Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Eat More Chikin... Lessons from the Folks at Chick-Fil-A

As a part of the strategic focus of our companies, we are continuing to evolve from an organization that has traditionally focused exclusively on business-to-business marketing to becoming more of a consumer marketing company. That is, while we serve consumers through our business clients (mostly financial institutions), we need to design our products, services and customer experience around the end consumer need. In the competitive financial services marketplace, there is no other choice – if you are not meeting the current and future needs of consumers, you are toast in the long-term.

Through a connection of the marketing director at TMG, we were able to have Tina Murray, a regional marketing director from Chick-Fil-A, spend the majority of the day with us this past Wednesday. Chick-Fil-A is a unique company, in that they have created a brand that has true raving fans, as well as their focus on an internal corporate culture of quality food and outstanding service.

While you will not benefit from all of Tina’s presentation, these were a few of my takeways from her presentations.
  • There is value in history and stories in corporate culture. Many of the values that remain important to Chick-Fil-A are because of the history and background, particularly that of their founder, Truett Cathy. There is recognition of those that came before and a willingness to celebrate their accomplishments during more than four decades. The accomplishments are celebrated and remembered for future generations.
  • While Chick-Fil-A sells food, they deliver service. Food is only the platform to deliver service.
  • Many companies often talk about being in a commodity business where quality is not appreciated and price is the most important thing. There isn’t much more of a commodity business than quick service restaurants and yet Chick-Fil-A has distinguished themselves on quality (food) and service with a price point that is still competitive with other choices. How can every company do this?
  • Second mile service. This is one of the keys to the Chick-Fil-A experience. The first mile is the transaction (you pay me, I give you quality food). The second mile is what makes the difference – it is the 3-foot pepper mill for salads that you would only expect in a fine-dining experience; the team member refreshing a drink for a customer in the dining room; carrying the things to the table for a Mom with three kids; shuttling customers to and from their cars with umbrellas when it is raining. Every individual has the power (maybe even the responsibility) to make someone’s day.
  • Work on the little things and share them across the organization. The idea of having umbrellas and helping customers stay out of the rain spread across their company because an owner/operator (who works usually just in one store) was focused on the little things of service and then the word spread through formal and informal means.
  • Chick-Fil-A is nearly a completely aligned culture. While their values are not the values of every company, top to bottom they seem to understand what it means to be a Chick-Fil-A employee and what Chick-Fil-A stands for as an organization. It starts with the top and you can see it in 16-year old team members in the restaurants.
  • Focus on hiring great people with their 3 “Cs” – competency, character and chemistry.
  • They are about creating Raving Fans who come more often, pay full price and tell others.
  • Who is your competitor? Chick-Fil-A thinks about their competitors as Panera Bread and Jason’s Deli, not just McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s. While their customers might not always put them in that category, what does that mindset do for their expectations of the food and service?
  • Their training is focused on empowering their employees, but within a framework of what service means to Chick-Fil-A (Saying “my pleasure” when a customer thanks you or delivering Second Mile Service).
  • Give it away. They focus on having customers and prospective customers experience their food and service by “Be Our Guest” cards. These cards are good for free sandwiches and are given away by operators and other team members to potential customers. Their marketing focus is in a 3-5 mile radius around the restaurant and integrating into the community. How could you give something away to demonstrate your value?
  • Communication to the frontline is critical. You can’t spend a ton of marketing dollars for a promotion like “Free Breakfast Thursday” and not have your front line people know what you are doing. Have a platform for over-communicating to front-line team members.
  • Leadership happens by example. Tina told a story of the CEO picking up trash in parking lot during a store visit. This creates a culture where no one is “too good” to do any task and people feel like they should follow the example of leadership, which makes the business better.
  • Leadership is more than going it alone. If you finish your leadership journey and there is no one with you, you just took a long walk alone. When you have a new opportunity, take someone with you to help them grow. Make it a conscious part of your professional life.
  • Operators are often “dream makers.” By working in one store, they often know the goals of their employees and help make them a reality, even if that’s not within Chick-Fil-A.
  • By allowing customers “backstage” you not only provide transparency to customers but employees are “on” everyday, even in the back of the house. Chick-Fil-A allows their customers to touch and feel the aspects of the business by taking a tour of the kitchen, which is likely to engender more loyalty. How could you do this in your organization?
  • Take a couple of 30 minute time slots for “white space,” where you think, read, refocus.
  • When does someone need encouragement? When they're breathing.
  • Their company gave the opportunity for each owner/operator to spend $100 fine dining and asked them to take one thing back into their store. If you do the math: 1500 restaurants x $100 = $1.5 million. That’s a lot of money and would have been easy to be on the cutting block during budget time (well we could make our numbers if we just cut that $1.5 million expense on sending our operators out to eat…) Yet they didn’t. What was so important about that experience that it was worth the money?
  • Truett Cathy’s saying: Be your best (Jeff) today. Why not give your best?
I thought these were worth sharing. I’m sure that Chick-Fil-A has its struggles, just like each one of us do everyday. Yet they have built a company and culture around quality food (and an unwillingness to take shortcuts even when it costs them real money), as well as around outstanding service. I was inspired by their attention to detail from top to bottom. Just a few nuggets (pun intended) for your thought.

1 comment:

  1. Love Chik-Fil-A and enjoyed each take-away -- especially the Second Mile service concept. A good one for credit unions to emulate!

    Thanks, Jeff!