Using Bots and Technology to Grow Your Franchise
Automated technology can improve your franchise sales process at any step in your franchising journey.
Whether you’re a seasoned brand or an emerging franchisor, incorporating AI, bot technology and automation into your franchise sales process can be worth the investment.
From robotic process automation that can streamline performance to conversational AI solutions that enable omni-channel communication, the potential benefits of leveraging advanced technology are seemingly endless when it comes to improving interactions with prospective franchisees and customers alike.
To learn more about the advantages that AI, bots and automation technology can offer franchisors, The Internicola Law Firm turned to Jayesh Kasim, co-founder of Valenta, a process consulting, digital transformation and staff augmentation company that doubles as a franchise system with a team of over 550 people worldwide.
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8 Tips for Using AI and Bots in Your Franchise Sales Process
1. Make communication more convenient with automation
As a company that implements its own technology solutions, Valenta utilizes conversational AI, intelligent process automation and robotic process automation to help businesses improve their processes and streamline customer experiences while increasing profitability.
“Most times, it starts with [the business] having the right CRM in place, having the right ERP in place – it starts there. But then after that, with digital technology right now, there's robotic process automation where you can get software bots performing work instead of humans performing work. And then there's conversational AI solutions where you have omni-channel communication, and this helps customers – this could be clients, this could be franchisees, it could be anyone – but it's letting them communicate with you in their preferred method, and in a timely manner as well, and providing them information in a good sequence,” Kasim says.
In a busy world where response times sometimes lag, providing customers with more efficient and convenient methods of communication can take a brand to the next level.
2. Improve the franchise sales process with online portals
Beyond streamlining the communication process, Kasim says automation technology can also improve the overall sales process for franchisors – an important advantage for any franchisor that’s looking to scale their brand.
“One of the ways [automation helps franchisors] is when we internally engage with some of our franchisee candidates. [Valenta has] created franchise internal portals where we have documented everything, step-by-step, that we want [candidates] to follow, and we want them to watch. Right now, we're making this portal available to them so they can look at this at their convenience 24/7,” Kasim explains.
Online portals offer the advantage of automated technology that walks franchisee candidates through an automated nine-step process of viewing specific pre-recorded videos, testimonials, blog posts, and more before scheduling a meeting with area developers or managing directors to learn more about buying a franchise.
“In the past, this would have been done with email sequences. It's sort of eliminating email sequences. … When you're looking at the discovery stage for a new franchisee prospect, going from start to end could sort of be automated,” Kasim says.
In addition to brand introduction sessions and webinars, franchisors can also automate more advanced stages of the sales process including franchisee applications, fees, background verifications, and even issuing the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) to a candidate automatically.
3. Reduce response times for franchise broker inquiries
In addition to streamlining the franchise sales and discovery process, automation can also be useful for improving response times when it comes to sales inquiries from franchise brokers.
“If one of the lead sources is franchise brokers, it usually starts off with the territory check. Now, when we get territory checks, we have a bot that responds to the territory check within seconds – so brokers get a response instantly from us. It is very important for brokers to get this response in a timely manner. Prior to implementing a bot, when we first started, I was doing this myself. So I understood how much time it takes,” Kasim says.
In the past, Kasim says responses to franchise brokers could often take around a half hour and involve emails being passed down the chain of command to the person that was responsible for responding to them. By implementing bot technology to respond to inquiries and territory checks, broker responses can now be sent at any hour and within seconds of the inquiry.
“We wanted to make sure it gets sent 24/7, because brokers work 24/7 as well. So we implemented a software board for that,” Kasim says.
4. Track and analyze candidate referrals
In addition to improving response times, franchisors can also utilize automated technology to track candidate referrals from franchise brokers. At Valenta, Kasim says the company utilizes Smartsheet software – an automated software that looks similar to an Excel spreadsheet – to analyze trends in referrals and other activity over time.
