Founded in 1981, Wild Birds Unlimited started franchising a short two years later. Since then, the brand has grown exponentially. Today, the bird food and supplies retailer boasts close to 300 locations in North America with over 270 franchisees. As they have grown over the years, Wild Birds Unlimited goes to great lengths to keep franchisees informed and satisfied.
But in order to do so, Paul Pickett, Wild Birds Unlimited’s chief development officer, said the brand has been utilizing surveys as a means to keep improving. Resources like the Franchise Business Review have been instrumental to developing a more efficient two-way street of communication with their franchisees. As a result, Wild Birds Unlimited was ranked No. 1 in Franchise Business Review’s retail category from 2014 to 2016. The survey allows franchisees to rate the corporate team’s training and support systems, leadership and general satisfaction, among other things, on a scale of one to five. A total of 274 Wild Birds franchisees participated in 2015, and the brand earned a 4.2 overall rating—one of the highest marks for a franchisor. They were also recently named the recipient of 2016’s Retail Franchisee Satisfaction Award by the same market research firm.
Their training, core values and support have become trademarks for Wild Birds Unlimited. Their one-of-a-kind Wild Birds Unlimited Support Center, complete with a 40-person team of professionals, is an example of the methods that keep Wild Birds Unlimited among the most highly-rated brands from a franchisee satisfaction standpoint.
“We want franchisees who are really satisfied,” said Pickett. “It is very important to us to stay on our game and be at the top of the Franchise Business Review Franchisee Satisfaction list. We find that this type of third-party validation is very important.”
According to Pickett, tools like the surveys used by Franchise Business Review allow prospective franchisees to gather real-time information about the Wild Birds Unlimited culture and franchisee-franchisor relationship to make informed comparisons to Wild Birds Unlimited’s competitors. Annual franchisee surveys allow for the corporate team at Wild Birds Unlimited, people like Pickett, to monitor the satisfaction levels of their wide-range of owners.
“I work in development, so I look at these surveys intensely,” Pickett said. “We use that information in our development process and on an on-going basis as our operations team makes decisions about how to improve our support to our franchise store owners.”
The transparency between corporate and local owner keeps franchisees satisfied.
“You can’t make everyone happy all of the time, but they (franchisees) need to understand our thought process. We’ve learned over the years that we can always be better at communication. We can even over-communicate if we need to, that’s what keeps people satisfied,” Pickett said.
Their franchisees are passionate about nature and birdwatching and that helps breed a culture of happiness and enthusiasm about their products and services. However, according to Pickett, the brand’s franchise store owners are also a very smart group of people who hold a high expectation for the type of assistance they receive from corporate and the core values instituted.
“We have wonderful franchisees who give us both constructive criticism and positive feedback,” Pickett said. “We use this feedback to evaluate how we are currently doing and as a tool to determine how to improve for the future.”
The Wild Birds Unlimited team isn’t just providing its newcomers and budding franchisees this support, it’s offering it to all of its franchisees. This ongoing training and aid has effectively created a web of satisfied owners across the wide variety of markets that they call home. This system is part of the reason on-the-hunt franchisees are attracted to the Wild Birds Unlimited model. It’s easy to see why.