Imagine this – you are in a new city for a conference, and you are craving your usual cup of coffee before you have to sit in a chair for hours. A Starbucks is outside the venue, so you pop in for a cup. You walk in, and everything is just as expected– the coffee is to your exact preferences, there is even the same kind of chair you always grab, the music is the same, and the barista also managed to get your name wrong in the same way!
Except for the name part, this is what a franchise sells – consistency. You walk into any of their franchisees, and the customer’s experience of the brand would be the same. Franchises carefully curate their customers’ brand experience so that if they walk into any of their franchisees, they get exactly what they expect. If they don’t, there will surely be complaints about things not being up to the usual standard. That is why it is necessary to have a consistent brand standard, corporate guidelines, and policies for all franchisees to follow them.
But sometimes, franchisees refuse to follow these standards or comply with the brand messaging, which can damage the franchisor. Let’s venture into some dangerous waters here and discover why having a franchisee goes rogue harms the franchisor’s brand reputation.
Rogue Franchise Websites – A Dangerous Venture
Let’s think about this – a franchisee, for one reason or the other, decides to build a rogue franchise website. They hire a local developer to build the website but not according to the online brand compliance required by the franchise. Now there are two cases—either the franchisee has done a good job in building the website or a bad job—in either case, it will hurt the business’ reputation and cost it revenue. But how is it exactly damaging your company?
A Poor-Quality Website is Costing You Leads
The case of the franchisee making a poor-quality website is obvious. The customer clicks on the website and, instead of landing in a familiar place, seems to have entered a place where everything seems off. The colors, the logo, the content – everything is unusual. Either the customer thinks the website is hacked or thinks that the brand is not what they thought it was, or in case of a new customer forms a poor first opinion of the brand and bounces from the website. Everything a franchise works hard for—their brand reputation, the message they want to give to the customers, the leads they work hard to collect—all things are lost because of a rogue franchise website.
You Are Competing for Leads with a Better Website
The second case is trickier because it doesn’t seem bad at first. The rogue website is done well and attracts good search traffic. But then you find the website of the larger organization seems to be competing with the rogue website for search traffic. This means more people are going to the rogue website than the main site, and your website will rank less on Google as your traffic goes down. Google might even devalue your entire domain for publishing duplicate content with the rogue site.
Overall, leaving rogue websites up? Bad idea. Simply speaking, it is costing you leads, customers, and money. It might seem like only a few customers or leads in the beginning, but as you know, numbers pile up quickly, and the cost to the company becomes huge in a couple of years. Therefore, rogue websites must be taken down efficiently as possible.
How to Deal with Rogue Franchisees?
Before you go and assemble your ‘Franchisers Protect Brand Reputation’ squad (the name could use some work, I know. I am taking suggestions) and get ready to fire on the website, you have to think, ‘why did this franchisee go rogue? And what can I do to prevent it from happening in the future?’
Ensure The Franchisee Has All the Resources Needed for Online Brand Compliance
Any franchisee doesn’t go rogue in a vacuum. They, too, want to be successful and do right by the company. If they have gone rogue, it is because they are struggling with something and trying to solve the issue. Perhaps they lack the resources to implement the franchise’s programs and policies properly, or they have fallen short of the brand’s compliance standards because the assets they have received aren’t customizable for their store, or they simply lack the technological tools to be faithful to the company’s guidelines. In all these cases, it is the franchisor’s responsibility to provide adequate tools to the franchisee to comply with the brand’s standards.
Listen and Communicate with Your Franchisee
One easy way to prevent the problem is to simply set up a strong complaint address system between the organization and the franchisee. Most of the time, the franchisee isn’t feeling heard when they are trying to bring up something that isn’t working for them in the current model. At this point, it is the franchisor’s job to listen to the franchisee, resolve any issues they are struggling with, take input from them if they have a better idea, and retrain them if necessary. If the franchise isn’t convinced about your program, then be prepared to convince the franchisee with data and analytics.
Have a Strong Franchise Agreement
In the end, if a franchisee has gone wrong, they must clearly communicate how they have violated the agreement. This requires you to have a solid contract that clearly and unambiguously states your policies, so it would be easy for you to point out and correct rogue behavior. You should also ensure that when you erase the rogue website online, the online traffic gets redirected to the new and appropriate location.
Rogue websites are potentially too damaging for a brand to leave up. You should take immediate action against them and prevent it from happening in the future. One way is to keep your franchisee updated about the latest franchise news and information, policies, guidelines, and online brand compliance policies. Taking regular inputs from your franchisees would also stop potential rogue behavior in its tracks. After all, good communication is the foundation of any good relationship.