Customer Service a Serious Differentiator in Competitive Fast Food Market
Customer engagement wasn’t considered a high priority at fast food restaurants for many decades. Convenience, affordable prices and delicious addicting foods were traditionally compelling factors that have kept customers returning despite spotty and inconsistent service.
Times have certainly changed, and fast food restaurants are struggling to maintain market share in an increasingly competitive landscape. Customer service and engagement are now key differentiators and can make or break a restaurant’s standing in this new climate.
Superior customer service elevated Chick-fil-A to the top of the heap in the U.S. fast-food chain wars last year. The company averaged nearly $4 million in sales per restaurant, beating out all their competitors, and customer service played a role in that success. The restaurant chain topped the American Customer Service Index’s annual ranking last year, beating out 15 other restaurant chains. Satisfied customers noted that Chick-fil-A employees were the most likely to say “please” and “thank you” as well as smile at drive-thru customers.
One of the reasons Chick-fil-A has been able to offer superior customer service is the way the company is structured, with franchisees operating just one location each. This setup facilitates more hands-on training in the areas of customer service and engagement, which are often overlooked by franchises with multiple locations.
Arby’s falls into the latter category, and with 3,300 worldwide locations, the company only began to make customer service a higher priority a few years ago. Spurned by the success of Chick-fil-A, the company instituted an annual Brand Champ training program in 2014 that all employees are required to attend. The training is designed to empower employees by explaining the company’s operating tenets, facilitating better employer/employee engagement. This ultimately leads to better customer service and engagement, and Arby’s American Customer Satisfaction Index scores rose 8 percent year-over-year after the program was instituted.
Not to be left behind in the chicken race, KFC rolled out its “Re-Colonelization” initiative earlier this year, instituting employee retraining and committing to improving customer service and satisfaction. KFC spent more than 100,000 hours retraining its employees and the effort paid off – sales and taste scores have increased substantially.
As traditional fast food restaurants face increased competition with new and diverse alternatives entering the marketplace, customer service is a massive differentiator. Those that fail to improve their customer service practices may find themselves crowded out of the market by their friendly, polite competitors.
Edited by Alicia Young