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Harris Blackwood: Chick-fil-A has the trick of customer service mastered
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

I don’t know how many people who eat at Chick-fil-A have ever stayed at a Ritz-Carlton hotel, but according to several stories, the late Truett Cathy did.

According to the legend, he said “thank you” to an employee at one of the luxury hotels “My pleasure,” the employee replied.

Apparently, this registered with Cathy, who insisted that his employees at his chicken sandwich chain follow suit.

I’ll be honest, it sometimes rings a little hollow, but if you can teach a teenage worker a bit of hospitality, you’ve done a good day’s work.

Chick-fil-A makes a pretty good chicken sandwich. Others have tried to emulate the Chick-fil-A product, but they haven’t matched them.

One thing the Georgia chicken folks have mastered is moving people. A couple of years ago, my daughter and I went to New York City where Chick-fil-A had opened their first store in the Big Apple.

Folks were lined up to the door, but they had a crew of people moving them into a line to place their order and helped them find a seat. Inside the store traffic moved smooth as silk.

Many of their new stand-alone stores feature a double lane drive through. At lunch and breakfast, when folks are many cars deep waiting to place an order, the management dispatches workers with a computer pad and a device for taking credit cards. There is also a person in the driveway that can take cash, if needed.

Once again, this whole moving-people-swiftly-through-a-line thing is a winner with customers.

Someone gave them a compliment on Facebook, “I wish Chick-fil-A would come and organize the car line at my child’s school.”

I have no doubt that a Chick-fil-A manager and a few of his helpers could come up with a working answer in no time.

Truett Cathy and his son, Dan, who now runs the company, have placed a high priority on customer service. Yes, the food is good, but when you drive in or walk in to one of their locations, you can rest assured that you’ll be greeted in a friendly manner and you’ll leave knowing it was their pleasure to serve you.

Brick and mortar retail stores are struggling these days to make customer service a reason to come into their establishment. If you want to know why some people are choosing to order online or order and pick it up at a store, you probably won’t have to dig too deep to find a customer service failure in the past.

On a trip last year to Salt Lake City, I noticed that almost all the fast food restaurants have clean-cut kids with a strong measure of politeness.

Dave, a friend of mine who is active in the Church of Latter Day Saints, says that it is instilled in the kids. “It’s a good example,” he said.

They don’t have to wear a special pin or some other symbol; you can pick them out right away.

Somehow, Chick-fil-A has been able to do something similar. Nice people, good manners and a willingness to make the customer happy. The retail merchants need to pay them a visit and learn a thing or too.

Hope you enjoyed this. Bringing it to you was my pleasure.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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