ActionCard helps franchises keep, track high standards across nation

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Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 1:52 pm, Thu Jun 5, 2014.

An Omaha-based dev shop has created a franchise audit mobile app that helps big brands get a consistent product throughout its multiple locations.

Omaha-area franchises beta-tested the app before it was officially launched earlier this month at the International Franchise Convention in New Orleans.

Volano Solutions created Action Card, which has been used by brands like Godfather's Pizza, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Cherry Berry, Martinizing Dry Cleaning and Sam & Louie's Pizza.

It's a departure for Volano, which usually does custom tech solutions for companies that don't do in-house websites and software. Now they're beginning to create their own software products to sell. 

Kelly Grace, who developed the app, said he got the idea from a friend who worked for a large hotel chain and was in charge of visiting locations and making compliance/standards checks the old way: on paper. They'd track things like room cleanliness, if the lobby had appropriate flooring and furniture and if staff were friendly and providing good customer service.

"They did it all on paper and had to copy it over to different reports. They hated it," Grace told Silicon Prairie News. "It felt like an administrative role with a nose in a clipboard.

"The whole process makes it difficult to have a good relationship with the GM because it felt like a mainly punitive process."

Action Card gives reviewers the option to create custom checklists, ratings scores and attach photo evidence to support the score. It then creates analytics over time to see where certain franchises are excelling and where they need to improve. 

"It should be more about telling a story about that location and how they are doing," Grace said. "The process lacks transparency and followup. Now these visits have a ROI and better accountability."

Reviewers can create "action items" that they can follow up on the next visit. It also sets up nationwide analytics. A CEO can see how every franchisee in the nation is doing, a regional manager would be able to analyze their area and a franchisee can look at their specific location. 

Relationships between a franchisor and a franchisee can sometimes be contentious, Grace (right) said.

"You have people who are very independent and entrepreneurial but are buying into a model that has to report to corporate and holding up certain standards," he said. "The liaison between the two is an awkward position to be in so we saw a fit with Action Card that makes the process more about the people and working with them instead of slapping wrists."

The goal in franchising, Grace said, is to grow market penetration as fast as possible while maintaining brand standards. The faster it grows, the harder it is to manage those standards. Ripley's Believe it or Not, which signed up in 2013, has already seen improvements.

“Our customers come to Ripley’s for an unbelievable experience each time – no matter which museum they visit,” said Pat Hartle, director of franchise operations for Ripley’s Entertainment, in a release. “Our franchisees and corporate locations know that maintaining consistent brand standards is better for business overall and creates a memorable experience for our customers.

"Action Card helps us stick with the brand standards and customer experience we know works, whether our customers are in Orlando or London. We have cut down the review time significantly, allowing us to focus more on helping our franchisees succeed even more. This partnership helps us achieve our 2014 goals faster and more efficiently."

Grace said they'd like to have 50-100 national clients because locally, the region only has a handful of franchises. The software is industry agnostic because the user sets up the review points, he said. It can be used for restaurants, retail and more. 

"Anyone who needs brand consistency can use it," he said.

There's other software solutions out there for the problem, Grace said, but require license agreements. Action Card is pay as you go and is more expensive the more locations you have. It costs $199 a month for franchises with up to 25 locations and goes up to $799 a month for more than 300 locations.

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