If you’ve met me, you might know about this little habit I can’t seem (nor want!) to shake: Chick Fil A. Specifically chicken minis. If I am in my car before 10:30 am and I happen to be in close proximity to a Chick Fil A, I am magnetically drawn to it. And by close, I’m talking anywhere in a 15-mile radius, ha! It is probably the crown I got when I was 6. 😉
I have gone so many times, to the detriment of my bank account, that I know their client experience very well.
You may think it is odd that I call a fast food joint’s operation as a “client experience.”
But after hundreds of 4 count chicken mini starts to my days, I can say with confidence that they are serious about providing a quality client experience that has been carefully thought through and crafted to fried chicken perfection.
And recently while I was enjoying a bite-sized nugget wrapped in honey butter yeast roll perfection, I got to thinking about why I really love Chick Fil A.
What really makes me keep coming back?
Sure, they have a seriously good product (duh), but there’s more to the story.
I happen to also love me a Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheese Burger.
But I rarely go to Wendy’s anymore since Chick Fil A came to town.
Clearly, there is a problem and a fast food pattern going on here, but let’s not digress.
Why do I literally drive out of my way to go to a Chick Fil A when a Wendy’s is right across from my neighborhood?
And then a concept of value from my all-time favorite business book, The Go Giver, came to mind. The Go Giver is a quick and thought-provoking read on how to do business differently. The very first concept the book tackles is the Law of Value. It reads,
“Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment. Now, this may seem like a paradox, you may be thinking that this is a recipe for bankruptcy, but the key to this law is really understanding what value is. Price is not the same thing as value. We are not giving more than we receive in payment, but we are adding more value to people that we serve.
It is not a strategy to in turn get more from the people we serve but it is the opposite because it comes from a deep desire to really make a difference in the lives of those around us. We can not view it as a formula for success but instead a way of life.” – Excerpt from The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann
Understanding The Law of Value as shared in The Go Giver has truly revolutionized my thinking about how I run my business. And how I view other businesses.
Chick Fil A has mastered The Law of Value.
And that is what keeps me coming back for Chicken Minis week after week (more like 4 out of 7 days a week, but let’s not dwell on my problems, mmkay! 😉 ).
So how does a fast food restaurant excel in The Law of Value? Well, in true Megan fashion, I have spent the past few weeks over analyzing their operation and think that all business owners alike can learn a few lessons from their experience to add considerable value to your own services and products.
6 Lessons Chick Fil A Taught Me About The Law of Value
Lesson 1 – Don’t Lose Your Human Touch
Each Chick Fil A serves hundreds of customers every day. And even though they are a fast food chain, they go above and beyond to craft their operation around human interaction. While other chains have implemented multiple drive-through lanes with computer displays and indoor self-serving functionality from soft drinks to pre-packaged sauces, Chick Fil A does it differently; with a smiling friend.
Chick Fil A is a large corporation. They could cut costs by streamlining with fancy machinery and reducing their staff. But sit in a Chick Fil A for any amount of time and you just might be blown away by just how many people are working. You’ll see multiple friendly associates welcoming guests to take orders, ones working behind the counters to facilitate orders where the manager can always be seen working hands-on with his or her team, cooks in the back (as expected!), and my favorite, the associate who circles the front of house to ask customers if they can refill their drinks or get them an extra sauce packet.
That person’s sole job is to serve customers as if they were a server in a sit-down restaurant. They clean up kid spills with a cheerful heart and keep patrons enjoying their experience.
The human touch doesn’t stop inside the house. Oh no. Every Chick Fil A I’ve visited also brings it to the drive-through. During peak customer hours, you can find associates outside taking customer orders in the drive-through line, another around the corner printing receipts to hand to customers midway through the line and then another outside the window walking orders to cars.
I bet you wonder why they do this. Seems like overkill, right? While I can’t tell you the exact inner working decisions of why Chick Fil A does this or that, I can tell you how this unique humanized drive-through experience makes a difference for me.
At my local Chick Fil A, I always see the same man passing out receipts midline. And every time we stop at his workstation, he waves to my girls and makes them laugh. He compliments them some way shape or form and we drive on feeling like we aren’t just another tick on the sales count for the day. Seems like a small thing, but it absolutely changes our wait in line. My kids can usually be found yelling, “Mom, GO!” in car lines, but this simple act of our friend at Chick Fil A engaging with them, breaks up the wait and puts them in a happy mood. That’s golden in this Mama’s eyes!
The Takeaway: Get efficient. Make a process. Streamline and get systems in place in your business. But don’t lose your human touch. Don’t forget at the end of the day that you are a human run business serving other humans. Infuse your efforts with your personality and your brand with your story to keep your experience personal and unique in every touch point.
