You Gotta Serve Somebody

Guest Post by Dee Ann TurnerVP of Enterprise Social Responsibility for Chick-fil-A

One of the things that I love about working for my organization is the commitment to service. Sure, we have a commitment to serve our guests, but we also serve one another.

One time, I spent a week with leaders in another organization. These were truly some outstanding people for whom I have deep love and respect, but during the course of the week, while I was under their leadership, I noticed a certain anxiety building in me.

By the end of the week, I identified the anxiety. It was the absence of being in the presence of servant leadership. During this time with these leaders, they practiced privilege rather than service. When there was a line, they were at the front. When we ate, they were served first. At events, they had premium seating. When others needed help, they allowed someone else to do it.

The absence of servant leadership that I experienced helped me to value what I may have taken for granted in my organization. Leadership is a tremendous responsibility to not only lead, but also to serve those we lead. In my organization, it is imbedded into our culture that leaders are the first to arrive and the last to leave.

Leaders ensure that everyone is served before serving themselves. They give deference to others and do not expect, nor accept privilege.

For a number of years, I had the privilege of reporting to a leader that both modeled and taught servant leadership. This particular executive began working as a teenager in a restaurant for a leader that provided a servant leadership model for him to follow. Thirty-five years later, this executive has personally modeled the same servant leadership that he learned from his boss when he was a teenager.

The impact of one person on one teenage team employee, later turned executive has helped shape the behaviors of an entire organization. Thousands of employees have been tremendously influenced to put service above privilege and millions of customers have received remarkable service experiences.

What are a few key behaviors of servant leadership?

  1. Don’t expect others to do what you are unwilling to do. One of the things that I learned from my leader was working side by side with my staff is very important. When they are in the trenches, I need to be in the trenches with them. When there is a challenging opportunity, we need to be right beside helping to solve the problem. He is a leader that won’t be found in the box seats at the game, but instead, working alongside employees that are serving the fans in the stands.
  2. Acknowledge that every member of the team is important. In traveling to some of our business outlets with my leader, I watched as the very first thing he did was to introduce himself to every member of the team, learning names and asking questions to know them better. He rarely forgets a face or a name and people often feel valued that he takes the time to know them personally. Like his his boss did for him when he was a teenager, he remembers to thank everyone for their service.
  3. If there is a line, be the last one in it. Recently, I attended a company-wide event and we provided bus transportation for all of our employees to the event. As 1,200 people took turns boarding the buses, this same executive was the very last one on the last bus. All the while, he was talking and visiting with employees using the time to catch up both personally and professionally with people from all areas of the company. Putting others above yourself is the hallmark of a servant leader.
  4. Share opportunities and privileges with those who might otherwise never have the opportunity. Not long after I joined my company, I was flying on a charter flight with my husband to our annual company meeting. I was an entry level employee and just grateful to be invited to the meeting. When we boarded the plane, we found our seats in first class. I watched as company executives passed through the first class section to the take their seats in the economy cabin.
  5. Be inclusive. Another leader in my company, who calls himself the ‘curator of the culture,’ learned from his father, the founder, and knows that inclusivity is important to creating and growing a compelling culture. He seeks opinions and spends time with employees in all areas of the business and particularly enjoys connecting with leaders and employees in our business outlets.

At our corporate office, there are no reserved parking spots for executives or private executive dining rooms. The 350 plus capacity childcare center is available on a first come, first served basis available to all full-time employees. The fitness center and the free group training and exercise classes operate on the same basis.

Award winning leaders in the business units often have special celebrations to share their honors with their employees who have helped them achieve high goals. This type of inclusivity strengthens the culture at all levels of the organization. Individuals truly feel a part of the mission of the organization and feel treated with honor, dignity and respect.

Simon Sinek wrote in his book, Leaders Eat Last, “The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”

It's My Pleasure BookYou want to be a leader? Find somebody to serve.

Dee Ann Turner is the VP of Enterprise Social Responsibility for Chick-fil-A, a national speaker, and author of, “It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and A Compelling Culture.

A Spot-On Example Of Extending Advertising Into Customer Experience by Chick-fil-A

This story was originally published on Forbes:

This is the story of a renegade cow. Nearly two decades ago, paintbrush in mouth, a cow painted three words on a billboard… EAT MOR CHIKIN. It was an instant success.

