A Fair Partnership Goes A Long Way
For any partnership or relationship to flourish, it’s important that all parties feel they are treated fairly and given every opportunity to live up to their potential. Reasonable expectations must exist. If not, bad feelings will fester, and in the case of a business relationship, sales will suffer.
7-Eleven franchisees understand that the convenience retail environment is becoming more competitive, and we need to evolve in order to stay ahead of the curve. Franchisees also admire and appreciate that 7-Eleven uses forward thinking in its approach to stay ahead of the competition and continuously makes adjustments to our system in order to adapt to the ever-changing c-store retail landscape. However, HOW these changes and adjustments are implemented can create friction when you consider there are 5,000 to 6,000 stores, and many personalities involved.
With all of the changes happening simultaneously—CDC, the hot foods program, the internal and external cleanliness image of the store, the expectation of customer service levels, BT (which includes conforming to the utilization of all system tools), changes in the equity policy, and changes in maintenance—franchisees are feeling the pressure, and many are becoming disgruntled.
Take for instance the current situation with the Equity Policy. The policy stipulates that if you are below equity, by the 15th of the month you are supposed to bring it up or pay in to bring it up to your contractual obligation (whether it’s $10,000 or $15,000). This policy has always been the same, but in the past if a store went below equity, the store would receive a friendly reminder to bring up the equity. Now if you are below equity, on the 15th of the month an automatic breach is issued. This happened to a few stores in the Chicago, San Diego and Las Vegas areas. We’ve had this policy in place for many years, biggest online casino but now SEI is more strictly enforcing it. What is wrong with the field consultant sending a friendly reminder? If a few stores are repeat offenders, deal with those stores. Don’t paint all franchisees with a wide brush and punish everyone for the actions of a few.
Nowadays, it appears there is no room for error. We feel like we have to worry about our stores all the time. Instead of focusing on our customers, we’re working to ensure that our i’s are dotted and our t’s are crossed because we know someone is looking over our shoulder, ready to issue a breach or an LON for the slightest infraction.
Reasonableness should be present when new initiatives are launched. For example, the hot foods program may be popular in some Markets, but not quite as successful in others. The company should accept that and have a different plan for those stores rather than forcing them to buy into programs that continue to lose money in their store.
The expectation on customer service is all black and white. If an associate fails to acknowledge a customer within 10 seconds because he is preoccupied with another customer, a check mark is issued against us right away. When we are constantly being checked, we are constantly worried about what we are going to do wrong. This is not healthy or reasonable. Corporate is all about the numbers, and sometimes they are pressured to cross the line to obtain those numbers.
Maintenance is another sore subject the company needs to tackle. We are encouraged by some of the steps FM has taken within the last few weeks to develop a website for franchisees to track the progress of repairs, but we need to have more transparency as to what is happening with the open account paid to a contractor. FM has good intentions, but it remains to be seen how far they will go to satisfy their customers—which is us. When we moved from FCI to FM, it was promised to us that FM would exceed our service expectations. When FM launches their website, it should help, but franchisees to this point have still experienced a lot of bad blood.
Approximately 90 percent of all communications are now dispersed electronically to our stores. Some franchisees are not comfortable with this change because they have problems communicating through e-mail. They would rather pick up the phone.
As franchisees and supporters of the 7-Eleven brand, we can all agree we have a fantastic system, and we want to make it better to stay ahead of the competition. However, it is not reasonable to expect that major changes to a franchised system can be implemented overnight. With change comes stress, especially during the learning process and the retraining of employees. What we really need is compassion, consideration, and the respect that comes with reasonable expectations of management.