BlueMauMau reports that the Association of KFC Franchisees (AKFCF) released the results of a systemwide survey showing franchisees are not happy with the direction of the brand. And they are telling management how it can improve.

In their March 31 letter to Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation’s president Roger Eaton, the association presented the 2010 Survey: “Building Future Success” (pdf).  Although the survey was jointly developed between the independent franchisee association and the senior management team of KFC Corporation, the franchisor decided at the last minute to scrap the project. According to an undisclosed source, KFC notified the association last December that it was pulling out of the joint endeavor, but AKFCF proceeded to execute the survey without the company’s participation.

The objective of the survey was to identify barriers that interfered with the working relationship of KFC and its franchisees, and to pinpoint those concerns. It also aimed to identify the strengths and successes of the relationship. The franchisee association hoped that the survey results would build stronger organization trust and partnership with KFC Corporation, part of Yum Brands (NYSE: YUM).

The questions were developed late last year by Balanced Scorecard Committee members and KFC’s management team, with the assistance of an independent consultant, Mike Takla (MGT & Associates). The survey was distributed to a target of 539 AKFCF recipients with a completion date set for the February 2010 KFC Convention. Survey Monkey, a designer of customized assessment tools, handled the on-line collection and consolidation of the results.

The letter to Eaton revealed that approximately three-fourths (74%) of KFC franchisees responded to the survey. In the franchisees’ analysis of the results, they identified four major action areas in need of immediate attention.

Rebuild Trust
New Products
Operational Excellence and Training
Business Model

AKFCF representatives asked for Eaton’s thoughts (pdf) regarding the 2010 Survey, inviting him to comment on how KFC Corporation plans to improve upon the various performance measures indicated in the results. They requested his response prior to disseminating the survey to the franchise system on April 9.

But to the reporter’s knowledge, KFC’s president has yet to respond.

Action Areas Identified

Rebuild Trust

In analyzing the four major action areas, the association identified their first concern; lack of trust in leadership. They stated that there was a lack of recognition of the franchisees’ core role, knowledge and expertise. “Too much top down, condescension, arrogance, lack of listening, understanding, bullying,” the analysis explained.  As a solution they stated, “KFC leadership needs to demonstrate leadership with honor and integrity,” suggesting this action, “Quit bullying, bulldozing, attacking and policing. This is a partnership, not a dictatorship.”

New Products

Franchisees feel too many new and unprofitable products are “killing bottom line.” Among other issues, they said that 83 percent don’t believe the KFC system has a strong marketing calendar that will drive sales growth. “We are making quick product changes, but some are too quick, not thought out enough, and/or not the right changes we should be making.”  They chastised the National Council and Advertising Co-op [currently in litigation with franchisees], saying, “NCAC needs to get its act together and not simply sit back and blame KFC for poor products.”

The survey results show there needs to be a much better process and discipline prior to new product launches. Franchise owners feel they should be involved throughout the development process.