When I was a boy growing up in rural Georgia, my mother always stopped at the same gas station for gas… Dixon’s Service Center located on Highway 15 in Blackshear, Georgia. By all accounts the facilities left a lot to be desired. It was an aged building with the proverbial grease and oil stains on the pavement and pine pollen blanketing the windowsills. Any passerby or weary traveler might think twice if she was looking for a place to fill up and rest up before continuing her journey.
However, what Dixon’s lacked in aesthetic appeal it made up for in service. I mean real service. No matter the weather, any car that pulled in for gas was met at the pump by a smiling member of the Dixon family with greasy hands and a southern drawl. They never failed to call my mother by her name as they pumped her gas, cleaned her windshield and checked any other array of metrics that she might have concerns about. We never even had to get out of the car.
Now you might think that I am reminiscing romantically about customer service in a bygone era that no longer exists. To that notion I say, not a chance. Our world of automation and self-service might have begun with plans to eliminate labor costs, but it has been transformed by our desire for instant gratification. Why should actual employees be replaced by machines in order to achieve quicker and better service and satisfy our need for ‘right now’? In short, because very few companies hire for personality and work ethic, even fewer spend time training those employees to provide stellar service, and virtually none maintain a customer centric culture that revolves around face-to-face engagement.
Don’t believe me? Let me ask you this…if Chic-fil-a added digital ordering boards to their lobbies, would you choose to use them or would you still prefer the human experience? If you’re like me you would still choose the human experience. Why? Because I know that employee will help me navigate the ordering and payment process much faster than I could by interacting with a digital board.
Now head over to McDonald’s where they actually have digital ordering boards. Which would you choose? If you’re like me you would choose the digital boards. Why? For the exact same reason. I know that I can navigate those boards and get my order in faster myself than I can by interacting with their infamously average customer service reps.
The crux of the conversation lands here. People want their time to be respected and they are willing to pay for that. If I were OK with waiting fifteen minutes to get my food I would not be at McDonalds. I would be at a fast casual or full service restaurant. And it is precisely because of consistently unimpressive service that I will choose Chic-fil-a over most other QSR’s if given the opportunity. No doubt most everyone feels the same way which is one of the main reasons why Chic-fil-a has the highest average unit volume in the industry.
Given the absence of a significant line of people waiting, I’ll choose a smiling, friendly, well trained and knowledgeable human over a machine every time.
Now if I could can only get a real customer service rep on the phone without having to listen to 9 different automated questions…none of which understand my southern accent.
Tra Williams is a celebrated speaker, business consultant and author of the forthcoming book Feed Your Unicorn. He is a nationally recognized thought leader in small business, franchising, leadership and entrepreneurship. Tra works tirelessly with people, professionals, and organizations to help them define success on their own terms and build the framework required to sustain it. For more information, please visit: www.TraWilliams.com.