Created by Dallas-based The Richards GroupEat Mor Chikin was introduced in 1995 as merely a three-dimensional outdoor advertising execution.  The campaign was so well received that The Richards Group and Chick-fil-A turned the billboard concept into an integrated campaign. Early extensions included  in-store point-of-purchase materials and a radio commercial. Two years later in 1997 the cows would make their TV debut. The following year an annual calendar was created. All mediums were leveraged. Rising to new heights in 2008, the cows covertly painted their first water tower. The Cows were not only popular, they were like-able. In 2011, their Facebook page was created and they now boast over 750,000 fans.

I’m a fan of the cows, yet I feel that traditional advertising (no matter how cute) tends to fall short because it only caters to the eyes and the ears. Great brands find ways to extend advertising to create experiences that reach their hearts of their customers. One extension of the Cows campaign creates an engaging experience. Enter Cow Appreciation Day every July. This year Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country celebrated the 10th anniversary of the chain-wide event honoring their beloved Cows.


According to Chick-fil-A, more than 900,000 cow-dressed customers hoofed out to Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide for Cow Appreciation Day last year. The chain now boasts a fully dedicated website for the event and expects to host more than one million cow-clad guests. They’ve provided incentives for fans. Dress partially as a cow and you receive a free entree. Dress head to toe and you receive an entire free combo meal.

Chick-fil-A has a nicknames for customers who dress up. They are called “raving fans.” Of the seven to 10 million people eating at its restaurant each week, this is a rabid subset, about 10 to 15 percent of its total audience. They typically visit Chick-fil-A four or more times each month.Chick-fil-A also captures stories of customers on their website. This story called “Year of the Cows” comes from mskripsky:

For the past six years, my friends and I have celebrated Cow Appreciation Day at our local Chick-fil-A. Although we’ve been getting older through the years, it has never stopped us from having a memorable night. We gather at my house, dress up like a cow, take a ton of silly pictures and head to Chick-fil-A.

Each year we have about 10 friends or so line up in a conga line and chant “moo moo moo moo moo” as we enter the restaurant. Of course every employee and customer just stares at us, but it’s nice to see everyone smile and some even join in. The best part is seeing the store managers face gleaming and saying that was the highlight of his night.

This year will be our last year together, as all of us have gotten married are going to med school or are moving away. However, we are still hoping our legacy of Cow Appreciation Day will carry on.

I love how Chick-fil-A celebrates it customers and encourages them to be creative. Need help to create your own costume? No problem, Chick-fil-A provides a starter kit of ideas and resources.

Fun events at Chick-fil-A are a staple for the brand. Daddy-Daughter Date Nights are an annual event. Not to leave Mom’s out, just last year the restaurant created a medieval-themed event called Mother-Son Date Knight.“One of Chick-fil-A’s goals is to promote community connections and enrich the lives of everyone we come in contact with,” says Erik Amick, a Chick-fil-A franchise operator. Even infants are given consideration. This is perhaps my favorite little extra at my localChick-fil-A in Cary, NC. It’s tiny cups of Cheerios for customers in training.

Photo Credit: Stan Phelps

Does your brand create opportunities to connect with consumers? Are you creating a legacy experience like Cow Appreciation Day?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – The Phelps family got into the act this year. Jenn did an awesome job on the costumes:

jenn and james chickfila cow appreciation day

SpringHill Suites by Marriott puts an unexpected spin on driving loyalty for its best customers

A Golden Moment

OK, here’s the situation. Imagine you are checking in at your hotel. Let’s call it SpringHill Suites by Marriott. The front desk notices that you are an elite member of their rewards program. They thank you for your patronage and then say,

“We appreciate your business and would like to give you an opportunity to win some additional points for your stay with us.”

All of a sudden they bring out a customized Wheel of Fortune game and ask you to “Spin It to Win It.”

Springhill Suites Spin to Win Wheel

This was the story shared with me by my former colleague at Synergy Events Keith Green. It’s a nice example of a Golden Goldfish. A little something extra you offer to your Top 20% of customers. Marriott Elite Members get that unexpected fun experience of spinning to win.

