When talking about the concept of customer experience, the name Chick-fil-A never fails to surface. Recently, an article about the tactics used by Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, to build such a successful business crossed my desk (my computer screen, actually, but you know what I mean). The article was another reminder about all the pieces that need to fit together and work together to make a business stand above the rest. While reading the article, as I do each time I reflect on the business practices of Chick-fil-A, I marveled at Cathy’s business acumen that has grown a fast-food chain, focused on chicken, light years beyond the competition.
In the article, “Chick Fil A’s Customer Experience Maximizes Marketing and Advertising,” LOOMIS Agency President Mike Sullivan explains how marketing based on genuine social interactions maximizes Chick-fil-A’s advertising. The focus of the article is on successful interconnectedness of marketing and human resources versus departments established as separate silos. Sullivan says, “Great products and smart advertising are potent marketing weapons, but the customer experience trumps all.”
Chick-fil-A, under Cathy’s leadership, has mastered the art of building a frontline meant to provide a superb customer experience. And when asked about the training program for these front-line folks, Cathy “acknowledged the tremendous energy the company puts into training and retaining employees,” but he said the key is to begin the process by selecting the right people in the first place. The company is extraordinarily selective when hiring. Instead of trying to train people to say “please” and “thank you,” Chick-fil-A hires people who already say “please” and “thank you.”
Decide to “Believe”
At Chick-fil-A, they decide to grow their company by believing in the integrity, ability and values of store operators and employees. They accomplish this by selecting only those people who they see as long-term partners. They want the folks they bring into their business today, to be part of the long-term story of Chick-fil-A.
To select employees for the long term, the company screens for the kinds of activities and relationships that candidates have sustained over a period of time. Not just in business, but in their personal life too. Understanding how someone grows and sustains their relationships gives Chick-fil-A a picture for how candidates will nurture and develop their future company relationships inside their stores, and with customers.
The impact of Chick-fil-A’s hiring practices is that store operator turnover is only 5 percent. Hiring for life may sound a bit extreme, but, for Chick-fil-A, this commitment is the secret behind its growth strategy. The sustainability of that chicken sandwich and store experience is dependent on operators who stay and grow their customer relationships and markets. So Chick-fil-A spends an extensive amount of time getting to know the values and habits of candidates so they can entrust their franchisees for life. This approach contributes to the stability of the operation of their stores and company growth. Chick-fil-A sales have almost quadrupled over the past decade, and there are now well over 1,500 outlets.
EVALUATE How We Believe
How would we rate our intent and ability to select employees based on values that are congruent with ours?
How would our employees say we are doing?
Do employees rave about how we help them grow in their career (and in their life) today?
How does our decisions for hiring partners compare with this beloved company?
Do our decisions for hiring partners earn us “beloved” status today?
Can we DECIDE to Believe?
What do we need to do differently to move toward earning the rave of customers and employees?
Let’s figure out one way to adjust our selection process to ensure we are bringing in partners who share our values.