As someone who believes that customer service is the ultimate differentiator in business, I am always on the lookout for examples of outstanding service. Great customer service can come from anywhere – from businesses where you expect no less (Nordstrom) to businesses where you are thrilled to just to be treated like a human being (most fast food). Last Friday, I experienced a moment of truly exceptional customer service at one of the Orlando-area Chick-fil-A restaurants, a moment that would have been in keeping with the best service anecdotes from Nordstrom or Ritz-Carlton, much less a fast food establishment.
Among fast food chains, Chick-fil-A seems to have the most stellar reputation for exceeding customer expectations through service delivery. I cannot recall ever hearing a story of great service from any of the Chick-fil-A’s big name, fast food competition. Yet, over the years, I have been party to numerous conversations where stories about Chick-fil-A’s impressive service have been shared. The manager at the Chick-fil-A near me added the best story yet.
The Orlando-area Chick-fil-A we are discussing has a unique logistical problem. The parking lot is connected to an extremely busy 7-Eleven gas station, which combines with two other entrances to create three separate, high-traffic entrances to the parking lot. The formation of the drive-thru line is often dictated by the sheer randomness of which entrances are used at any given time. During peak hours, this situation creates quite a mess.
During Friday’s lunch rush, the drive-thru line was so long that it had wrapped around the building and formed a complete square. The end of the line had mixed with the traffic from a set of parking spaces and the 7-Eleven entrance, and it was completely blocking the people trying to leave the drive-thru with their food. In other words, the drive-thru line couldn’t move because the back of the line had trapped the front of the line. Fortunately for me, the problem had been solved by the time I got there. How?
The manager of the Chick-fil-A was standing in the middle of the traffic jam directing traffic.
To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. To begin, I have been patronizing this Chick-fil-A periodically over a five year period. I have experienced a number of busy times where the parking lot situation had all but shut down the drive-thru. Never had I seen a manager step into the fray to address the issue.
Further, what struck me most about the manager’s actions was that he made the choice that was in the best interests of his customers and his business, and one that was probably least centered around what was most comfortable for him. Really, how many fast food managers would have just stayed behind the counter, complained to their staffs that they weren’t moving the line fast enough, and then complained about the “awful lunch rush” while doing nothing about it? Many, I suspect.
Of course, all interactions with a company are snapshots in time. I do not know how good this manager is at overseeing employees, maintaining inventory, or overseeing operations. But I do know this: at lunch last Friday, he made an indelible, positive impression for the Chick-fil-A brand, and he increased revenue for both this Chick-fil-A franchise and the parent company. I can certainly attest that I was moments from breaking out of line to grab lunch elsewhere when I saw the manager directing traffic and figured the wait would not be too bad. His actions saved the sale.
When I rolled past the manager in line, I rolled down the window and said, “Good managing, buddy.” He thanked me, and as I pulled forward, and I thought “it’s the least I can do.” Well that… and this blog post.
So, do you have a story about outstanding customer service at Chick-fil-A?
Note: This post was originally published before the launch of our Customer Service Stories series. We have edited this page to include it in the series; however, all content and comments remain the same as originally published.
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.