How do you know what your customers need? And how do you create offerings that really address their pain points?
These questions can feel overwhelming on a good day. In times of upheaval, when your customers’ needs are shifting, these questions can feel impossible.
But leaders who have uncovered the power of data understand that by following the numbers and getting insight directly from customers, it’s possible to find success even in turbulent times.
Gabby Wong held operational leadership roles for many years before becoming a CEO for the first time in 2019. As the chief executive at FranConnect, she is responsible for creating products that serve the many needs of franchise brands.
The franchise model is an interesting one because it spans verticals, from personal services to restaurants to real estate. But for franchise brands, regardless of vertical, their challenges are the same: scaling up, qualifying franchisees, and managing the ongoing relationship between brand and franchisee.
2019 was a year of big growth for FranConnect, but as Gabby entered her second year as CEO, COVID struck. Many of FranConnect’s customers—particularly those in the restaurant and hospitality spaces—were suddenly facing major hurdles.
It was up to Gabby and her team to pivot their own offerings and plans to ensure that FranConnect was meeting its customers’ new needs.
And that’s exactly what they did. Take, for example, FranConnect’s 2020 new product launch. The product development process kicked off in 2018 with careful market segmentation and a product-fit analysis process to understand what the market needed and how FranConnect could offer the best solution.
While they learned valuable information from this up-front work, Gabby and her team still left space for change as the realities of COVID began to sink in.
That started with the product name. Originally called Optimize, the team decided to rethink the name—Optimize didn’t seem to suit the 2020 mood, which for many of FranConnect’s clients was more about survival than optimization. The product was re-named Operations as part of the 2020 launch.
While the name changed, its core focus and functionality remained the same. The product was designed to help franchise brands manage core operations. But the pandemic highlighted the need for an added spotlight on monitoring franchisee performance. That became a central feature of the product.
The product now helps franchise brands plan what success looks like alongside their franchisees. It automates and standardizes many processes, including the field audit process, which is a huge piece of managing a franchise brand and keeping things consistent.
Throughout the process, Gabby leaned on her best customers for feedback. FranConnect invited a handful of its top clients to participate in a pilot program. In exchange for free implementation, support, and access to the platform, the pilot users agreed to participate in case studies highlighting what they got out of using the Operations product.
Maintaining an open dialogue with her customers throughout the design process of the new product allowed Gabby and her team to ensure that the product they built was actually of value to FranConnect’s best customers.
The real lesson here is that data is powerful even when situations are in flux. By gathering data throughout the product development process, Gabby was able to lay a solid foundation based on knowledge about FranConnect’s ideal customers. She also had the freedom to pivot as she learned new information about customers’ changing needs. And neither the solid foundation nor the flexibility later would have been possible without data.
Watch the podcast here.