Serent Snapshot: Gabby Wong, CEO of FranConnect
Meet Gabby Wong, the CEO of FranConnect, a leading growth platform for the franchise market. Gabby is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience helping SaaS brands achieve rapid growth, customer success, and product innovation.
Serent first reached out to Gabby in 2015 after partnering with FranConnect. “The Human Capital Team called me back in 2015, and they were networking with me about positions for customer success. I wasn’t ready to make a move. But we just had such a fantastic conversation. So smart, and we just connected in terms of our business philosophy. I thought to myself, ‘Now’s not the right time, but at some point, I will be working with Serent.'”
A few months later, Gabby connected with Serent again. And by now, the timing was right. “Serent’s values and their mission in terms of working with their portfolio companies resonated with me. It’s one of the big reasons why I’m here today.”
“I want people to do business with FranConnect because they’re fanatical about how great our product is and how they can’t live without it. That’s what fanatical customer experience means.”
Building a Customer-Focused Culture
The key to FranConnect’s success is an obsessive focus on the customer. “I want people to do business with FranConnect because they’re fanatical about how great our product is and how they can’t live without it. That’s what fanatical customer experience means.”
To deliver that level of satisfaction, FranConnect built a customer experience program that spans the full customer lifecycle.
The customer journey starts with the onboarding process. Since franchise buyers tend to be lean organizations with large growth plans, FranConnect provides a rapid onboarding experience tailored to each individual’s strategic goals to minimize time to value. After onboarding, FranConnect provides unlimited access to FranConnect University, an online training hub designed to make using the platform as simple and frictionless as possible. From there, customers receive ongoing customer support, along with access to a customer advocate focused on making sure that FranConnect drives as much growth for their business as possible.
In partnership with Serent, FranConnect optimized the customer service organization to better respond to customers’ needs. “We spend a lot of time thinking through how to drive customer value along that growth journey with FranConnect. As we take new products to market and as we think about how we best segment and meet the needs of the market, we have to retune that organization.”
“We now have a set of teams that are focused on the SMB market because there are different needs on the SMB side of franchising. And we also have a new group that we formed around enterprise customers, the more complex needs of larger franchise brands.”
Gabby and the FranConnect team quickly saw results from the new customer service strategy.
“From a customer service perspective, our NPS scores have risen dramatically year over year since we started measuring NPS, both on the service experience and also on the overall relationship,” Gabby notes. “The other thing I would point to is our improved retention scores, our improvement in overall customer retention, which has risen significantly over the last couple years. I think all the product investments we’ve made really are tied to that customer service focus, and I think we’ve shown that through our significant reduction in churn, our acceleration of retention and growth as a company. That’s about fanatical customer experience, too.”
Recruiting a Team of Top Performers
When Gabby came on board at FranConnect, she needed to recruit a strong executive team. Working with Serent’s Human Capital Team, which is part of Serent’s Growth Team, she was able to create a process to surface outstanding candidates.
“The Human Capital team has more of an advisory style,” Gabby recalls. “I see them as a partner. They’re a fantastic sounding board. They’re not there to overly burden the process; they’re there to enhance the process. Very knowledgeable in terms of where to find particular talent, whether it be sales talent or service talent or product talent.”
With a successful recruiting process in place, candidates could be thoroughly vetted with all members of the executive team. “We developed the whole process of recruiting an executive team though working with Serent Capital. And the one piece of advice I would give to people is to develop a process and trust the process,” Gabby advises. “It’s hard to do. I think, as CEOs, we all have high urgency. We just want to get to the end result and move on. But to having a hiring process is really important.”
“Sometimes you think a person is going to be the best fit at the beginning of the process. But as you move through the process and you vet the candidate through all the various interviews and steps along the way, your decision changes. You have to get feedback from all members of your critical executive team, your key team members — not only to make sure that they’re going to be a fit, but also because other people see things that you don’t necessarily see in the process.”
“It’s been great,” Gabby says. “Honestly, we now have a set process that we use, and we developed that process through working with Serent Capital.”
“My advice to founders and CEOs is to ensure you’re willing to lean into the process…Be prepared to lean in, be prepared to change, be prepared to transform.”
Working With Experienced Partners
Though working with Serent Capital, Gabby and the FranConnect team found what they needed most: a partner with real expertise.
“The thing that makes Serent different from other private equity companies is that they’re really smart operators,” Gabby notes. “They understand what it takes to grow a company — not only in terms of the financial engineering but more importantly from a strategic and operational perspective. They have a real depth of experience in how to take products to market and then how to grow those products within the market.”
“I really feel like we have a partner with Serent. I feel like they’re part of the team. And frankly, we work with Serent as part of our team within FranConnect, and I think that’s been a real differentiator. It’s not just quarterly board meetings and not just looking at the financials. Serent really goes deeper and helps us figure out strategically how we have to think in order to grow.”
Gabby discovered that working with capital partners was a growth process that leveled up FranConnect in ways she couldn’t have imagined. “My advice to founders and CEOs is to ensure you’re willing to lean into the process. Not only during the vetting process but also post-transaction. Because if you lean in, you’re going to get a lot of growth from that, and it’s not just from the capital. It’s from all the experience that the Serent folks bring to bear, and all the experience they have in what it takes to grow a successful company. Be prepared to lean in, be prepared to change, be prepared to transform.”