When one thinks of digital customer service through apps, text messaging, or social media – we’re not likely to think about fast food, an industry that hasn’t changed a lot since the turn of the century.
That’s why it’s so surprising that Chick-fil-A, one of America’s most popular fast food restaurants, is rapidly becoming a leader in
digital customer service. It’s a unique approach to fast food that is helping the rising chain outpace rivals like KFC.
A Brief History of Chick-fil-A
In case you’ve never heard of it, Chick-fil-A was founded just after the Second World War as Dwarf House in Atlanta, Georgia. Along the way the name changed but the city’s headquarters remained the same, even as Chick-fil-A franchises popped up all across the United States. Today, it’s estimated Chick-fil-A has 2,000 locations, many of which have been established during the last decade or so. Overall, it’s growing at a much faster rate than most of its major rivals.
Here’s a fun fact: The average Chick-fil-A location brings in three times the revenue of the average KFC location. Granted, KFC still has almost twice as many locations, but that’s hardly good news for the colonel and his team. Another interesting tidbit: Chick-fil-A opened nearly 100 restaurants last year, compared to just 10 for KFC.
Many industry experts would argue that Chick-fil-A’s secret is its approach to customer service. To understand how customers think, Chick-fil-A aggressively engages in public opinion studies and seeks to find out what potential customers think of new and existing products. In one instance, the company exhaustively tested a tea product, only to give up on it before sending it to restaurants. “We went through 61 different iterations of a tea product,” notes Chick-fil-A executive Paul Trotti. “The customers liked it — but they didn’t love it.”
That dedication to understanding the average American consumer shows. For example, the company openly encourages its employees to appear upbeat, particularly when dealing with customers. That’s an extension of the attitudes held by Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, who famously knew all of the customers at his first location by name – and food order.
The average Chick-fil-A location brings in three times the revenue of the average KFC location.
Now, that dedication to pleasing the in-house customer is extending beyond the brick-and-mortar restaurant. Roughly four years ago the company brought in renowned mobile experience expert Michael Lage to overhaul its approach to connecting with customers through mobile technology, including smartphones and tablet computers. Lage, who had previously worked for Facebook and Google, worked to develop a user-friendly app that allows customers to order highly customizable dishes – down to the number of pickles on their chicken sandwich. Thanks to bundling in a popular rewards system, the app has quickly become a favorite among Chick-fil-A customers. It launched June 1, and within three days had been downloaded a whopping one million times.