Building a Loyal Customer Base

As I am writing this article, it is Tuesday afternoon, and in my mind, that means only one thing – it’s “Family Night” at my local Chick-fil-A and kids eat free!  Yes, there are numerous restaurants in the area that offer similar deals on Tuesday, but these other tempting offers have done little to persuade me from breaking from my weekly routine of the last two years.  It is true, I’m not saving loads of money with the promotion, but my family and I have developed such a strong loyalty to this franchise that we don’t see ourselves straying from the routine.

In the ultra-competitive fast-food industry, where speed takes priority and customer service usually takes a back seat, Chick-fil-A has developed a great recipe for success that has translated into 43 consecutive years of positive sales growth and a loyal customer following that can’t be beat.  Ingredients to this “recipe” include the following:

Delivering unexpected service touches: At the end of each interaction, customers won’t hear “You’re welcome” or “Come back and see us.”   Instead, customers will hear these two words:  “My pleasure.”  It’s distinctive and classy, and the type of service you expect at a much fancier and expensive establishment.  You will also frequently find an employee circulating the restaurant to obtain refills, condiments, etc. for customers, and this roaming employee will even assist customers in carrying food to the tables and discarding their trash.  These service touches are ones that people don’t expect from a fast-food restaurant and ones that help set the franchise apart from the competition.  When you think about your branch environment, are there service touches that are being made that set you apart from your competitors?  Small touches like tellers asking if there is anything else he/she can do to help the customer, or platform employees standing to greet the customer.  These touches will go a long way in creating a memorable customer experience, which in turn, will help strengthen customer loyalty.

Understanding the “voice of the customer”: Chick-fil-A continually conducts focus groups and surveys by web and phone.  The questions focus on the factors during the customers’ interaction that most affect loyalty according to Chick-fil-A research:  taste, speed, attentiveness and courteousness, and cleanliness.  Each restaurant receives the results from the survey and is able to gauge performance vs. the chain’s top performers.  Do you have programs in place to listen to your customers?  Are your customers able to see that you’ve listened to them by observing changes in your branches based on the feedback received?  Customers that feel their opinion is important are more likely to become loyal fans of your bank.

Rewarding loyal customers: When the chain opens a new restaurant, the first 100 through the door of the new restaurant receive a year’s worth of free meals.  Lines form days in advance and these events attract “raving fans” from across the country.  The new store also goes out of its way to find Chick-fil-A fans in the area that are asked to serve as Chick-fil-A ambassadors.  These ambassadors are given 10 free meal coupons to circulate to friends and family, or others who have limited experience with the franchise.  What actions are you taking to create “raving fans” at your branch?  Simple behaviors such as using your customer’s name, smiling, making eye contact and thanking them for their business can go a long way in making the customer feel important and valued.  If these behaviors are performed with each and every interaction, you’ll be rewarded with an increase in the number of loyal “ravings fans” of your branch.

Maintaining consistency: At Chick-fil-A, consistency is key.  Regardless of the location, customers can always expect great service and high quality food, at a restaurant that is clean with a friendly atmosphere.  Standard service behaviors across the franchise include the aforementioned responding with “My pleasure” when thanked by a customer, utilizing a “roaming” employee to assist customers with various requests, and smiling when greeting the customer.  What actions are you taking to ensure consistent service at your branch?  As a manager, are you observing teller and platform interactions on a daily basis to ensure the non-negotiable behaviors are being performed with each and every customer interaction?  Do you have a coaching plan in place to correct any “miscues” in consistently performing these behaviors?

With my hundreds of interactions with the franchise, I can positively attest that their recipe is one that translates into a loyal customer following, and one that continually delivers an exceptional customer experience.  Chick-fil-A is doing the right thing by putting customers first.

Are you following the Chick-fil-A recipe for creating loyal clients – are clients getting unexpected service touches, are you listening and improving based on their feedback?  Are you offering consistent levels of service throughout your entire organization?