A Five Star Initiative

This year, business research firm, Smith and Henderson, released the results of its 5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction Programme, which aims to identify truly exceptional franchises from the point of view of an investor. Gareth Samuel reviews which franchises stood out and what this transparent method for evaluation could mean for franchising.

I am sure you will agree, transparency in the franchise industry and business in general is crucial. One of the biggest problems quality franchise operations have faced since the dawn of franchising has been putting distance between them and poorly run operations posing as franchises in the eyes of an investor. Now, thanks to a ground-breaking idea from corporate researchers, Smith and Henderson, franchising could be entering a new age of ultra-transparency – allowing only the best businesses to come to the fore.

Smith and Henderson’s 5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction Programme identifies the best franchise operations in the UK by speaking to the people who know them best – existing Franchise Partners. In 2013, over 2,000 Franchise Partners were asked to confidentially provide information about their franchisor on a number of areas to find out what the support is really like for those benefitting from it today and how it has compared with their expectations going into the business. Steven Frost, Managing Director of Smith and Henderson explains: “5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction is based on this principle. Each year, we ask thousands of actual franchisees to rate their Franchise Partnership experiences. We guarantee that their answers are confidential so they give honest feedback. We then award 5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction to franchisors that receive above average feedback in all five areas that we measure.”

Analysis is thorough enough to ensure that only the best operations receive the 5 Star label. The first step for franchisors wanting to be assessed is that they register their details online. Contact details must then be provided for all existing Franchise Partners in the UK that have been trading for more than three months.

Once the businesses are registered, all Franchise Partners are invited to give 100 per cent anonymous feedback in an online survey. The anonymity ensures Franchise Partners can be honest without fear of repercussions. The online survey consists of 30 questions and covers five main areas, including training/support, the franchise system, franchisor relationship, franchisor leadership and overall satisfaction.

This year’s winners were ActionCOACH, Helen O’Grady, Home Instead Senior Care, Little Kickers, McDonald’s, Music Bugs, Platinum Property Partners, Puddle Ducks, Tatty Bumpkin and TaxAssist Accountants. All of these brands can now boast genuine franchise owner satisfaction in accordance with Smith and Henderson’s strict assessment.

Ian Christelow, Managing Director of ActionCOACH UK said of the award: “I feel honoured to be part of a company with such an amazing team of Franchise Partners. To win the prestigious 5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction Award as a result of our team’s positive ratings and comments makes everything we strive to achieve thoroughly worthwhile. ActionCOACH is a referral-based business and building a team of delighted franchise partners is and needs to stay front and centre of everything we do.”

The research process is arduous and obtaining the results of the 5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction programme takes careful analysis. But for those qualifying brands, the label is a rubber stamp of approval for continued quality in the industry. Steven continues: “There are hundreds of franchise opportunities currently being advertised and it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd. Receiving the 5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction award helps to differentiate your franchise from the competition, demonstrates the level of support you provide and helps build trust with prospective franchisees.”

Franchise operations that achieve the coveted award can provide evidence in the form of third party analysis that everything they promise in their franchise brochure is evidenced in practice.
Perhaps more importantly, Franchise Partners looking for a franchise can be sure that a 5 Star business is one with many happy Franchise Partners already in existence. “Franchisors that have recently been awarded 5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction have on average, happier and more satisfied franchisees,” says Steven. “While nothing guarantees that a particular franchise is a good fit for you or that you will be successful, franchisors that have recently been awarded 5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction are a great place to start.”

Steven is quick to point out that while looking at 5 Star franchises is definitely a good idea for investors looking to buy into a business they will suit, there are other factors to consider. “There are some other important considerations like evaluating if you have what it takes to run your own business,” he says. “What you are passionate about and researching the market that the franchisor serves. In addition, before investing in any franchise we strongly recommend that you receive professional legal advice from a bfa accredited franchise lawyer.”

Ruth Brown, Head of Franchise Development for Home Instead Senior Care, one of the accredited franchises explains: “We are delighted with this accolade, it really means a lot that our franchisees are so supportive of Home Instead. We all work together as one big team, passionate about what we do. Having these standards in the industry will provide a guide to anyone looking for a franchise, helping them to recognise which are the best performing franchise companies.

“Knowing a franchise has 5 star satisfaction will of course give people confidence in what is perhaps a very new sector to them. There is no better endorsement than that of your own franchisees, their feedback is invaluable which helps us to develop and improve our business. Thanks must go to all our franchisees up and down the country that are doing such fantastic work.”

This year’s presentation evening of the prestigious 5 Star Awards was held in conjunction with the Best Franchise Awards, which recognises outstanding brands. The evening, sponsored by Franchise Development Services, brought famous faces of the franchise world out in force and was a celebratory evening for the positives that franchising brings to the wider UK economy. Steven adds: “We received exceptional feedback from franchisors receiving the awards, franchisors who are yet to participate in the programme and prospective franchisees.”

Smith and Henderson has a bright vision for the awards as a way in which excellent franchise operations can distinguish themselves from other, lower quality businesses. Steven concludes: “In the last few years, we’ve seen a new level of transparency when booking a holiday, buying a car or even a vacuum cleaner, thanks to websites like Trip Advisor and organisations like Which? Our vision is that 5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction will bring the same level of transparency to franchising, helping outstanding franchisors stand out and helping prospective franchisees to make better-informed decisions.”

For franchisors and Franchise Partners alike, 5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction is undoubtedly worth having.