Everyone Gets a Spin

The spin wheel has shown up in the past. #910 in the Purple Goldfish Project was taken from an experience at Reynolds Farms:
reynolds farms
Started in 1959, Reynolds Farms Nursery and Country Garden Center is based in Norwalk, CT. At Reynolds you’ll find ideas for every lawn and garden challenge plus décor.
Separated by less than a kilometer, Reynolds is miles apart from the Home Depot in the realm of customer experience.  Before walking into the nursery, me and my two young boys encountered a goldfish pond. One of the associates came out and asked Thomas and James if they’d like to feed the fish.  While the boys were feeding the fish, the staff helped me locate what I needed.  Upon checking out I noticed a “spin to win” wheel. The staff informed me that every purchase at Reynolds is entitled to a spin. They were gracious enough to allow both of the boys to have a spin.  We went 0 for 2 unfortunately, but the staff offered the boys each a lollipop. The Phelps’ family left with smiles on our faces.

Spinning it and Paying it Forward

Chick-fil-A also uses the spin-to-win wheel. The restaurant bring it out to help fundraising for local schools. The give back a percentage of sales for school sponsored days. The wheel is run by volunteers from the school and its a nice way to draw attention to the cause. Each spin costs $1.00. All proceeds go to the school and Chick-fil-A hands out gift cards for free food and drinks. Everyone is a winner.
Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Let’s go back 25 years ago for an interesting handful of spins on the Wheel of Fortune:

Move over Chick-fil-A, PDQ puts a fresh take on both fast food and CX

PDQ CX Takeaways

chick-fil-a cheerios

Cheerios for Chick-fil-A customers in training

I’m a Chick-fil-A devotee. I consider being close to the “inventor of the chicken sandwich” as one of the major plusses of my recent move to Cary, North Carolina. Last year I wrote a post entitled, “Move over Big Mac: Here Comes 10 Little Marketing Lessons from the Folks at Chick-fil-A.” Chick-fil-A gets customer experience when it comes to both value and maintenance. They are a Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer (see slideshare).

Now Enter PDQ

In the last six months, another QSR focused on poultry has entered the Triangle. Hailing from Florida, PDQ (People Dedicated to Quality) is a fast-casual restaurant specializing in hand-breaded chicken tenders, hand-tossed salads, sandwiches, fresh cut fries and hand spun milkshakes and malts. According to their website,

“The restaurant was founded on the concept that high-quality food, memorable service and genuine hospitality are the cornerstones to a great restaurant.”

Welcoming staff, wonderful hot tenders and an assortment of homemade sauces. I was smitten after my first trip and have returned many times. I visited last week with my Father in Law Fred Wills.

Here is Fred’s account:

me and fred wills“Accompanied by my daughter’s family, we were introduced to PDQ (“People Dedicated to Quality) in Cary, NC. A bright, clean and attractive restaurant staffed by friendly, welcoming personnel. Matthew introduced himself when we entered. Upon learning that we were from Connecticut and visiting for the holidays, he demonstrated true southern hospitality. We were treated to a FREE beverage with our roasted (no preservatives, Butterball) turkey sandwich that contained a slab of cranberry.

We were most impressed with the following at PDQ

– courteous, friendly service
– a free coupon with our meal
– meals, cooked to order
– a wash station conveniently located outside of the restrooms
– two (2) ladies rooms

It was an overall highly enjoyable experience. I hope to see PDQ establish restaurants in the near future in New England.”

9 CX Takeaways from PDQ

pdq pedestal

Keith hands me my fresh meal

#1. Your name is the sweetest sound – PDQ asks for your name when you order. Food is handed out on a pedestal by a manager, “Stan – Your Fresh Meal is Ready” is announced via microphone. It’s a great consistent way to #1. demonstrate hospitality, #2. reinforce a key message and #3. maintain the quality of preparation. Convenient and so much nice than, “Number 384.”

images-5#2. Color Me Good – Workers at PDQ wear three colors. It’s dead simple. Back of house wears black, front of house wears green and the managers wear a white chef coat.

photo (22)

#3. Wash Stations – This is genius especially for families. PDQ has a wash station conveniently located outside the bathrooms. There is nothing worse than trying to get your kids to wash their hands before eating in a crowded or dirty bathroom.


