Training in a safety service franchise: part one

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You may know all about workplace health and safety products and systems, how to legally test and tag electrical equipment or apply protective materials, but poor customer service skills will most certainly inhibit the success and longevity of your business.

Just as there are diverse business offerings within the safety services industry, the types of training will also differ. Some may be delivered in a classroom format, while others place more importance by learning on the job. Most businesses also present ongoing and refresher training via support staff, written manuals and online components.

Here we look at two safety service offerings and their training programs: Appliance Tagging Services, and SafetyQuip.

APPLIANCE TAGGING SERVICES

Concept: Mobile electrical testing and tagging
Established: 2002 by Sarah and Ainslie Allen
Franchising since: 2006
No. of franchisees: 36 (QLD 5, NT 1, WA 2, SA 1, TAS 2, ACT 1, VIC 13, NSW 11)

Pre-requisite training –  franchisees must successfully complete a two-day Test and Tag course with a Registered Training Organisation (extra qualifications required in QLD).

Formal training – total of two weeks in Melbourne.

Technical component – equivalent of six or more days, depending on franchisee’s skills. This covers the use of the ATS testing equipment and ATS’s specific processes and procedures, inspection and testing of safety switches (RCD’s), exit and emergency lighting systems, microwave leakage testing, and the completion of minor repairs to portable electrical equipment.

Operational training is blended with the technical training and is delivered by the support staff that interacts with franchisees on a daily basis. “As our business is largely compliance driven, the operational training delivered during induction is incredibly important,” explains Sarah Allen.

Customer service module – equal to at least two days. This includes learning to deal with the public on a daily basis, managing clients if/when having to disrupt their every day activities, seeking customer feedback, and telephone and quoting protocols.

“We train franchisees on the best way to approach clients to discuss the shutting down of equipment and on strategies to deal with challenging clients,” explains Allen.

“Our standard process is for all franchisees to seek feedback from every single client they visit – as we know that a small issue rectified immediately will alleviate future larger issues,” she says.

“We are also passionate about phone etiquette and spend time training franchisees on the importance of a quick response time when clients have queries or prospective clients are seeking quotes,” adds Allen.

Buddy training – two weeks with an existing franchisee to refine technical skills while working on existing ATS client sites.

Refresher training – ongoing telephone support and technical videos.

Ideal franchisee – self-motivated go-getter who understands the need to develop a partnership approach with both ATS and their customers to achieve their business goals. Franchisees must have the desire to grow their business and display exceptional customer service.

“We are looking for passion and enthusiasm, a genuine interest in the safety industry, commitment to the highest level of customer service, loyalty to ATS and its customers, professionalism, accountability and a strong team ethic,” says Allen.

“When it comes to previous work experience or skills, there really are no formal requirements as the technical skills can be learned during training,” Allen explains. “We have found however, that a franchisee who has a more technical and hands-on outlook grasps the technical aspects of our business more quickly.”

Noteworthy – ATS support staff provide a complete administrative service for franchisees. Allen says staff in the support office schedule all jobs, process all testing data and prepare all invoices on behalf of the franchisee. “This then ensures that our franchisees are completely focused on the key drivers of their business growth – growing their local customer base and providing ongoing exceptional service to their existing customers.”

The ATS franchise network is integral to the future growth and success of ATS as a whole, Allen explains. “This is underpinned by our commitment to customer service, our high standards of service excellence, our professionalism and the strong working relationship that exists between ATS management and its franchisees.”

SAFETYQUIP

Concept: Mobile one-stop shop for workplace safety
Established: 1992
Franchising since: 2002
No. of franchisees: 15 in Australia (QLD 5, NSW 3, VIC 4, SA 1, WA 2).

Overall training – 90 days/three months.

Formal training – specific classroom undertakings cover generic product training, computer systems, business management, and sales, marketing and merchandising, and then on-site training conducted via suppliers and the franchisor staff.

Supplier training – this is imperative as this business sells workplace health and safety clothing and equipment. National suppliers complement generic training with their unique product specific information.

Technical component – more than 50 percent of overall training (via classroom/face to face, on-site/face to face, supplier/manufacturer training on range and products, and 24/7 online training).

Technical training includes the study in generic application terms of 11 protective products categories (specified in Australian Standards) for head protection, eye and face protection, hearing protection, respiratory protection, protective clothing, safety footwear, hand protection, height safety, skin care and workplace hygiene, site safety (eg construction, workshop, mining, fabrication) and risk management.

Business systems are also covered in technical training, where franchisees and managers learn to manage the 10 business management segments of the custom-written software.

“In the most basic sense, a sales person must be able to ask questions in order to determine customer needs,” explains Lionel Hedt, training manager. “Technical training is not the essence of a good question, generic training is! In other words, no matter what advances are made in design, application, operation or function, there are generic principles that have existed for perhaps 50 or 60 years.”

Customer training – carried out on the job after initial product and systems training. However, initial product and systems training is an important part of the customer service process.

“We have found that the most successful customer service training is where, after locality setup is complete, customer trading on a very small scale commences,” says Hedt. “This initial small scale trading marries all of the initial training elements to the real world.

Noteworthy – the new franchisee is not left alone until the process of call cycles, quotations, orders, invoicing, supply/receipt of goods and the many administration and accounting aspects are functioning without direct supervision. “That time we call our 90 day startup,” Hedt explains.

“Customer service is not taught successfully until the ‘mind is prepared’,” Hedt explains. “Initial training provides a level of confidence essential for the first minutes of each and every new customer contact. Remember that some of our new franchisees may never before have performed in a customer service role.”

Ongoing training – each franchisee’s teachable selling skills (such as self-confidence, good listening skills, persuasiveness and relationship building) are observed during the first six months of trading and then nurtured.
“Even the best salesperson is a work in progress,” reveals Hedt. “You can always find a way to develop skills, work on selling pitch, and learn more about the products and services being presented, but the drive to constantly improve has to come from within.”

Ideal franchisee – is a team player who is creative, passionate and tenacious, and possesses integrity and commitment. “Genuine love for a product gets salespeople through the inevitable dark times,” reveals Hedt. “Passion, like creativity, cannot be faked, so it has great weight with customers.”

Franchisees must possess the ability to plan, conduct and excel in the management of customer acquisition and management of call territories, and have resourcefulness in terms of supplying to a catalogue selection, rather than trying to supply what the customer thinks he/she needs.

“Our ideal franchisee is one where our operations manual is evident in most aspects of the franchisee’s relationship with his/her customers and the franchisor,” Hedt announces. “The franchisee is, in essence, a customer of the franchisor and vice versa.”
 

Look out next week for the second part of this article featuring Jim's Test and Tag, Monit and Grip Guard

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