Lesson 2 – Be proactive in attending to your customer needs.
Chick Fil A doesn’t just give you nuggets and walk away. They have literally thought of everything when it comes to eating at their restaurant.
Take for example one of their target markets: Families.
Simply selling kids meals would take care of that demographic, right? Technically, yes.
But Chick Fil A doesn’t just sell what you want. They are proactive about tending to your needs along with their product for an enhanced and more enjoyable experience.
From the moment I swipe my card buying two 4 Count Nugget Kids Meals for the girls and a Cobb Salad for me, Chick Fil A begins taking care of my dining experience. The first thing they do is give me a colored box filled with our favorite sauces. This box acts as my “table number” so I don’t even have to carry my own food to a table. Within minutes (seconds most of the time!), a Chick Fil A associate finds me and my kiddos to serve us our food. As I start placing my girls in their seats, the front of house attendant visits our table and offers us kid friendly placemats that stick to the table so the kids have a clean surface to eat off of. That same attendant is kind enough to revisit our table in case we need extra sauce or drink refills so I never have to get up and leave them alone. But they don’t just stop at the actual eating when it comes to taking care of me and my children. Every Chick Fil A I have been to has a play area for the little ones (Mom break!). And on the outside of every play area, Chick Fil A has hand sanitizer packets for the taking so that we can keep germs at bay after play time.
I bet you’re thinking, these are all minuscule details. You would still like your food without them.
You’re right. I would probably still love Chick Fil A’s magical fried chicken, and I might not have ever missed the extra miles had they never taken them.
Guess what I miss when I go to any other fast food restaurant? The level of care and attention to detail that Chick Fil A takes. When I go elsewhere, I can literally feel the difference. It creates a tension in my fast food dining experiences elsewhere. And can you guess what I think in those moments?
“Why didn’t I go to Chick Fil A? It is so much nicer there!”
So the next time (read within 48 hours!) I need a major Mama break and delicious quick food, I go back to the one place where they go above and beyond to take care of me. And I keep coming back.
The Takeaway: Quality matters. But the business who can take it a step further and provide a quality product and be proactive in the experience of the product to care for their customers’ needs is the business that will stand out and have staying power. Think about the product or service you offer. What touch points surrounding your offering can you be proactive in helping your customer with? Can you answer their questions before they even ask or provide a supplemental service as a part of the whole shebang that will make their experience more enjoyable?
For example: Restored 316, a company who sells WordPress theme templates, does this very well. They have an entire resource library of tutorials and regularly post on their blog with WordPress tips, tricks, and tutorials. Many of their how-to pieces of content aren’t directly pushing their product, but rather helping their customer create a well-rounded website using all sorts of other tools and plugins. The Restored 316 customer can not only buy a pretty website design, but they can also come back time and time again for help and tips as they build their site so they aren’t left to figure it all out on their own!
Kennedy whispering to me that she wants to go to “Chick A Lay” 😉 Captured by Sarahdipity Photos
Lesson 3 – Remember that serving is always a pleasure.
If you visit any Chick Fil A and say thank you, you’ll probably hear the reply, “My pleasure!”
It may seem like a small gesture, but it makes quite a large shift in attitude.
Think about what you normally hear or say when you reply to thank you. I’m guilty of saying, “No problem,” or “No worry!” And while the sentiment is good in nature, using words like problem or worry when caring for someone has a negative connotation.
Instead of telling you that you aren’t a problem (in that moment), Chick Fil A has carefully trained their employees that serving will never have the chance to be a burden, but will always be a pleasure for the company.
That simple shift in vocabulary has a major effect and almost catches me off guard when I hear it!
The Takeaway: Think about the language you use when you are interacting with your customers. Are you expressing your pleasure and joy in serving them or is there room for improvement? Don’t underestimate the power of positive and affirming words in your conversations and communications across the entire experience of your brand and service!
Lesson 4 – Give often and freely to your customers.
Chick Fil A does something that goes against what many preach in our creative industry: They give to their customers. Very often and freely.
Just this past August they gave away free breakfast every Tuesday if you made it in by 10:30am and in September they gave away a free breakfast item every day if you downloaded their app. Crazy! That is quite a lot of giving.
And that is just in the past 2 months.
Chick Fil A is a very giving company. They have a whole day every year where they give away food if you dress up like a cow. And they regularly give away cards as a surprise to their customers to come in and try their new offerings for free.
Giving can feel like a risky move in any business, but it has paid off for Chick Fil A.
I can just hear you saying, “Sure, Megan, they can give so much because they are a giant company that can offset the cost of giving with their income.”
Here’s the thing: I truly believe that Chick Fil A cares deeply about their customer base. I can see it day in and day out when I visit by the caliber of care they provide to everyone who walks in.
