A relationship built on trust
The franchise is an essential growth vehicle for DIA. The company’s relationship with its 2,991 franchisees is symbiotic: the latter benefit from the company’s know-how, brand equity and efficient logistics system, while the company taps these professionals’ valuable insight into their local markets in order to tailor its product ranges to customers’ preferences. In 2013, DIA intensified its efforts to strengthen company-franchisee communication so that it can provide this stakeholder group with important information, test their satisfaction and respond to their queries and claims.
DIA’s franchisees are excellent brand ambassadors. Thanks to their dedication, ability and commitment, they turn every purchase into a pleasurable shopping experience. In exchange, the company provides them with its full support before, during and after their store openings.
3.4.1 Support for franchisees
This ability to pass on its know-how, coupled with its well-defined corporate identity and capacity to innovate, has been instrumental in ranking DIA among the world’s top 15 global franchises, according to international consultancy, Franchise Direct.
Upfront, the company offers potential franchisees financial support for starting up their businesses with the help of associated financial institutions. It also collaborates intensively throughout the entire business start-up process (searching for the right premises and help with the technical, assembly and advertising aspects of the launch) and provides ongoing information, training and assistance.
DIA’s commitment to ensuring its franchises perform well takes the form of several initiatives which range from training courses at DIA centres or on its e-learning platform to the provision of assistance and advice to store supervisors as well as guidance on how to cut costs.
In 2013, DIA continued to provide training at the franchise network supervision level and designed a new information plan for franchisees. This plan includes the extension of training hours provided upfront, the appointment of a special franchisee training position and the rollout of the DIATraining e-learning platform. Last year the company also began to develop special training materials and courses for Clarel franchisees.
One of the overall strategies in this segment is the provision of online assistance through the franchisee portal. On this website, use of which is restricted to franchisees, members have access to information on product ranges, can track orders and find business, sales and other relevant information for managing their stores. They are also given access to databases with information on their own performance and comparative statistics. A messaging service enables them to get in direct contact with the company.
3.4.2 Communication at the global and country levels
In addition to this global portal, each country has its own specific franchise communication and service channels, which are updated annually.
In Spain, Portugal, Argentina and France franchisees regularly receive a newsletter telling them of the latest developments at the DIA Group. In Spain, Portugal and France there is also a public-domain website, developed in Spain in 2013, which outlines the advantages of joining the company’s business endeavour to potential franchisees.
The company provides assistance online via the Franchisee Portal and has dedicated channels for communicating with its franchisees in each market
In order to provide its entrepreneurs with a better support network, DIA launched a ‘Strategic Partner Service Centre’ (CASE for its acronym in Spanish) last year which operates by phone and e-mail. This platform has been pilot-tested on a select number of stores and the idea is to roll it out to all of the country’s franchisees in order to facilitate the resolution of any issues that may arise in the course of their business operations. This initiative emulates the platform already in place in China (albeit operated by phone only in the latter market).
DIA’s Brazilian team also continued to work to better engage with its franchisees, creating a Franchisee Ombudsman to serve as mediator between the company and these strategic partners, resolve their queries and solve potential business management issues.
Meetings and focus group
DIA organised a focus group initiative in its head offices during the fourth quarter of 2014. Through a series of group exercises, the roughly ten franchisees participating in the focus group from all over Spain expounded the strengths and weaknesses of their everyday work, their vision of the company, their aspirations and their suggestions for how to do things better.
The goal of these focus groups is to improve communication between DIA and its franchisees and to establish a direct line for analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the DIA-franchisee relationship. It is also designed to transmit the brand’s values and attributes and the group’s communication strategies to franchisees.
In Argentina, the Opinion Café initiative stands out; at this forum, the business operators are given the chance to meet with DIA’s executives in Argentina and voice all their concerns and opinions about the business. The local operation also runs a number of initiatives for attracting new franchises, including a recommendation campaign which is targeted at all DIA Argentina employees and strategic franchisees.
3.4.3 Franchisee satisfaction survey
In order to continue to better address the business aspects of greatest concern to franchisees, the company carried out its second DIA Franchisee Satisfaction Survey in 2013. This barometer, compiled by independent consultancy Nielsen, was first compiled in 2012 and the idea is to carry out the survey at least once a year in light of the high participation and all-round interest in the results.
This second survey revealed that 50% of the franchisees polled felt that their initial business expectations had been met, 57% would recommend the experience, while as many as 37% envisaged opening new franchise stores in the near future.
As in earlier years, the attributes most highly rated by franchisees included the quality and competitiveness of the DIA brand, the Club DIA/Minipreço loyalty program and the range of offers and promotions.
The barometer also confirmed franchisees’ interest in submitting their opinions directly: over 90% of franchisees answered this open-ended question. Building on their suggestions, the company is working to introduce improvements in the logistics and communication fields.