When it was just you and one location, knowing what was happening in your business was easy. But now you’re a franchisor. And greater growth has led to greater inconsistencies and greater complexity.

How do you know if your franchisees are following your processes? Where can you see the full financial story? How can you take your business to the next level when lacking full transparency?

Time to get serious about a franchise tech transformation.

No Better Time to Start

I can hear the groans from here. “Another thing I have to do? I’m just trying to keep this business going.”

Well, if the pandemic didn’t start you thinking about a franchise tech transformation, now’s the time. Because, frankly, the customer base you had pre-COVID is not the same one you’ve got now.

“With convenience expectations forever reset, the path to sustained success means keeping pace with where and what customers value most,” according to Franchising.com.

Which means … ? Your customers expect tech-enhanced (not just enabled) interactions. It means they expect a consistent experience no matter who they interact with. Or where. Or how. And it means franchisees will look to you to lead the franchise’s tech transformation.

According to Deloitte’s “Connected Small Businesses in the United States” report, digitally advanced small businesses were more successful than those who weren’t. The digitally advanced businesses:

  • Earned two times more revenue per employee.
  • Experienced nearly four times the revenue growth year over year.
  • Were almost three times as likely to create jobs over the previous year.
  • Had an average employment growth rate more than six times as high.

Unite Your Franchise Tech Front

But unless your service is technology, your franchisees may not be tech fluent or welcoming. So it’s your job to help them understand which technologies to onboard, why and in what order.

The roadmap will look different based on your franchise’s maturity. Have you just dipped your toes into franchise waters? Maybe start with customer experience consistency.

Are your franchises in their “teen years,” ready to make the next big step? Then transparent revenue reporting may be most important.

Or, if franchise operations run well but your virtual “storefront” needs some love (if it exists at all?), then marketing technology might be the next acquisition.

The point is, successfully implementing and integrating software requires moving collectively as one brand. Not individual mini-brands.

22% of small businesses say digital tools helped reduce operating costs. ~Deloitte

One obvious reason is purchasing power. Franchisees joining forces with the home office have a lot more buying muscle than single purchasers.

Another reason: You can solve the whole franchise’s higher-level needs — consistency, growth or transparency — at the same time, using the same “language.”

With you leading the tech charge, your franchise ship can navigate challenging growth waters more smoothly.

Culture Eats Change for Breakfast

So how exactly do you get differing franchisee levels of tech savvy moving as one?

Rave Restaurant Group’s vice president of marketing, Douglas Kwong, said in Franchising.com that it helps to keep your franchisee’s needs front and center.

“All of our initiatives that involve technology are centered around our goal to make the franchisee role more efficient and effective so they can take care of their guests and provide the best experience,” he said.

Recognize your franchisees are the ones on the front lines of customer expectations. Listen to their highest-priority needs.

If your franchisees aren’t completely on board with your technology vision, you’ll have failed before you start.

So it’s important to include them when deciding solutions. Make sure everyone knows the reasons for change, and how the change will help them.

Reinforce your commitment to a common tech vision, and communicate often about progress.

Yes, the Cloud Is for You, Too

If you’re late to the tech game, don’t worry. You’ve simply waited until the best-possible time — the glory days of cloud computing.

The cloud isn’t new, but the appetite for it got a major pandemic boost. Before COVID-19, cloud computing was pervasive, but not always apparent.

If you’d asked someone if they felt the cloud was safe, their answer was just as likely “no” as “yes” — even though, ironically, you might be polling them in a Google Doc. Questions about security, stability and control persisted.

With the corporate world’s fairly seamless transition to work-from-home, those concerns were more or less put to rest. Not that privacy, reliability or ownership issues went away. But the cloud’s effectiveness became more widely recognized.

While small businesses or franchises aren’t like the corporate world, they do share common needs. Technologies like customer relationship management, online scheduling, accounting, file storage and marketing are just as essential to small businesses as larger ones.

Moving them to the cloud can reduce overall costs and enable greater consistency and transparency.

Around 90% of small businesses believe digital tools helped them innovate, particularly when entering new markets and communicating with customers. ~Deloitte

Cloud-based solutions helped all companies get out of the tech hardware and server business (unless, of course, that was their business). A single cloud-based platform replaced multiple instances of the same technology.

Costs were reduced and consistency improved. And access — regardless of location — enabled flexible, on-the-go operations for everyone.

Transforming Franchise Tech: For You and Them

You may still not be sold on having to lead your franchisees into a new tech age. But keep this in mind — customers now make decisions based on their total experiences with a brand, not just a product or service.

Customer experience includes every single interaction your customers have with your franchise. It doesn’t matter if you (or the franchisee) were involved.

Customers decide whether to do business with you based on what they can learn about you first.

Not investing in your digital experience is telling. Potential customers are forming impressions about the experiences they’ll have with your brand. Are you confident they’re good ones?