There’s always a but 😉
The leaders of Chick Fil A are smart. Giving can be extremely powerful in an overall marketing strategy. Giving opens up the door for an opportunity to build the like, know, trust factor with your ideal customer. And when you get that opportunity to build a connection, you get the opportunity to turn that potential customer into an actual paying customer.
Once that potential customer becomes a paying customer, it is much easier to continuously market your offerings to them for a longer-term relationship.
The Takeaway: Think about how you can create opportunities in your marketing strategy for giving in order to build the like, know, trust factor with potential customers.
It could be in the form of a content upgrade. Example: A florist could create an in-depth guide for what flowers are most readily accessible during any given season so her potential customer could come to trust that she knows her product and will have her best interest at heart!
A real example of a company who gives often and freely (and it pays off!) is the SC Stockshop. Every month Shay gives away free commercial quality stunning stock images to her newsletter tribe FOR FREE. Once they get a taste of how great her product really is, they are much more primed to follow through with a future sale!
*Want to learn more about the psychology behind giving in your marketing strategy? Read the book Influence!
Lesson 5 – Create a culture your customers can engage in.
Let’s go back to that one day a year that Chick Fil A gets all their customers to dress up like cows and gives away free food.
Just my local store alone gave away over $19,000 worth of free food by lunchtime on their last cow appreciation day. WOAH.
The fact that one single franchise gave away $19,000 worth of free food in mere hours is staggering, but what I think about is how many people it took to show up in cow apparel to reach $19,000 in hours. THAT number is insane.
I was one of them.
The front of the house was packed in black and white spots with standing room only.
It was quite a sight to see.
I’ve seen other companies do this sort of customer appreciation day. They pick any random day and tell customers to stop by for a free item.
But Chick Fil A has taken the idea a step further. They get their customers to engage in the company’s brand culture as a part of the fun.
Those smarties 😉
It is one thing to get something for free. It is another thing to actively participate in the event. By having their customers dress up for the day, Chick Fil A creates a memorable experience beyond just a free lunch item. Families and friends come together in the comradery of it all and no doubt laughter and good times surround the chicken nugget eating moments.
The point? You will forget a free chicken sandwich. But you won’t forget running to the Dollar Store and hand drawing cow spots on plain white tees for your collective 8 cousin children in the family to pack in a Chick Fil A booth with your neighborhood friends right next to you.
Chick Fil A doesn’t just sell chicken, they create experiences for their customers. And that is powerful.
The Takeaway: Branding is far more than a few colors and a logo. Powerful brands have a story to tell and find a way to engage their customers in it. What is unique to you and your brand? How can you weave an experience for your customers through those unique differentiators? An engaging experience is far more memorable than a passive one, so find a way to get your customers active!
Lesson 6 – Be open about your boundaries.
This one is my favorite.
Unless you don’t have a Chick Fil A ‘round the corner, you know that they close their doors every single Sunday. They do this because of their company beliefs that align with the Biblical foundations of taking a Sabbath day for rest.
And they don’t waiver on this boundary no matter how much more money they could rake in.
Some may think it is silly, but I respect Chick Fil A for making and sticking to this boundary. By establishing open boundaries, Chick Fil A is showing that even a large corporation can have values and put them above the American dream.
How does setting this boundary give value to their customer?
It comes back to the human connection we started with. Setting boundaries in your business and being open about the why behind them helps reign back in a couple things.
First, your business is run by a human (or humans). Not a robot. You are a person your customers can actually connect and engage with. And you are more than the sum of your business.
Second, boundaries show that you have important values. When you stick to them, they show you are dependable and trustworthy. Customers value companies who are dependable.
Bonus: Your boundaries in business can also make up part of your brand story that we covered in Lesson 5!
For example, I am quite open about the fact that I am a mom of 2 (with one on the way!). I’m also open about the fact that I am called to be a mom first and my business comes second. Which usually means my email response time is super slow. So I just say it right on my contact form and in my email autoresponder.
Some people may think I’ve lost my professional marbles for it, but guess what? It is a very strong connection point with my ideal client and my customers show genuine interest and care about my family and children in our communications! Watching my kids grow and hearing my real stories of mom life is a part of the experience I have built up around my brand that my customers can actively engage with me in. It works!
The Takeaway: Don’t be afraid of setting boundaries in your business. Be honest with your customers about them and stick to ‘em. They can become a part of your brand story and create strong connection points with your ideal clients. And they will foster customers who care about you and your values! Win!
Love them or not, Chick Fil A runs a powerful and successful business that we can all learn from. I’ll see you there tomorrow at 10:00am for a Chicken Mini chat! 😉