#4. Half-Price Shakes Every Day – If you are going to run a special, be consistent and run it every day. This is so simple, but it gets missed. Case in point: If you are in Portland,  the pub Kell’s plays live Irish music seven days a week. No one ever has to ask themselves, “I wonder if they are playing live music tonight at Kell’s?” Likewise, shakes at PDQ are 1/2 price every day from 3-5 p.m.

pdq open concept

#5. Open Prep – Keep it open. Similar to Five Guys, I like how the kitchen is fairly open. To drive the point home, PDQ even has a window where you can watch the team prep while using the drive-thru.

pdq cheerwine

#6. Local Flavor – Even if you are a chain, make attempts to adopt something local. For PDQ in NC, that’s a soft drink called Cheerwine. A burgundy-red soft drink. This hypercarbonated cherry concoction is named for its appearance. Established in 1917 in Salisbury, it is considered by many as “the Nectar of North Carolina” and enjoys a cult following. Some call it “adult crack.”

#7. T-Shirt Shakes – Buy a T-shirt at PDQ and when you wear it on future visits you get a complimentary milkshake with your meal.

#8. Repeat After Me, “May I” – PDQ repeats your order after they take it and asks for confirmation. I know this irks some people, but for the 98.7% of us who like our order to be right this is a welcome step. Similar to Chick-fil-A, PDQ also comes around to clean tables. It’s a nice gesture and I like the language they use. “May I take that for you?”

coca cola freestyle at PDQ

#9. Freestyle Soda – This is a hit with my 6 and 7 year old boys. The Coca Cola freestyle machine allows for 100+ different options of soft drinks.

I’m going to pirate a famous quote by Mark Twain. He famously said, ‘There are only two types of people in this world. Those that have been to Taj Mahal… and those who haven’t.” Which category are you in for PDQ? If you’ve been, what was your experience like?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra for good measure) – Wanna look inside PDQ? Here is Brooks Briz from the Falls of Neuse store in Raleigh:

At QSR’s, convenience is key to the customer experience

Lessons from McDonald’s, Starbucks, Five Guys and Chick-fil-A

There are two types of glue (giving little unexpected extras) in customer experience. Those that address value and those that address maintenance. The goal is to be seen as high value and low maintenance. Value is the “what” of CX and maintenance is the “how.”  In What’s Your Purple Goldfish, the book describes 12 ways to exceed expectations. Six of those ways focus on maintenance, including the concept of being convenient. For Quick Service Restaurants (QSR’s), this is key to the customer experience. Let’s look at some examples from the top QSR’s:


Thanks to Mark Beal of Taylor for sharing today’s article in the WSJ on McDonald’s. McDonald’s is making efforts to improve the ordering process to create efficiency. The article is entitled, “McDonald’s Tackles Repair of ‘Broken’ Service.” Here is an excerpt:

In a webcast McDonald’s executives held with franchise owners last month, the company said 1 in 5 customer complaints are related to friendliness issues “and it’s increasing,” according to a slide from the presentation reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The webcast identified the top complaint as “rude or unprofessional employees.”

One slide said that complaints about speed of service “have increased significantly over the past six months.” Another mentioned that customers find service “chaotic.”

images-1The company has now missed Wall Street estimates for the last two quarters. Action is needed. Part of the solution involves a new dual point ordering system. Customers order with cashiers to the right. They then move to the left until there number is called. Customers offer their receipt which gets scanned to eliminate it from the system. Employees called “Runners” have been added to assist with the process. The food is supposed to be presented with a thank you, a smile and request to come back soon. Early reports are favorable. Accuracy and speed have improved. The jury is still out on attitude.


images-3According to the book “Uncommon Service” by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, Starbucks worked for years to train customers how to correctly order their drinks. They understood how this would improve efficiency, making the process more convenient. To support the program, they created collateral showing the progression of how to order. One thing they did was absolute genius. They would never correct you when you ordered, but they would always confirm your drink by saying it back to you in the correct way. This not only played a role in educating the ordering customer, but to also inform those waiting in line. The result: Improved efficiency and happy customers. [Still need help? FYI – there is now an app called Starbucks Drink Caller]

Five Guys

Five Guys numberingFive Guys Burgers and Fries has an interesting way to communicate what’s been ordered. Thanks for Sal Vilardo of PR Giraffe for pointing out the numbering system. Each burger ordered is given in a number on the receipt. Employees then package the burgers with corresponding stickers. The best ideas are sometimes the simplest.


