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Chick-fil-A Shines Brightly On a Rainy Day in Georgia

October 14, 2009
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I fear we’ve lost our way.

As businesspeople, we often react with such shocking shortsightedness that we fail to see into next year, maybe even into next week.

Remember when running a business didn’t include worrying about selecting the right mobile device, our Web site’s Google ranking, or generating more Twitter followers?

Successful businesses strived to look beyond numbers, ratios and rankings.

There was period in the 1980s and 1990s when a company’s performance was measured largely by how well it served its customers. Executives stumbled over each other in order to offer customers a truly incredible experience.

Best-selling books generated much of the customer-centric focus. In 1985, Tom Peters co-authored A Passion for Excellence. In 1989, Stephen Covey released The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In 1991, Carl Sewell released a little jewel called Customers For Life.

These books popularized the belief that good products, good character and truly great customer service could generate deep, loyal relationships between service providers and receivers. Leaders devoured these principles and created wildly successful businesses.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced little great customer service lately. I’ve been underwhelmed by retail and commercial services, and also by three home-repair companies this summer.

And honestly, I don’t always provide superior service to my customers. I know I should.

Perhaps that’s why I was so inspired by a visit to Chick-fil-A in Atlanta (Windy Hill Road for those of you nearby). In Michigan, we don’t have Chick-fil-A restaurants.

With an hour before my next business meeting, I lugged in my computer bag, expecting some “oh brother” stares from workers and diners.

But the treatment I received blew me away. The woman taking my order saw I was carrying a bag and insisted on personally carrying my tray. I sat at a long wooden counter designed with electrical outlets for laptop-lugging patrons like me.

Several staff members came by and cheerfully asked to remove my tray or get me something. I noticed every employee seemed to take a personal interest in serving customers, including walking them to their cars with umbrellas during a downpour.

But the key moment for me was when I asked a guy cleaning the spot next to me to explain the policy on refilling beverages. Here’s how he responded:

“Sir, this is Chick-fil-A. You are welcome to as many refills as you want and to stay here as long as you wish. Allow me to refill your cup. What are you drinking?”

Moments later the cleanup guy, who turned out to be the store manager, returned with a full cup of the sports drink I was enjoying. He encouraged me to linger all day, and return every day to do the same.

I was tempted to move to Atlanta just so I could eat lunch there daily. The food was quite good, but it was the great service that made me want to return, which I will do the next time I visit Atlanta.

Since that meal, I’ve been asking myself what can I do to provide incredible service to my customers. What can BNP Media do that would make readers linger longer in our publications, Web sites, Webinars and e-Newsletters? Not just today, but every day?

I invite you to let me know your thoughts by posting to this blog or e-mail me at fauscht@bnpmedia.

What about your business? When’s the last time you blew away your customer, not just with good work, but truly great service?

Now that would be worth tweeting about.
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