Chick-fil-A keeps winning with customer service


It’s no secret that Chick-fil-A is known for providing great customer service. In fact, in the latest American Consumer Satisfaction Index survey, Chick-fil-A received a rating of 87 out of 100 for the third year in a row in the limited service category, excelling against their competitors in the $200 billion fast-food industry. Panera Bread was a distant second with an 81 rating, followed by Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Subway, which all scored an 80.

Here’s the top 10 fast-food restaurants of 2018:

1. Chick-fil-A

2. Other Small Restaurants

3. Panera Bread

4. Papa John’s

5. Pizza Hut

6. Subway

7. Arby’s

8. Chipotle Mexican Grill

9. Domino’s

10. Dunkin’ Donuts

You’ll also find Chick-fil-A in the Top 10 for sales in the fast food category and the top chicken chain. And think about this. They are closed on Sunday, one less day of sales than all their competitors.

So that begs the question. If Chick-fil-A is winning with service, why aren’t other chains following suit? While every chain has a customer service training program, it is hard to argue that anyone focuses on customer experience quite like Chick-fil-A does.

It starts and ends with people

As Dustin DiChiara, who owns and operates a Chick-fil-A in Northern Kentucky puts it, “It starts with who you select. It always starts and ends with people. Just like there is a recipe for the chicken sandwich, there is a recipe for service.”

During the hiring process DiChiara says he looks for individuals that understand their purpose in serving someone goes beyond just providing them a quality product. “What we do here is more than just serving food. It’s much bigger that. We are in the people business and we happen do that through serving chicken sandwiches,” explains DiChiara.

Clueing in on whether or not someone shares that value isn’t always easy but one trick DiChiara likes to use is asking applicants how they like to spend their free time. If an applicant lights up talking about how much they enjoy spending time with family and friends, volunteering or participating in group activities, it is a good sign they will excel in a service environment. If they mention that they prefer sleeping and watching TV all day, serving may not be for them.

Raving fans

Chick-fil-A is looking to win over their customers and make them “raving fans.” To do this, team members are always on the lookout for opportunities to impact a guest during their visit and give the guest a story to tell.

As DiChiara puts it, “They experienced consistency. They had an expectation and they paid for something. They feel like they got what they paid for from a service, cleanliness, speed and taste standpoint but then something during their visit happened that went above and beyond their expectation.”

That “something” could be as simple as a child receiving a free ice cream cone when an employee overhears it is their birthday or recognizing a repeat customer by name.

Stick to the basics

Chick-fil-A’s service foundation revolves around what they call their “Core 4.”

-Share a smile

-Create Eye contact

-Speak enthuastically

-Stay connected (build relationships)

Too often companies try to get complicated with their service basics. Chick-fil-A keeps it simple and it is proving to be effective. Think about your last visit to a fast food location. Did the employee(s) you encountered exhibit all 4 of the above? If they did, chances are you left with a positive impression.

Respond to the business

Most brands would say they want to provide great service and be known for service. Unfortunately, as bottom line decisions are made, corners start to be cut that make it difficult to create a culture of service.

For example, many companies will allot a certain amount of hours each week for a location to schedule regardless of business demands to meet a budgeted expense target. There may be a line out the door but they will not open another cash register in order to save labor.

Those companies “don’t realize that would actually make more money by opening that register. Our schedule changes weekly because we are responding to the business,” says DiChiara.

It’s their pleasure.

Most people know that offering a ‘thank you’ to a Chick-fil-A employee (or a Marriott employee) will elicit the prescribed response of “my pleasure.” Some argue that scripting employees takes away from it being genuine. Not so explains DiChiara, “The why behind ‘my pleasure’ is so important. The why is what compels people to say it when no one is around and no one is looking. I believe we were created to receive joy from genuinely serving other people. When we serve someone and they are truly grateful, it feels good. So there is pleasure associated with serving people. When it lands, it feels good and it is our pleasure.”

Charles Ryan Minton is a customer service expert, author, keynote speaker, and the president of CRM Hospitality & Consulting, LLC. An award-winning former hotel general manager for some of the world’s biggest brands, Minton has helped shape the customer service experiences of high-profile companies such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Hilton Hotels Worldwide, Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group, Gannett, Ultimate Jet Charters, and Delaware North.