Wiesenhof’s Kobus Wiese on why the personal touch is so important when building customer loyalty.
When Kobus Wiese and his wife Belinda bought their first coffee shop in 1996, they had no plans to franchise the business, and they knew nothing about running a restaurant.
Today, Wiesenhof has a national footprint and has taken over the Dulce Café brand as well.
Before a business can be franchised though, it needs to be a successful single- or multi-store business.
“We spent two years really learning how to run a coffee shop from the ground up,” says Wiese, adding that although he is a real ‘foody’, neither he nor his wife had any formal experience in the food sector.
“We had to learn how to hire and train employees, roast our own coffee beans and create systems for the store. A strong attention to detail, a generous menu and our own unique coffee blends meant that we were building a brand that generated a lot of repeat business and loyal customers.”
For Wiese, customer service is the single most powerful tool in any business owner’s arsenal.
“People appreciate the personal touch, and that’s what we strived for,” says Wiese.
“If something wasn’t on the menu, we did our best to accommodate. We wanted customers to feel looked after. It’s the reason we had so many regulars, and we wanted this to come through once the brand franchised.”
Today, franchisees are encouraged to maintain that personalised touch. Many of the brand’s earliest franchisees were regulars who enquired how they could open their own Wiesenhof.
Because they loved the brand, this focus on customer attention was easy to instil, and today it’s a given across the group.
Here are Wiese’s five top tips for franchising success:
1. Quality is paramount. Know where to save and where to spend. Don’t skimp on quality. In our case people are there for the food and the coffee. Generous portions and the best ingredients ensure they get what they came for.
2. Know your customer. Some customers buy on price, others are willing to pay more if the quality delivers. Understand what your customers expect and deliver on those expectations. Encourage constant feedback.
3. Loyalty is paramount. Encourage your franchisees to offer managers a small share of the business. It will give them a reason to really care about how well a store does. If you’re a franchisee, evaluate how you’re engendering loyalty amongst your staff. Do they care about the brand and what it stands for?
4. Be open and honest. Issues that affect the brand as a whole (and therefore all franchisees) should be the only non-negotiables. For everything else, encourage open discussions that allow everyone in the group to be on the same page. As a franchisee, understand that you’re also the brand’s custodian, and you understand what’s happening on the ground floor. Share your knowledge with the group as a whole – the better the brand, the better your store.
5. Brand beats ego – every time. Always make decisions based on what’s best for the brand, the business and your customers – not your ego. As a business owner, whether you’re the franchisor or the franchisee, your ego is secondary.
Reference: Standard Bank BizConnect – http://bizconnect.standardbank.co.za/.