Every person in the world is unique – there is no other person that is 100% the same. Even identical twins aren’t 100% the same. The combination of nature and nurture – our physical DNA, the unique traits of our parents, and the environment we exist in – leads to billions of combinations and unique results.
The same can be said of businesses – no two businesses are exactly alike. Even within a franchise network, which prides itself on providing a consistent brand and experience between locations, there are variations in each branch – no two technicians have the same personality. No two sets of customers are alike. A franchisee in Dallas, Texas – the heart of Texas, brimming with southern hospitality – will approach their customers differently than a franchisee in New York City would. Outside of franchise networks, the approach by smaller teams can vary greatly.
Being different can be a great thing – many successful companies have been built on the idea of doing things differently. But at a certain point, being unique can be a problem.
Many franchise companies have built their own proprietary software systems internally – based on the idea that their workflow, and the needs of their franchise, are so distinct that an off-the-shelf system can’t fit their needs.
“Unique Set of Needs”
As unique as each person is, we generally fall into patterns. Take a simple item like a t-shirt: they generally come in four or five sizes ranging from small to extra-large. The vast majority of people – all unique individuals – will fit into one of the four or five sizes a store has available.
For many service based franchises, the introduction of proprietary software is designed to give them a ‘perfect fit’ that’s 100% unique to their business. But the problem here is that, much like getting a custom shirt made, it’s expensive and unnecessary. There are existing software options that work – and can be tailored, much like clothing, to provide a more precise fit at a fraction of the cost of a custom product.
Many field service and franchise management software programs, such as ServiceBridge, provide a “90% solution” – meaning that, out of the box with no customization, a FSM program can handle about 90% of a franchise workflow. It’s the final 10% that drives franchises to create their own software – often at double or triple the price of implementing an existing software solution.
At ServiceBridge, we build custom workflows and features on top of our existing field service management program to deliver franchise owners a system that is a 100% solution, at a fraction of the cost of custom software.
The Pitfalls of Proprietary Software
When proprietary systems are built, they focus on accomplishing “100% workflow” – a system that can handle everything a franchisor or franchisee needs to accomplish. Often, accomplishing this 100% workflow, comes at the expense of other areas.
Many of the issues with proprietary franchise software stem from the fact most systems in place are five, ten, or fifteen years old. When these systems were built, it made sense for many franchises to develop their own software – the franchise and field service software market was immature and limited in the range of tools it could provide.
But, as with all technology – things have changed and improved. And they continue to evolve as time goes on. At ServiceBridge, we deploy new features, fix problems, and implement improvements every week. Our dedicated development team ensures our system is always ready to work with the latest devices, and actively listens to customer feedback in order to improve our system.
Often, proprietary franchise software systems do not have a regular schedule for improvements, bug fixes, and new features. The result is a system that quickly becomes outdated, forcing users to work around bugs. Newly released devices do not receive support. Many proprietary systems do not have a mobile application in place, limiting the scope of what that system can achieve.
Limitations without the Cloud
The majority of proprietary software tools used by franchise companies are server-based, requiring the program to be installed to an on-site server that franchisees connect their devices to. When many proprietary systems were developed over a decade ago, cloud based software was not yet viable at a widespread level - and there wasn’t a strong need for it, since device mobility was limited and smartphones were yet to become mainstream.
Again - times have changed. Server-based software comes with a number of limitations that hinder a franchise network’s success, particularly in today’s market that demands mobility. Cloud-based software has taken over in popularity because it provides numerous advantages over a server-based system:
1. Integration Capability: Proprietary systems lack the ability to integrate with other programs easily. At ServiceBridge, we employ an open API that makes it possible for franchisors to connect our system with the other third party applications they rely on. We also offer native integration with QuickBooks Online, helping franchisors simplify and organize their accounting records.
2. Data Security: Proprietary software often overlooks security during development, and seldom implements new security functions on a regular basis. ServiceBridge uses Amazon Web Services for cloud deployment, which provides a host of security features including data encryption, automatic threat assessment and multiple network firewalls. Cloud-based services also provide physical security of data - meaning that a natural disaster or other event will not impact your business data.
3. Working Remotely: Server-based systems require a device connected to a server’s network or port in order to function. Cloud-based systems are not tied to one device - they can be accessed from anywhere, and easily deployed to new devices as needed. With ServiceBridge, franchise users have the ability to access their account from almost any device, anywhere. In addition, many cloud based programs including ServiceBridge work offline, unlike server-based systems that require a connection to run.
4. Fast Deployment: Another advantage of a cloud-based franchise platform is fast deployment. New users can be created in seconds, and adding a new franchisee takes hours, not days or weeks. This creates a fast initial rollout, and makes it simple to scale for emerging franchisors.
A common response from franchise companies who have proprietary franchise management systems is “It works fine”. There’s no problems and no complaints from franchisees, so why make a change? Why fix what’s not broken?
