Editor’s Note: There can be no denying the Chick-fil-A customer service supremacy. In-store and drive-thru, they have figured out how to impress with friendliness and efficiency in ways that bring back even the toughest customers.
When Truett Cathy opened the first Chick-fil-A in 1967, the world was analog. Phones were hard-wired into walls, TVs were bulky with three channels to choose from and the pace of everyday life was not at the warp speed it is now.
By Amanda Long, senior account director, Hughes Agency
Kevin Purcer, Chick-fil-A’s director of customer digital customer experience, spoke to a sold-out crowd at coworking space Endeavor’s Collaborators & Cocktails event about how the brand protects the principles of care that founder Truett Cathy established years ago. If you can be dependable, polite and create a way for people to connect with each other, success will follow, even with the high demands of an always-on, instant-gratification-seeking world.
“The idea of care is central to every single thing I will talk about, because it’s really the magic of what we have to serve at Chick-fil-A,” Purcer said. “We can’t just be nice to you. We’ve got to get your order right.”
He is the first to admit that the Chick-fil-A brand isn’t built by marketing, but by the team members in their restaurants. This is the foundation for the brand’s frontline obsession. It’s the little things.
Purcer says Chick-fil-A’s brand strategy is simply to inspire people to take care of each other.
“We’re not trying to change the world. We’re a fried chicken business. But if we can show up in small ways every single day, we believe we can have an impact on the world,” he said.
That thought process was the impetus behind Chick-fil-A’s Little Things ad campaign where team members are the heroes and customers tell their stories. There are stories like a team member who noticed a single mom and her kids arriving late to Family Night and got the hours extended so they could still get the full experience. Or team members who learned sign language so they could make hearing-impaired customers feel welcomed and valued.
Marry the mission, date the methods
How does a brand that has built a solid reputation around human connection innovate in an era of digital disruption? For Purcer, the answer is simple. “Whatever your purpose is as a brand, that can never change, but always be willing to challenge the methods in which you do that. And if you don’t have that mentality, you can get passed by in a world that changes around you.”
A perfect example: taking customer orders in the drive-thru line with a tablet. What was once just a solution to help urban locations with congestion is now in every drive-thru across the country.
Bet on the right assumptions
Purcer assumes that people will always be hungry and that they always want to be cared for but believes everything else should be questioned.
“How do we change the service model that still preserves some of the humanity but still meets the needs that convenience-minded guests require?” Purcer asked.
Chick-fil-A saw that harried parents didn’t want to stand in line to order with their kids and gear. To innovate around the concept of care and make things easier for their customers, Chick-fil-A was the first quick-serve restaurant brand to deploy NFC-enabled table markers. Customers order from their phone, tap it on the table and then someone brings their meal to them, all without having to chase their kids around in a line full of people. Chick-fil-A now has about 25% of its sales coming through its digital ecosystem.
Imparting immutable wisdom
According to Purcer, founder Truett Cathy didn’t need business books to know that if you genuinely take care of and invest in your people, they will in turn do the same for your customers. “You’re in the service business if you are a leader in an organization. This fuels success.”
Truett also knew not to waiver from Chick-fil-A’s purpose, but to be open to how to deliver it.
“Be willing to keep the main thing the main thing. The challenge is: how would you do it?” Purcer said.
Considering Chick-fil-A is the No. 1 quick-serve restaurant for the fourth year in a row, it sounds like they’ve got it figured out.