledge that they are not risking their health by purchasing products and services from you? 

If you have a physical environment that welcomes customers, make sure that you enforce strict hygiene standards and procedures alongside opportunities for your customers to take precautions themselves. For example, you can provide hand sanitising stations, one way systems for them to follow, and maximum capacities to avoid spreading germs. If you deliver products, do so contact free, and communicate the measures you are putting in place to customers to make them feel more at ease.

 

Convenience

Another of the key expectations your customers will have post pandemic is increased convenience. We have become accustomed to remote alternatives to so many aspect of our lives, be that online grocery shopping, working from home or even taking an online gym class, and this has opened our eyes to the possibility of a wholly more convenient lifestyle. Many don’t wish to return to how things were before, so it’s up to you to keep up the momentum if you want to keep consumers on side. 

49% of consumers say they are spending more money shopping online than they did before the pandemic. How many aspects of your business could you take online? Have you made the most of your website in terms of the information and options it makes available to your customers? Do you have plenty of communication channels that allow them to avoid having to come face to face with you for answers to their queries? Can you offer delivery if you’re not already? This doesn’t have to mean hiring new staff, as you can outsource to providers such as Deliveroo who are expanding the number of different kinds of businesses they cater to by the day. 

Could you go even further and change your opening hours to create an even more convenient experience for your customers? Normally, this might be a daunting prospect as it inevitably involves increased staffing, however, the flexibility of outsourcing allows you to get help for any amount of time, at a low cost. 

 

Communication

During the pandemic we all learned how to communicate more effectively as it become of paramount importance when we could no longer get together in person. This is something you will also need to consider for your business; could you utilise these new and improved lines of communication to benefit your franchise? For example, you could offer video calls to customers which would enable you to find solutions to their problems faster, and give them peace of mind that they are still dealing with a real company with real people. 

Customer service is also key if you really want to retain and grow your pre pandemic customer base. Great customer service will go a long way in providing reassurance for and increasing the confidence of consumers, as well as limiting the number of obstacles both you and them will inevitably face as a result of all the changes taking place. It is amazing how much a friendly and helpful conversation with a customer service agent can smooth the edges of an otherwise jarring issue. 

 

Finances 

Perhaps one of the most poignant challenges people have had to face as a result of the pandemic is a loss of income. This challenge is almost universal as it has been so far reaching that only the incredibly lucky have managed to avoid financial difficulty during this time. Despite many people being able to get back on their feet and return to work, the problem continues as we try to rebuild, as well as face a rising cost of living. In fact, 60% of consumers say they have cut back spending. So, what can you do to help your customers feel safe investing in your products again?

Firstly, if there is room to reduce your prices temporarily while confidence in spending grows again, do so, as this will also help you to boost sales and your overall income, compared to sticking to your pre-pandemic prices and alienating a much changed customer base. If this isn’t an option, consider offering flexible payment schemes such as paying on a monthly basis, or accepting exchanges as part payment. Furthermore, if you can, try to waiver cancellation or rearrangement fees to make life a little easier on your customers. Measures such as these will be appreciated and result in them returning again and again to help your business grow, in return.  

All in all, re-entering the commercial world post pandemic can be a daunting prospect but there is plenty that you can do to ensure you have a smooth ride. Be prepared for a rush of business so that you can make the most of new business as well as existing, and remember that outsourcing is a real saviour when it comes to this. Keep safety at the forefront of your strategy and keep costs down to help increase customer confidence. Finally, do your best to boost communication and convenience to continue the positive momentum of an otherwise challenging pandemic. 

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