How Chick-fil-A Outmatches the Competition With Customer Service Science

How Chick-fil-A Outmatches the Competition With Customer Service Science

During my early years of college, I worked for a manager who was full of customer service mantras. My favorite was that,

“It’s not rocket science.”

After years of research, I’ve learned that she was right. Customer service is not rocket science. It’s harder! We have volumes of instructions on building and launching rockets. Five-hundred thirty-six people have been launched into space, and twelve have walked on the moon.

However, even with all the books on customer service, we’re still trying to figure it out. A recent study conducted by Forester Research found that eighty percent of businesses believe they offer superior customer service. Only eight percent of their customers agree!

Do you think we would send astronauts into space if we only had an eight percent success rate? Of course not! Certainly, if we can send a man to the moon, we can figure out how to consistently offer great customer service.

Behavioral science helps us understand why people do what they do. If we merge that with what we know about customer service, we can influence and improve customer service behaviors.

In customer science, there are three forces that work against you in offering great service. However, once you understand these forces, you can utilize the necessary tactics to make these forces work for you and achieve better service performance. Better service performance leads to personal recommendations, which is the best kind of PR you can receive.

Let me use a recent experience to help explain the three forces of customer science. My wife and I recently went to a Chick-Fil-A. We stood in a single line for a few moments and chatted about our plans for the holidays. Then, one of the four cashiers called us up to take our order.

After placing our order, the cashier asked for my name and gave us square shaped cup to hold our sauce packets. We sat down and after conversing for a few minutes, a different employee approached and said, “Jesse, here’s your order.”

I said, “Thank you.” He responded with, “My pleasure.”

My wife and I continued our conversation, and then finished our meals and left, feeling very satisfied and pleased with our experience.

That’s it. All three forces were utilized in that scenario. Let’s take a deeper look to understand how each one impacted our experience.

The first force is the intrapersonal. This is everything that happens within you as a service provider. Motivation is important, but even more important is having the necessary skills. The tactic to overcome the intrapersonal force is to train the skill to thrill.

After the Chick-Fil-A employee delivered our food, do you remember what he said? “My pleasure.” Do you think that employees at Chick-Fil-A are just so motivated, polite, and perfect that they always say, “My pleasure”? Does Chick-Fil-A hire better than other fast food chains? Of course not! They are pulling from the same hiring pool as everyone else. However, Chick-Fil-A invests marginally more time and effort in training their employees the skill to thrill.

The second force is the interpersonal. This is specific to you as a service provider and the team you work with. The best service organizations create cultures where great service is expected and respected. The tactic for overcoming the interpersonal force is to remember that it takes teamwork to make the dream work.

QSR Magazine reported last year that Chick-Fil-A has a 92 percent order accuracy, the highest in fast food. Business Insider also found that Chick-Fil-A is the most likely restaurant to say “please,” “thank you,” and smile at customers.

Chick-Fil-A employees said “thank you” 95 percent of the time compared to 78 percent at McDonald’s.

These are trained behaviors, however, it is a culture of customer service at Chick-Fil-A that helps them maintain these trained behaviors. Chick-Fil-A understands that every person’s contribution matters and that to maintain great service performance, it takes teamwork to make the dream work.

The third force is the extrapersonal force. This is everything outside of people. It includes physical working space, processes, and tools used to be successful in delivering great service. To overcome the extrapersonal force, and sustain great service performance, the tactic is to use your queues (and your cues).

The first of these queues is their line. Do you remember how we were standing in a single line? As it turns out, this is actually the most efficient way to get customers through faster. It ensures that those who arrived first, are helped first. While some restaurants have many short lines to each cashier, it is only aesthetically pleasing, and not actually faster.

The second cue Chick-Fil-A uses is a visual cue. Remember the little square cup they put our sauce in? There are a variety of colors of those cups, and pictures on each one. With the colr-picture combination, no two cups are alike. When the cashier took my name for the order, they also included which cup I was given. This way the employee who delivered my food, knew my name without having ever seen me before. How awesome is that!? Chick-Fil-A definitely understands how to sustain service performance by using queues and cues.

Here’s the big reveal. I didn’t choose Chick-Fil-A just because it’s easy to pick out the customer science forces. I chose them as an example because their positive use of customer science has led to incredible results. They are what we call in behavioral science a positive deviant.

Chick-Fil-A was listed in USA Today’s Customer Service Hall of Fame. They were the only fast food restaurant to appear on the list, AND were ranked as number two overall.

They rank better than any of their competitors in employee satisfaction.

Additionally, there is a clear financial impact. Fast food chicken competitor KFC makes about a million dollars each year per store. The granddaddy of fast food, McDonald’s averages about 2.5 million per store. Chick-Fil-A averages nearly four million dollars in annual sales per store. They’ve got the science figured out!

Each of the three forces; Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Extrapersonal, has an impact on every customer service experience. When these three forces are misaligned or under-utilized, organizations offer mediocre service. Mediocrity relentlessly attacks excellence.

However, when the Customer Science forces are properly aligned and combined, and organizations train the skill to thrill, maintain with teamwork to make the dream work, and sustain what they train by using queues and cues; those organizations become exponentially more effective in delivering positive customer service experiences that dramatically improve business results and allow them to cultivate lasting, loyal client relationships.

It's not rocket science. It's Customer Science!