How FranConnect Took Out an Industry ‘Goliath’ to Become the Top Franchise Management Software
Franchise executives from Liberty Tax Service and Franworth explain their decisions to return to FranConnect management software after relationships with Salesforce failed to deliver on expectations.
FranConnect, recently ranked “#1 top supplier of Online Franchise Technology Services” by Entrepreneur Magazine, is taking down one-size-fits-all brands like Salesforce & Microsoft.
While it’s well known in the franchising industry that FranConnect is designed specifically for franchisors, the competitive advantages of the best practices built into FranConnect franchise management software solutions aren’t always clear. In fact, it sometimes takes franchise brands checking out the competition to see if the grass could be greener before they can truly understand FranConnect’s advantage. That’s exactly what happened in the case of two FranConnect clients, Liberty Tax and Franworth, that temporarily moved to the competing multi-vertical CRM Salesforce before ultimately coming home to FranConnect. Overall, the franchise brands found that complex and costly implementations, lack of basic franchise configurations and an absence of human-touch in customer support from the big-name vendor was not for them.
Liberty Tax Demanded Franchise-Driven Automation
Five years ago, Liberty Tax decided to engage FranConnect for help with optimizing lead-flow and streamlining operations. Less than a year into their engagement, the brand decided to leave FranConnect and move, ultimately only temporarily, to Salesforce.
Martha O’Gorman, Chief Marketing Officer for Liberty Tax, explains why. “We were with FranConnect for only six months when we decided to make a change,” she said. “As a company, Liberty Tax has a very tough time implementing new software of any type – mostly because we try to make everything fit into our way of doing business. At the time, it was like trying to make a round peg fit into a square hole.”
O’Gorman added that processes weren’t as automated as they had hoped with their initial FranConnect implementation. For example, since the brand has locations in both the U.S. and Canada, leads needed to be marked by country when they came into the system. If the country wasn’t properly indicated, then the leads weren’t entered into the automated process correctly. As a result, the Sales Module was not being optimized, causing additional manual work. Liberty Tax also had difficulties getting its online brochure to go through its sales funnel accurately, so leads were not being properly scored which resulted in missed sales opportunities. That was when Liberty Tax decided to look at an alternative solution.
“I became very involved in Salesforce – going to their convention and learning not only about the sales side of its system, but also about all of the capabilities that Salesforce promised. It seems like you can add modules to the system that will do almost anything, so we became very interested in what we could do as an organization with the tool,” said O’Gorman. “We opted to go the call-center application route first when we transitioned over. We learned later that approach was a bit backwards in terms of how Salesforce works. Then, when we tried to add the Sales functionality – that was when things went downhill fast. We couldn’t get anywhere with it. We just could not get it off the ground, even after hiring consultants to help us implement it. That’s when we knew we had to leave. Breaking our contract was a very expensive lesson for us.”
After leaving Salesforce behind, Liberty Tax used Act! CRM for the next sales season. They were familiar with Act! Because they had used it before. Then, O’Gorman ran into some FranConnect folks at a conference in Atlanta and began a dialogue about coming back.
O’Gorman said, “FranConnect came in and did a demo for us to show all of the new capabilities that had been added and the streamlined functionality of FranConnect Sky. Their technology had advanced so much since we left FranConnect, it was easy to see the benefits. We decided to give FranConnect a second try, and we were able to implement it quicker than any other system we had ever done.”
After the easy onboarding, the biggest benefit that Liberty Tax experiences now is greater engagement and adoption across its users, as well as improved results.
FranConnect: Better Lead Tracking throughout the Lifecycle to Convert More Leads, Faster
“As a marketer, the most difficult thing for me is to spend a lot of money to generate leads and have them go into a black hole where I have no visibility into what’s happening. With FranConnect, enabled by a very user-friendly mobile application, I can log in and see a snapshot of everything, anytime I want. I don’t have to wait for someone to pull a report or wait for reports to be updated on a certain day. I can see where we are in the sales process at any time, and it’s been very eye-opening for me to have that access,” O’Gorman said. “The speed to leads that FranConnect provides through automated-workflow, SMS texting, notifications and their sales representatives is what you need to make better decisions to improve your competitive position. Every franchisor is going after the same potential prospects. The care, speed of response and follow-up for those leads will determine who gets the business and that’s where FranConnect helps us excel.”
Franworth Needed a Single Sign-On Enterprise View
Another company that understands the intense competition that’s continuing to heat up in the franchising world is Franworth. Franworth manages multiple brands in its portfolio: TITLE Boxing Club, spavi day spa, Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea, The Lash Lounge and CITYROW. Its diverse portfolio makes it paramount for the company to be working with a well-equipped franchise management solution in order to stay ahead of the competition.
Franworth had been working with FranConnect and found that it was a great tool for each of its franchise brands individually. However, because Franworth isn’t a franchisor in the traditional sense, it had a unique set of needs. Not only was Franworth looking for a solution for its brands individually, but it needed a way to streamline operations and communications across its growing multi brand, multi-unit business. That’s where it started running into some issues – Franworth’s team members were having to navigate five different log ins, reports and licenses for each brand under its umbrella. Because they couldn’t see a clear path to scale with FranConnect, they started researching other options.
