My friend, Andy Horner, and I were eating lunch at Chick-fil-A last Friday. My three-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, was with us.
The minute we walked in the door, we were all handed a sample of their new tortilla soup. A bit spicy, but absolutely excellent. I should note the person serving the soup was a smiling young woman who seemed both happy to see us and happy to serve us.
We placed our order, and it was ready before I got done paying. I should also note both the cashier and the food server seemed both happy and happy to serve us.
When we got to our table we had a dilemma. Our food was hot and ready to eat, but Gabrielle wanted to go to the playground. So we compromised. After she ate three pieces of chicken, she got to go on the slide. The playground is a major kid’s attraction at Chick-fil-A.
Meanwhile, as we were eating our lunch, not less than three people came by our table to offer us service of one kind or another. When is the last time that happened to you in a fast food restaurant? Never? I thought so.
These weren't just people who asked us if we needed anything else. They were also smiling at us, chatting just a little bit, and suggesting things they might do to help, such as asking, “Would you like a refill?” or making a comment about how Gabrielle was enjoying her lunch. I should further note each person was both smiling and exceptionally sincere.
I put one of them to the test. I gave him my credit card and asked him for a small bowl of their new soup. “Right away!” he said. And two minutes later the soup arrived.
I could not tell if the people who stopped at our table were managers or janitors. It didn't matter. They all acted exactly the same way, as if they owned the place and their life depended on our happiness and gratification (not our satisfaction, rather building loyalty).
Andy and I began to talk after Gabrielle returned for a second visit to the playground.
“What is it about this place?”
“Why are we so enthralled with it?”
“Is it the service?”
“Is the playground?”
“Is it the friendly people?”
Certainly all of the above are contributing factors to the overall ambience and experience. But we decided it’s the quality of the food! We agreed that all of these extra elements would fall short of the mark if the quality of the fast food was inferior.
What Chick-fil-A has done is add amazing services, conveniences, and happy people to a core of quality food. It sounds pretty simple, but their competitors, including the Burger King next door – which was almost empty at lunchtime – have failed to understand that quality is the attractor, not price.
Chick-fil-A's ad campaign of “Eat Mor Chikin” is immortal. The fact they’re closed on Sunday, and all holidays, has created a new standard in business, not just in restaurants and not just in fast food restaurants.
They’re dedicated to family, and prove it by offering excellent benefits, total diversity, and the opportunity for their employees to spend quality time at home.
For some reason all the people at Chick-fil-A seem both happy and bright. Not just happy to serve, rather happy as people.
Whatever they do to train their people is working.
Whatever their competitors do to train their people is not working as well.
Whoever creates the menu is on the money.
Whoever creates the recipes is also on the money.
Whoever is in charge of consistent quality is really on the money.
Whatever their competitors are doing is not nearly as effective.
Many people have told me, “Chick-fil-A is the only fast food restaurant I'll go to.” That's a pretty powerful statement considering the fact there are hundreds of options. I cannot make the same statement because I also frequent In-N-Out Burger when I'm in California, and I have a difficult time resisting the seasoned fries at Bojangles.
Your turn. Think about this story as it relates to your business. What's the centerpiece at your place? Is it quality? I challenge you it’s most likely not.
Most businesses focus on the ridiculousness of customer satisfaction.
Or try to sell things at the lowest price.
Or put things on sale to attract one-time buyers.
Or have weekly specials.
Or present some other message that does not focus on the central issue that has put Chick-fil-A at the top of the fast food empire: “Customers will pay more for quality, and return if the experience was great.”
If you're focusing on experience, and your quality is not superior, you will lose to someone one cent cheaper. If, however, your focus is on superior quality, and you add superior service, or should I say superior, friendly service, you will not just dominate your market place, you will also dominate your bank account.
Gitomer is the author of "The Sales Bible" and "The Little Red Book of Selling." President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service at trainone.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.