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Franchisors and Franchisees Shouldn’t Forget the Telephone

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Franchisors and franchisees may be missing opportunities and important information by relying more on technology, and less on the telephone.

Having spent a number of years in the health care industry I gained a good deal of experience dealing with the “Gatekeepers”.  Whether attempting to reach a key decision maker in a hospital, nursing home or physician practice group, the challenge was often daunting. The first step was getting beyond the Gatekeeper to the desired contact.

From time to time I’ve found that reaching the key decision maker in both franchise and independent business organizations can be just as difficult. Given today’s high tech communication environment one would expect that making personal contact shouldn’t be that difficult. That’s not always the case. Instead, the convenience and ease of use available from e-mail, webinars and text messages has pushed the telephone to the background.

In fact, it’s been my experience that it’s more difficult now than ever before to get someone on the telephone. Today it’s more common to set a telephone appointment than a luncheon meeting.

In a New York Times article by Pamela Paul entitled Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You, Ms.Paul provides a timely and occasionally humorous view into the declining use of the telephone.

Following are some excerpts from Paul’s article:

“When I walk around the office, nobody is on the phone,” said Jonathan Burnham, senior vice president and publisher at HarperCollins. The nature of the rare business call has also changed. “Phone calls used to be everything: serious, light, heavy, funny,” Mr. Burnham said. “But now they tend to be things that are very focused. And almost everyone e-mails first and asks, ‘Is it O.K. if I call?’ ”

Even in fields where workers of various stripes (publicists, agents, salespeople) traditionally conducted much of their business by phone, hoping to catch a coveted decision-maker off-guard or in a down moment, the phone stays on the hook. When Matthew Ballast, an executive director for publicity at Grand Central Publishing, began working in book publicity 12 years ago, he would go down his list of people to cold call, then follow up two or three times, also by phone. “I remember five years ago, I had a pad with a list of calls I had to return,” he said. Now, he talks by phone two or three times a day. “You pretty much call people on the phone when you don’t understand their e-mail,” he said.

Granted, this topic may not be the most exciting, however, the impact on franchisors and franchisees from the changes in business communication touch on a number of areas.

  • The telephone enables both parties to have a give and take during a conversation, rather than a mere exchange of information that an e-mail or text message provides.
  • Franchisors typically resist documenting certain information that might become a problem in future disputes. A telephone conversation between a franchisor representative and a franchisee can allow for a more open discussion and airing of issues.
  • By relying on e-mails rather than the telephone the benefit of human interaction that is available from a personal conversation is lost.
  • The telephone enables both parties to engage in a dialog not possible from e-mails.
  • A franchisor executive on the telephone with a key franchisee has an opportunity to gain feedback on a variety of subjects ranging from market conditions to franchisee challenges.
  • Since a number of franchisors operate in a wide range of geographic locations, the telephone is a convenient and productive tool for keeping in touch.

Although the use of communication technology can provide a frequent and convenient way to exchange information, the benefits available from the telephone shouldn’t be overlooked. These benefits may be far more relevant for franchise organizations than other business structures.

© 2013 FranchiseKnowHow, LLC

Ed Teixeira is the President of FranchiseKnowHow, LLC. He can be reached at franchiseknowhow@gmail.com

 
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