According to the 2015 American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), overall customer satisfaction with fast-food restaurants dropped 3.8% to 77, the lowest score in five years. The report highlighted trends that have recently rocked the fast-food industry. For example, much of the industry’s decline was attributed to McDonald's Corp.'s performance. The company came in the last place, falling 6% to a score of 67. In a statement, McDonald’s said it is “always listening” to customers and appreciates hearing feedback “as it helps us improve and evolve.” Nevertheless, despite its efforts to become more customer-centric, the company has struggled to appeal to customers who increasingly desire fresher, healthier food and, as a result, has experienced declining sales for some time.
However, there was one stand-out in the ACSI report, Chick-fil-A, a company which not long ago suffered one of the worst customer backlashes in recent memory, an episode which resulted in plummeting satisfaction scores. Surprisingly, the Atlanta-based chicken chain, once the focus of intense gay-rights protests, emerged in the top spot. The company saw the highest score recorded by a fast-food restaurant: 86 out of 100. Somehow, Chick-fil-A had managed to overcome its checkered reputation, beating out not only McDonald’s but also every other fast food business during a time of industry stagnation. Here’s how.
The Customer’s Voice Comes First
Chick-fil-A recovered from its customer backlash, and overcame the competition, by doing two things. It kept its social and political opinions to itself and implemented numerous ways to interact with customers to find out what was truly important: what did they think? The company realized that knowing its customers was critical to better serving them as well as its own lasting future.
Creating an exceptional customer experience based on customer's voice became the company’s number one priority, building loyalty its number one goal. Chick-fil-A took steps to actively engage with customers, for instance, responding to concerns about its menu offerings.
It improved engagement and gathered customer insights using two key approaches:
- Social Media: According to one study, Chick-fil-A leads in social media engagement. Followers on Instagram and Twitter are quite high but, perhaps most impressive, is the number of followers it has on Facebook: nearly 7.5 million. A quick scroll through the page reveals that the company is constantly responding to customers’ complaints, compliments and feedback. Their feedback is taken seriously, assuring customers that their opinions are important and appreciated. This back-and-forth exchange both encourages loyalty and extends the high-level customer service customers receive in a Chick-fil-A restaurant.
- Surveys: In addition to holding traditional focus groups and providing customers with general feedback forms, the company also conducts focused online surveys. Questions focus on four factors that typically affect fast-food loyalty: taste, speed, service, and cleanliness. Each restaurant, then, receives a two-page report detailing how it's doing in each area and how it compares to the chain's top performers.
Whether it’s through social media or feedback surveys, Chick-fil-A is always interacting with its customers. And because conversations are never one-sided, both customers and Chick-fil-A experience a greater appreciation for one another.
Customers Lead the Way
Despite having fewer locations, only 1,700 compared to competitor KFC’s 4.491, Chick-fil-A has become a sizeable threat within the fast food landscape, due in large part to its ability to collect and act on customer feedback. In a relatively short amount of time, the company has managed to generate an enthusiastic following, meeting customer demands in ways that other fast food giants cannot. Most recently, the company has announced that – based on consumer feedback – it will only serve antibiotic-free chicken and remove high fructose corn syrup and dyes from its recipes. Meanwhile, McDonald’s continues to struggle to meet these same customer demands.
Chick-fil-A’s willingness to listen and respond to its loyal – and critical – customers, ultimately improves its customer experience, placing it well beyond the reach of its competitors. There is no question that its ability to effectively use consumer feedback sets it apart from the crowd. Seeking out customer opinions helps it choose the most profitable directions for growth and inspire fresh ideas that appeal to customers. In other words, customer feedback helps it to improve its brand value and consistently deliver that value to its customers.