From integrating digital strategies to optimizing marketing efforts, many franchises have found ways to leverage their strengths and create efficiencies amid the challenges in recent years.

Franchisees of The UPS Store network, for instance, have been leaning into their prior experiences from their backgrounds in diverse industries to thrive in their small-business endeavors. They grew more attuned to the increasing needs of small business owners and other customers during the pandemic and have since been finding ways to enhance services to help keep small businesses in their communities running.

To help our franchise owners adapt to the fast-changing business environment, The UPS Store continued to focus on technological innovations and employ best practices in enhancing customer experience. Earning a spot in the top five for the seventh year in a row on Entrepreneur’s 2023 Franchise 500 ranking reflects these collective efforts.

Based on conversations with our franchisees, I’ve gathered four strategies they’ve been implementing to become stronger, better and more agile. Incorporate them into your business to help your franchise flourish in 2023.

Understand the Importance of Customer Experience

The idea of the customer experience (CX) isn’t new by any means, but as we move into an increasingly digital world, its role is being reimagined to meet the needs of today’s customers. In many cases, CX is in the spotlight more than ever before. In fact, according to Gartner research, CX now drives over two-thirds of customer loyalty. As franchises execute their 2023 plans, delivering consistently great CX needs to be at the top of the priority list, because it will be one of the most impactful determinants of success.

So where should you start? Delivering excellent CX begins with understanding your customer. Conduct a customer audit or customer survey to identify the challenges your customers face and their current sentiment of your CX. Be sure to consider both the broad users of your franchise brand and the hyperlocal users of your franchise location. Gaining a clear picture of your customer is one of the best ways to inform your strategy and develop actionable solutions to improve CX. At The UPS Store, we redesigned our store format to help save customers time and enhance their experience in our centers. We also typically include digital menu boards to offer convenience and increase customer engagement.

Another tip is to listen to your employees and act upon their feedback. Your employees are often the ones on the frontline interacting with customers, which gives them a firsthand look at what works and what doesn’t for your customers. Consider asking your employees to take a survey on what customers seem to enjoy about your business, what customers complain about, and ask them for their thoughts on improving CX.

Consider the Efficiencies of New Technology

For many businesses, investing in new technology at the right time can be a differentiator in customer service, operations and even marketing. As a franchise owner, experimenting with new technology that fits into your business model is one way to set yourself up for success. Similar to establishing a CX strategy, do a self-evaluation and customer evaluation to determine the biggest growth opportunities and challenges in your organization. Then, do some research to find the technology on the market that you can leverage to solve your operations and customer-facing challenges. When focusing on improving efficiencies, keep the customer in mind and focus on two things: one, removing friction from the buying process and two, delivering an amazing digital engagement that creates a relationship with your brand. A valuable resource could be your franchisor. Many successful franchise brands consistently have their eye on the future of innovative technology and can provide guidance on what technology would be conducive to your business.

Leverage Support from Your Franchise Network

Small business ownership is a challenge, and franchising is no different. However, franchising offers a key benefit you should be leveraging to succeed in 2023 – the support from an established brand and franchise network.

Many franchisors offer various forms of support to franchisees. Be sure to review your Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) and reach out to your franchisor to learn what forms of support they offer. Many franchisors offer help with advertising or marketing, some offer ongoing business counsel through a franchise support team, and most provide assistance in obtaining supplies. One area The UPS Store prides itself in supporting its franchisees is through ongoing training and professional development. Each of these benefits would help your business succeed in 2023.

Another area of support to leverage is your relationships with other franchisees. Some franchise brands like The UPS Store work to create a network of franchisees that can be tapped for advice in solving the challenges 2023 will throw at your business. Look for ways to connect with other local franchisees, as those relationships can be a big asset to your business.

Make an Impact and Give Back to Your Community

Franchises represent a large brand, but they should strive to be local small businesses at heart. One of the best ways to succeed in the difficult business landscape of 2023 is to recognize the importance of your community. Look to be an active member of your local community. Participate in local networking events, attend local chamber of commerce meetings and advertise locally.

Also, look for ways to give back to your community that align with your business values. Franchisors may have existing relationships you can leverage to support your goals. For example, The UPS Store recently teamed up with Junior Achievement on the Start Small, Grow Big program, which collects customer donations to benefit Junior Achievement programs that prepare students with work and career readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

In addition to being the right thing to do, these actions will help your customers see your business as a part of the local community, which has become increasingly important, especially among the next generation of consumers. From a business perspective, participating in the chamber of commerce and other community events is also a great way to connect with potential customers and bring in new business. It can also be a good recruiting tool to attract local talent who understand and represent the needs of your community.

Franchising can be a challenge just like any form of business ownership, but using these strategies will put your franchise in a stronger position this year and beyond.

Steve Chambers, Vice President of Retail and Business Development for The UPS Store, Inc. is a leader who inspires teams to foster relationships and enhance the customer experience. An expert in franchising, Steve’s discipline, keen focus on moving the business forward and innovative mindset have influenced effective programs for retail owners, customers and corporate clients.