Take Aways From Chick-fil-A: People, Process, and Technology

Being a mom of two teenagers, Chick-fil-A is a favorite in our house. You can count on the consistency in good food, great customer service, fast and extremely efficient delivery, and up to date technology to boot!  Now that’s what a busy mom calls my pleasure!

At my recent visit, I couldn’t help but wonder how we can all incorporate a little bit of the “Chick-fil-A Way” into our own busy lives and careers. With the Pandemic being the new “norm,” I marvel at how well Chick-fil-A has pivoted. They are truly a shining example of the Golden Triangle: People, Process, and Technology.

People

Have you ever encountered a grumpy Chick-fil-A employee? Read that again. It just doesn’t go together and it’s not in their DNA! The Chick-fil-A employee is wired and trained to please. I must admit, my kids and I have been known to see how many times we can hear the trademark “My Pleasure” upon our visits. That being said, without good people, nothing will really work well.

How does Chick-fil-A do it? I did some digging and observing and this is what I found. For starters, they are thorough in their hiring, and in their training. Extensive training.  They strive to ingrain their culture and hospitality in every employee. It’s the Chick-fil-A way after all. Some of the perks to keep their team members comfortable while working include fans to keep them cool outside in the hot Texas Summer, and tents for rainy days or blistering sun. Did you know the uniforms they wear are selected primarily for comfort? Quoted from none other than the Chicken Wire: “You are what you wear”. Hmmm…. Haven’t I heard this before from my grandmother? Chick-fil-A wants to make sure their employees feel confident and comfortable as they serve. Wow. For the Chick-fil-A team, expert designers from the U.S. Military help to make sure the uniform is right. Did you know… 87% of Chick-fil-A employees mentioned their uniforms were one of the most important factors in their overall job satisfaction. That’s a lot of happiness!

This brings me to reflect on my first job when I was 16 at another fast-food chain – with the girl’s name. You know the one. My uniform was a poor fit, it was itchy, with an apron, and I had to wear a bonnet! David Rissier, manager of Brand Environments at Chick-fil-A, states: “We want to be sure that a team member in Texas has the right apparel to stay cool during the Summer, while a team member in Michigan has the right jacket to keep warm through frigid Winters.” Now that is TLC for employees. Remember, we are talking about fast food. No wonder why the Chick-fil-A team is always smiling.

From a recent article by Frank Ahrens, Frank mentions, “Anyone who’s been to a Chick-fil-A cannot fail to notice one thing, aside from the delicious waffle fries: the consistently and relentlessly cheerful crew. Chick-fil-A employees: 1) make eye contact, 2) smile, 3) speak enthusiastically and 4) don’t just mumble “thank you” or offer a disinterested grunt after you pay. They say, “My pleasure.” These four behaviors are part of an extensive employee training regime known as Core 4. I am certain they carry these life lessons with them throughout their careers.

Process

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Chick-fil-A store in my hometown of McKinney. They had to evolve like most companies, and they had to pivot quickly with COVID. When Chick-fil-A first opened in McKinney, I remember clearly how much of a nightmare it was to go there. They had just opened, and you could see they were scrambling to handle the stampede of customers. Long, slow lines, even going out into the street. They received numerous complaints on their process and poor delivery. They listened… really listened and acted on it quickly.

Today,  they are a modern assembly line of near perfection. You can often see Chick-fil-A employees walking the drive-thru lines with state-of-the-art tablets. This allows for orders to be taken while maintaining one on one service. Once your order is taken, off you go to the next team member for payment. One scan of your app or swipe of your card allows for no contact during COVID. This fast payment allows for cars to move through twice as fast as a traditional speaker box drive-thru. Chick-fil-A likes to call this system “face to face ordering.” With COVID, they now use plastic containers to deliver food, preventing personal contact. Leaving nothing out, Chick-fil-A also has “expeditors” who stand by the drive-thru window and take orders to cars that are further back in line. It’s almost like a mini “army” outside in the drive-thru, ready to shuttle you through with ease. It’s a brilliant show to watch.

It truly feels like they have it all together and you need not worry! As one Chick-fil-A employee mentioned, “We know our drive-thru can look daunting, but we work to maintain our guests’ trust”. You can feel they are working to make your experience perfect as many times as possible. It’s not only the food that is good; it truly is the incredible people and service. It reminds me of how Cyber Group strives to be in all ways. The client-customer partnership and trust are critical in my IT consulting world today.

Trust is essential, along with good technology! While other stores were scrambling to adjust with COVID, Chick-fil-A made a fast pivot. It was almost like they were ready. Being up to date with the current technology definitely helped big time.

Technology

Speaking of technology, Chick-fil-A has its very own app, called Chick-fil-A One. Upon opening the app, a message pops up: “Thanks for making us a part of your day.” You can also become a part of the rewards program and earn points.  Customer service is oozing through the app too. It’s all in the experience. From the Mobile App to the IOS tablets for orders, down to the Business Intelligence and the Data Analytics, along with AI and now speech technology and voice processing, Chick-fil-A is technically savvy. What a great example to learn from,  of a company that pivoted in a Pandemic, and is continuing to evolve. These are the companies that will persevere and survive.

I am fascinated at the work that goes into the whole Chick-fil-A experience, and the time spent to improve on this. From a recent article with Jay Duff, Jay mentions, “Of course, we serve a great chicken sandwich, but its’ the customer experience that we keep our eyes focused on. We see some promising technologies with speech and voice that would enhance that. Having worked in the store, I know how difficult it is to work a Point of Sale system while you’re trying to keep track of the customer’s orders and especially if they have any alterations to their order, like no pickles. I’m spending all this time trying to get the order right, and what happens is our dialogue kind of suffers when I’m not able to maintain eye contact. Because I’m too busy trying to figure out the exception on my point of sales system. So, we can see how speech and voice processing is going to help with that.” Personally, I can relate to this. Reminiscing from my teenage years, working at a fast food restaurant, it was hectic when it got busy. It was hard to give good customer service while working the register and taking new orders. In the restaurant industry, this is commonly referred to as “in the weeds”. It’s not a fun place to be – it’s stressful, hectic, and not easy to smile and say my pleasure!

Lessons to Take Away

My take-away is that we can all benefit a little from the Chick-fil-A way. Having a goal to improve our experiences with each other, learn from each other, help in ways that we can, and grow to do better.

Like Chick-fil-A, go the second mile when you can. I hope you enjoyed my take-away’s – my teenagers were my inspiration, along with my IT role at Cyber Group. Let me know if I can help you in any way.

It was my pleasure!

Written by Kathy Andrews, Principal

Kathy has over 5 years of experience in the Technology industry with an emphasis on building strategic relationships with her clients and connections. She is involved with many organizations in Dallas and has a passion for STEM and making a difference with women in IT.

Kathy is passionate about helping enterprises attract, serve, and retain customers by leveraging cloud, mobile, and current CRM platforms such as Salesforce. She is a driven partner in helping clients overcome challenges and be successful.

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