Franchising drives customer service

FRANCHISING motivates high levels of customer service like nothing else, says Colonial group managing director and CEO Peter Smedley.

He said franchisees were more demanding of head office than traditional employees and helped to raise the bar on company standards.

“In a franchise arrangement, you are as strong as your weakest link,” Mr Smedley said.

“There is enormous peer group pressure for non-performers to drop out.”

Colonial introduced the world’s first financial services franchise in 1994 and has gained 1.5 million new customers as a result.

In a recent address for the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Mr Smedley described how thirty years experience with Shell helped prepare him to head Australia’s most acquisitive financial services companies.

He said the two industries were not dissimilar in nature as they were high volume, low margin industries where distribution was critical to success.

Mr Smedley said Colonial had taken a counter-cyclical approach to the Asian economic meltdown. A recent joint venture with China Life in Shanghai had “deepened Colonial’s Asia footprint”.

“We have confidence in our long-term view of Asia and this approach has put us ahead of our competitors,” he said. “Asia provides the long term capital growth we are looking for.

“We are currently growing points of representation rather than shrinking them as other companies are doing.

“We’re growing in country areas, at present largely in New South Wales and Queensland, and recently opened five new branches in WA.”

Colonial has invested $600 million in WA property and corporations to date.

“We’re focused on achieving organic growth, which means making your assets work harder as opposed to buying more,” Mr Smedley said.

The Colonial Group currently manages assets worth $72.5 billion with a turnover of more than $6 billion.

Mr Smedley said the group had fully completed its Y2K compliance program but was holding back on e-commerce to ensure a comprehensive strategy before implementation.

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