“Once the bot completes the broker territory check, the bot will then go into Smartsheet and it will update the details in there as well. So if it's a new broker, it'll go in, it'll add the broker’s name. … We have all our brokers in our CRM as well. So it will go in there, it will add the candidate that they provide, that they have asked for the territory check for, and it will put the broker in there as well. Within the CRM, we can always drill down and we can see how many candidates each broker has sent, what the deal statuses are and stuff,” Kasim says.
5. Streamline territory checks
Beyond communication and data tracking, the process of checking available territories can also be automated and completed within about a minute – saving franchisors valuable time and effort when it comes to responding to territory checks.
“Not every territory check will result in a [candidate] introduction. So if they don't result in an introduction, that's perfectly fine – there's no worries there. But let's say it does result in an introduction. Then, again, we have an automated system. We have the bot once again. So what we have is in the U.S., we've divided the U.S. into five different regions. … And we have area developers in each of these regions. So when we have an introduction, it comes to the board, looks at that email and will automatically send it to the right managing director, which is our area developer,” Kasim says.
That automated process helps prospective candidates understand whether their preferred territory is available and enables them to schedule a meeting quickly and efficiently – a critical advantage for franchisors hoping to attract franchisee candidates that are serious about buying a business.
6. Schedule introductions and meetings efficiently
In addition to integrating bots and automated technology into a franchisor’s website, franchisors can also use bots to schedule initial meetings with prospective candidates on messaging apps. After completing their introduction to the brand, candidates can be given access to the company’s online portal where the automated system will walk them through a step-by-step franchise sales process.
“It's really simple. It's a very short 30-second video that says, ‘Hey, look, here's the portal, we want you to follow every step and read and watch all the information that's available so you can make an informed decision and we can have a meaningful next conversation – that they've already set up,” Kasim says.
Toward the end of the process, candidates are given an opportunity to sign up for a webinar that’s scheduled every two weeks, offering a chance to interact with the company more directly – through a scheduling process that is also automated for convenience.
The process ends with a chance to set up a meeting with a managing director to talk more about franchise opportunities with the brand, ensuring the candidate never misses a step and always has an opportunity to interact with the people behind the brand.
7. Conserve human resources with smart chatbots
Beyond sales, AI and automation technology can also help franchisors utilize their workforce in better ways by shifting unnecessary and time-consuming work to chatbots, freeing up time for human workers to handle complex tasks more efficiently.
“Obviously, when people are calling a call center, they want to speak to a human – that's really the reason they are calling. But there are probably a few things that can be done before that,” Kasim says.
Although chatbots have been around for years and often do a good job of helping with basic customer service tasks, Kasim says a new generation called conversational AI chatbots could be a gamechanger when it comes to interacting with customers more intelligently.
“If you have a smart conversational AI chatbot solution, the need for a call center or call center agents would decrease drastically. … We've taken all the historical data that we've had, and chatbots have done a great job. But what a conversational AI solution is going to do from next week is going to take it to the next level,” Kasim says, adding that Valenta is in the process of launching an upgraded AI chatbot.
8. Use analytics to increase profits and support franchisees
Beyond improving sales processes and customer service, Kasim says using automated technology to track sales and performance data can be useful for supporting franchisees and increasing the profitability of a franchisor’s overall system.
“Just having analytics as to what products are selling at what time, and being able to make informed decisions that can increase sales as well. [If you] implement some conversational AI solution, you can think about this as, you've got all this information, let's put it to good use and increase your sales opportunities as well, at the same time,” Kasim says, adding that sales and daily operations data can be used to increase support for franchisees based on information about their local areas.
In addition to improving communication and sales processes, Kasim says other everyday business operations can also be automated to improve efficiency, particularly for larger international brands. At Valenta, everything from accounting to sales and recruiting are handled in a standardized way using specific software and platforms. Because every franchise’s needs are different, Kasim says it can be a good idea to conduct Google searches to learn about the brands and products that meet their unique business needs.
To learn more about the business services and automation technology available from Valenta, visit https://us.valenta.io.
To learn more about franchising opportunities with Valenta, visit https://valentafranchise.com.