What to do if your franchisees are venting anger in Twitter?

Franchisees are not employees and thus they should never be treated as such under any conditions. The franchise agreement and its extension, the Operations Manual, bind franchisees to certain behaviors and manners of conduct, yet they also bind franchisors. It is a fact that when franchisees are unhappy they will express their displeasure just like an employee or a customer would. First they express it internally, but their frustration will mount when their complaint is not properly addressed. With heightened dissatisfaction they will share their feelings and experiences first with the people they know and eventually they will do so publicly in forums such as Twitter, Facebook and others.

So, what can you do? In the case of employees, a business can reprimand and even fire a disgruntle employee who has taken matters to a public forum thus damaging the reputation of a business. On the other hand, the franchise agreement identifies specific breaches that can result in the franchisor terminating the agreement but simply expressing a complaint, even in a public forum, is not one of them.

The key is PREVENTION not punishment. It’s imperative for franchisors to be vigilant of the morale of franchisees and act immediately when it drops beyond a certain level. Franchisees are the customers of franchisors. Just as a business can’t keep every customer happy all of the time, franchisors won’t be able to keep all franchisees happy all of the time. Yet, this does not free the franchisor from the responsibility to address the unhappiness or frustration of franchisees as soon as they arise.

A franchisor that constantly keeps on eye on the spirits of the franchisees will never have to deal with a franchisee posting a negative comment in a Social Media forum. It just doesn’t get to this level when a franchisor is watchful and caring about the relationships and perceptions of the franchisees. Of course in any system there are problem franchisees but they will be silenced by the great majority if a franchisor makes good franchise relationships the number one priority. There are some processes that need to be in place to prevent the escalation of any frustration felt by franchisees. In order to establish the necessary processes to prevent the escalation of any frustration felt by franchisees ask yourself the following questions:

1.  Are all of your employees engaged in serving and supporting your franchisees?

  • Do they understand that franchisees are their customers and treat them appropriately?
  • Do you have franchisee communication protocols, and are all of your employees aware of them and follow them?
  • Do you train proper franchisee communications and your customer value philosophy to all your employees and others who communicate with your franchisees on your behalf?
  • Can you quickly identify if an employee has a bad attitude towards your franchisees?

2.  How often and effectively do you communicate with your franchisees?

  •  Are you using only one way communications where you are doing all the talking?
  • Do you regularly call your franchisees to check how they are doing?
  • Do you have an effective way of dealing with franchisees who are chronic complainers?
  • Do you have a process that allows your franchisees to openly express their thoughts and feelings?
  • Are you successful at soliciting feedback from your franchisees?

3.  Do you have a way of measuring franchisee morale?

  • Are you proactive at determining the spirits of your franchisees at any given time?
  • Do your employees know what to do when they learn that a franchisee is unhappy?
  • Do you regularly ask your franchisees to rate their level of satisfaction?
  • Have you considered having a staff position solely dedicated to communicate and liaise with your franchisees? or
  • Do have the function of communicating and liaising with franchisees as a measurable task of most of your employees?

4.  Do you have a process to address the complaints of your franchisees?

  • Do all of your employees know the process?
  • Do your franchisees know what to do if they are dissatisfied?
  • Do your franchisees know what to do if they hear another franchisee complaining?
  • Do you measure how well franchisee complaints are addressed?

5.  Do you have a Social Media policy?

  • Do your franchisees understand what they can and can’t do?
  • Do you explicitly describe what a franchisee can and can’t share using a Social Media forum?
  • Have you trained your franchisees on how to use Social Media for their businesses as a franchisee?

What happens when a good dose of prevention of franchisee dissatisfaction doesn’t exist?

If you have not been paying attention to the morale of your franchisees and find yourself in a situation where their frustration has escalated to a public outcry in Twitter or Facebook, you need to act immediately. Following is a suggested method of handling these types of situations:

  • Call each franchisee who has expressed their frustration.
  • Make sure that the call is made by a senior manager who is a good communicator. A hot headed person shouldn’t be making these calls.
  • DO NOT go on the defensive, even if you believe that what they are saying has no basis.
  • Inform them that you have read their comments and that you would like to take the discussion to a more private forum.
  • DO NOT make them wrong.
  • Seek to understand the cause for their displeasure. It’s likely you already know what this is, yet let them vent without you getting defensive.
  • If you don’t agree with their position and feel they are wrong, tell them that you are sorry that their feelings have escalated to this proportion.
  • Ask them what you could do to remedy the situation. Most likely it something you can’t change; however, now isn’t the time to tell them that. Instead offer to consider their suggestion and to bring it up to the rest of the management team.
  • Thank them for sharing with you and ask them to keep the conversation going with you and stop taking it publicly.
  • After your conversations with each party, make sure to develop a strategy to deal with the issue. What can you do? Can you reach a compromise? How can you bring the morale up without giving in to unacceptable requests from your franchisees? How can you help franchisees experience that you’ve heard them?
  • Immediately create a plan to answer the five previous questions. At the very least make sure you create a Social Media policy and communicate it to all franchisees.


 Unhappy franchisees = Poor validations = Decrease in franchise sales


  1. Great post. I really like the idea of a social media policy for franchisees.

  2. Thank you Allie! I am planning on a blog post to talk about policies and procedures for social media. So keep on the lookout… soon to come.


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