“I told FranConnect that we were looking into Salesforce to address our enterprise needs. If I were simply deciding on the best tool to manage one franchise system, FranConnect would win easily. We understood the collective benefit of all our franchisors using the platform, since the system is configured specifically for franchise operations,” said Mike Skitzki, Chief Operating Officer for Franworth. “But we needed a high-level view across multiple brands with multiple units. At the time, we didn’t fully understand the capabilities of the FranConnect Sky platform and we thought Salesforce offered a more robust custom enterprise configuration. It initially appeared like Salesforce would be the right path because of the ‘plug and play’ nature of all the add-on modules available in the Salesforce App Exchange. On the surface, the enterprise promise of Salesforce was very appealing.”
Franworth began its migration to Salesforce in the first quarter of 2018, but by Q2, they decided to pull the plug. According to Skitzki, the process became much more complex than it initially appeared.
“Within a franchise system, there are a number of workflows and business processes that franchisors need to be able to manage to keep their development pipeline moving. Every single one of those workflows and processes need to be custom configured inside of Salesforce. The tool can absolutely handle it, but who will do that configuration and make sure it mirrors what brands need from an operations and legal standpoint? And how much is that going to cost? We thought we had good answers to every question coming into our migration with Salesforce,” said Skitzki. “But the further we got into the migration, and the further down the rabbit hole we went. We realized how many workflows there are and how many processes are necessary to run a franchise system. We ended up looking at either a very robust consulting bill for configuration and ongoing maintenance or a full-time hire of an experienced Salesforce implementer. At the end, it just didn’t make sense for us. Salesforce’s fancy reporting and ability to customize ended up being a deterrent for us. When everything needs to be customized, you’re going to be looking at some pretty hefty costs.”
Ultimately, Franworth realized that the problems they were having, including keeping costs low by operating all brands under one license, weren’t being solved. So Skitzki and the rest of the team made the decision to reconsider FranConnect.
FranConnect: Developed for Franchisors with Everything They Need Already Built In
He said, “The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze with Salesforce. The cost to build out all of those configurations and maintain them wasn’t worth the time and effort. And that all comes with FranConnect right off the shelf. That’s why we decided to cut our losses, double down and return to FranConnect. Everything we needed had already been done in FranConnect with two decades of best practices backing it, so we decided to take advantage of what’s already been built.”
FranConnect’s latest technology has been able to solve Franworth’s multi-brand issues, and together they are now bringing all five of the FranWorth brands with oversight across all units under one license and log in.
“Today, we have five brands in our portfolio, totaling nearly 1,000 units. Even at that scale, we concluded that FranConnect was the only partner that had all the functionality we needed to manage our brands at a reasonable cost. Plus, we have plans to add more brands during the year. I’m confident in FranConnect’s ability to scale with us,” said Skitzki.
He continued, adding, “When you migrate to a new CRM system, there are a significant number of hours and dollars that it takes. There’s a disruption to the system overall. So, if you’re looking at a migration, make sure you really understand the full budget, full project dependencies and full scope of what you’re getting into. FranConnect has spoiled us – you pay one fee, they configure everything, and it works. With other vendors, you pay your license fees and then you must figure out how to make it work for your franchise business. That question is a big, timely and expensive one. For some franchises, it might make sense. But for most of us, it’s a steep mountain to climb.”
Both Liberty Tax and Franworth have found that when it comes to franchise management systems, the grass isn’t always greener with alternatives. By researching available options – and comparing business needs with the functionality of one CRM tool over another – they’ve both now re-engaged a solution, FranConnect, that enables them to operate at a higher level than they were in the past.
“The key to choosing the right CRM tool, beyond the basics of ‘does the system do what you need it to do,’ is service. You’ll know early on what the culture of the company is and what level of support you’re going to get,” O’Gorman said. “When you’re running a business – you want to talk to a person for help, not just enter a ticket online. We did not get high-touch support from Salesforce at all. Their attitude was ‘you bought it, now figure it out.’ Now, FranConnect – they did not let us down. They have been with us every step of the way since we came back.”
O’Gorman explained that they have monthly in-person meetings, weekly status calls and she has conversations at all levels of the company – as high as the President and Chief Customer Advocate Keith Gerson. She said, “They’ve built a culture dedicated to making sure that customer satisfaction is at the highest level. I really feel taken care of with them. FranConnect has found their secret sauce, marrying great product and superior service.”
Skitzki echoes O’Gorman’s thoughts when it comes to FranConnect’s level of customer service. And because hindsight is 20/20, he says there’s one thing that Franworth could have done better – simply communicate more.
“We should have shared our concerns with our FranConnect customer advocate earlier in the process, said Skitzki. “That way we would have learned about FranConnect Sky’s new functionality sooner and never considered alternatives. Open communication saves time, headaches and money. There’s no question that FranConnect has the superior franchising solution and the expert support team to back it up.”