The issue here lies in focusing on a lack of problems, rather than focusing on a lack of improvement. Service franchises not only face immense competition in acquiring customers, competing with both other franchise brands and local companies; but also face competition for prospective franchisees. There are at least a dozen plumbing brands for a prospective franchisee to invest in – and hundreds of home improvement franchise companies. How does your franchise stand out?
Is a prospective franchisee more likely to invest their resources into a company running on legacy software, or invest with a franchisor who has invested in best-of-breed tools to make their franchisees successful? The choice is obvious.
A system that works “well enough” is not a solution for today’s service companies, regardless if they are franchise organizations or not. Franchise companies must not only win deals and delight their customers with the latest technology, but also have the tools to retain and attract franchisees. Proprietary systems fail on both fronts.
Sunk Cost Fallacy
Proprietary systems cost six, seven, or even eight figures to build. The proprietary software used by some franchises represents one of their largest investments - which makes it difficult to let go. The idea of ‘sunk cost fallacy’ is well documented – the concept that you have already invested, and keep investing despite it not being the best option for your person or business.
To quote software developer Alan Skorkin, in the world of finance, sunk cost is accepted – if the money has been used and can’t be regained, it can no longer influence decisions going forward. But with software, businesses and developers alike often become attached to a feature or product; and will continue to spend money attempting to turn the ship around, rather than accepting that the current product simply isn’t good enough.
A common theme you’ll notice as we explore proprietary software is a focus on problems and negatives – the fear of change, the sunk cost – rather than the benefits a new system can provide.
At the end of the day, the money that has been spent on a proprietary system is gone – it’s not coming back. What many franchisors fail to do is make their next investment wisely. What next move ultimately provides their franchise with the tools needed to succeed? Rather than investing in the right tools for their business, managers will stubbornly keep investing in the current product. It becomes an argument of justifying the past investment, rather than doing what is best for the team.
Even when franchisors know there is a problem with their existing proprietary system and acknowledge the flaws in their current solutions; they are often held back by the fear of change. Often, the resistance and fear of change goes far beyond spending money on a new software solution – it’s the challenge of implementing the new system, training franchisees and technicians, and getting the system into place across the network.
Through our experience working with requirements gathering for franchise networks and collaborating with other franchise technology providers, we’ve often discovered that implementing new technology represents a serious challenge for franchises, particularly established networks. Not only does rolling out new software across hundreds or thousands of locations take a significant amount of time and manpower, but franchisors must also manage the feedback of franchisees – some of whom may not be enthusiastic about the new system.
No franchise technology change is without challenges, but at ServiceBridge, we take a number of steps to minimize frustrations and roadblocks for the franchise companies we work with:
1. Data Migration: Our engineering team works with franchisors to export data from existing systems, and not only import it into the ServiceBridge platform, but configure the data in a way that makes the most sense for the franchisor.
2 Dedicated Support Team: ServiceBridge’s customer success executives work with your team to build and execute an onboarding plan that ensures your network gets up to speed quickly. Our ongoing support ensures that any problems faced by your franchise team are resolved in a fast, efficient manner. Strategic locations in North America and Europe provide global support coverage and ensure someone is always available to help your franchise team.
3. Full Documentation: Unlike a proprietary system, where processes may not be documented or updated regularly, ServiceBridge provides a full knowledge base to help franchise teams research issues and educate themselves on how to use our platform at any time.
A Partner You Can Trust
Part of the resistance to moving away from a proprietary system is that you can’t afford mistakes. The software running your franchise is critical to success – the wrong system can lead to lost revenue, angry customers, and frustrated franchises.
At ServiceBridge, we’re that team. We have the tools and experience to help you succeed:
1. Proven Franchise Success: ServiceBridge works with a number of leading service franchises in every vertical from restoration to pest control. We’ve helped Critter Control, the largest wildlife removal franchise, significantly reduce paperwork and improve operational efficiency. You can read real reviews from our users on Capterra, where we have a 4.5/5 rating and countless positive reviews from franchise companies
2. Global Capability: ServiceBridge supports franchise customers in every corner of the world including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Our team is augmented by our relationship with our sister company, Devbridge Group, a leading developer of software for Fortune 500 companies. Our relationship with Devbridge gives us access to the latest tools, hundreds of engineers and software designers, and further expands our global reach.
3. Franchise Dedication: Anyone can say they’re a franchise software company – but at ServiceBridge, we live it. We are deeply immersed in the franchise space – attending events such as Frantech and IFA 2018. Our team builds relationships with other leading franchise technology providers – ServiceBridge is a partner with the Intuit Franchise Program; and attended the first ever Intuit Franchise Summit. Everything we do is in pursuit of helping franchises be more successful.
Many franchise networks rely on proprietary software to run their network, citing unique needs in workflow. But the ‘perfect match’ comes at a cost – proprietary systems are filled with limitations that can hold back your franchise’s growth.