It’s not just the chicken

Father David Epps's picture

In our fast-paced, fast-food society we are used to getting what we want, conveniently, quickly, and at a reasonable price. The trade-off for this convenience has often been a loss of customer service. We have become accustomed to encountering people at the drive-thru windows who are surly, barely intelligible, and frequently unknowledgeable.

There is, however, one fast food chain that, in my experience at least, has been successful in providing employees that are polite, energetic, customer oriented, and attentive to details. In fact, these employees seem to be so glad that I am coming to buy a product from them that I often go away feeling good just for shopping there. The fast food chain? Chick-fil-A.

Although I have eaten at Chick-fil-A stores in numerous locations (including Orlando last week) a recent visit to Chick-fil-A in Peachtree City, Ga., confirmed what I had been thinking about the company for years. The inside employees serving at the counter were smiling, friendly, and attentive to the details of the order. When I received my order and said, “Thank you,” the response was, “My pleasure, sir.” Often, employees at other chains say nothing, grunt, or, more often, “No problem.”

I don’t like the term, “no problem.” I do not want employees of a business that I patronize to tell me that I have been “no problem.” I want them to be delighted that I chose to spend my money in their establishment and I want them to realize that, if not for paying customers, they wouldn’t have a job. I guess that’s why I like “My pleasure, sir,” far better than “No problem.”

Later in the meal, when I went to the counter to see if I could get a refill on the iced tea (unsweetened, four Splendas, and chock full of ice), the assistant manager came back to where I was waiting in line and said, “May I refresh that for you, sir?”

I like the word “refresh.” It sounds much better than my asking for a “refill,” which, somehow, causes me to think that I am begging and putting myself at the server’s mercy. “Refresh” is a word that conjures up thoughts of a spring rain on a newly mown lawn. But I wax poetic.

The young men and women who serve behind the counter or at the drive-thru window seem sharp, somehow. Smart. Poised. I often sense that I am being waited on by young people who will someday be making the big dollars or serving in some lofty capacity in their future lives. It’s not always so in some of the other chains.

There are times, when I patronize some other fast food chains, I am aware that the person waiting on me at the window may still be doing the same job a decade from now. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it seems to me that the Chick-fil-A people realize that the people they employ today will not always be with them and they are attempting to impart to them skills that will benefit them in the future. Certainly, people skills are invaluable in whatever career young people enter and these skills seem to be cultivated at every level in the Chick-fil-A organization.

I was talking to a businessman not too long ago and he said that, if he could, he would send all his employees to Chick-fil-A to receive training in customer service. Other businessmen have said the same. I once knew a pastor that used only airline flight attendants to serve as ushers in his rather large church. Wonder if he has ever been to Chick-fil-A?

It is often said that an organization’s most valuable asset is its people. That is certainly true in any organization that has face to face encounters with the public to sell a product.

I like stopping by Chick-fil-A occasionally, but it’s not just the chicken. I especially like the service and the smiles I receive from the employees. The chicken’s pretty good, but the employees are great!

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