chick-fil-a cheeriosThanks to AENC Executive Director Jim Thompson for sharing this gem. A Chick-fil-A restaurant in Raleigh is offering a convenient solution for families dining at the restaurant. The restaurant is encouraging families to order at the drive-thru window. After paying the families are instructed to park and enter the restaurant. Upon entering their food is already set up at a table. This eliminates the painful process of ordering with your kids running around everywhere. Anyone with kids can attest that herding cats may be simpler than the ordering process. It also allows for better utilization of the tables in the restaurants. Just one more thoughtful way that Chick-fil-A is making things convenient. [My absolute favorite is the little one ounce containers of Cheerios. My local Chick-fil-A has a sign that says they are for “customers in training”]

How are you making things more convenient for your customers?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – I mentioned the book Uncommon Service earlier. Here is an infographic for the book:


In marketing, actions speak louder than words. What’s your frugal wow?

The majority of this article was previously posted on Switch & Shift, where I have the privilege of being part of the League of Extraordinary Thinkers:

Marketing is Changing

surrender dorothy madison avenueWe’re not in Kansas any more
Sorry Dorothy, your brand is no longer what you say it is. It’s now what your customers say it is. Companies can no longer hide behind big marketing campaigns. Words and marketing speak by Madison Avenue can no longer mask mediocre products. Today’s customer is an educated and empowered consumer. And your competition is now only a click, tap or swipe away.
What’s a Brand to do?
Forget about chasing and catering to the prospect. I believe the answer lies within taking care of customers first. Aim for increasing satisfaction and creating positive word of mouth. Turning your loyal customers into your best marketing asset.
Loyalty can be a competitive differentiator

fred reichheld ultimate question

The industry standard to gauge loyalty is called the Net Promoter Score or better known as NPS. The score was created by Fred Reichheld, a Senior Fellow at Bain & Co. The New York Times credits Fred for putting the concept on the map, but The Economist goes one step further to ordain him as the “High Priest” of Loyalty.
What Reichheld found with his research is that its nearly impossible to grow a profitable business without the loyalty of your customers. It has been shown that loyalty leaders grow 2.6 times as fast as their competitors.
The NPS system consists of exactly one question or in the words of Reichheld’s book on the subject, “The Ultimate Question.” It is presented to the customer in the form of the following, “On a 0 to 10 scale (10 being the highest) how likely would you be to recommend _______ to a colleague or a friend?” The single score comes from taking the percentage 10’s and 9’s (promoters) and subtracting them from the percentage of 6’s and below (detractors). The 7’s and 8’s are considered passives and therefore are not counted.

how to calculate nps

How Can You Improve Your Score?

I recently had a chance to hear Fred Reichheld speak at the 2012 Compete Through Service Symposium hosted by ASU’s Center for Services Leadership. Reichheld spent a great deal of time talking about “frugal wow.” A frugal wow is an inexpensive way of making the customer feel valued. For example, at Chick-fil-A that includes a warm welcome, needs that are anticipated, active service recovery, and providing remarkable experiences (here is a post that contains a Top 10 list from Chick-fil-A.)

I caught up with Fred after his talk. We discussed the concept of the Purple Goldfish and the idea of giving little unexpected extras (g.l.u.e.) I also asked why he spent the majority of his talk on “frugal wow.” Reichheld explained that it was because of the ability to influence NPS. The message was clear. NPS is a barometer, but companies need to invest into the experience.

The need for innovation and Trojan Mice
Everyone wants to go to heaven, but few are willing to pay the price. Actions speak louder than words when it comes to customer experience. I believe brands need to start taking small steps to add value to the experience.  Rome wan’t built in a day. Here is a great analysis by Peter Fryar on the concept of trojanmice:

“Much change is of the ‘Trojan horse’ variety. The planned changes are presented at a grand event (the Trojan Horse) amid much loud music, bright lights and dry ice. More often than not, however, a few weeks later the organization will have settled back into its usual ways and rejected much of the change. This is usually because the change was too great to be properly understood and owned by the workforce. Trojanmice, on the other hand, are small, well focused changes, which are introduced on an ongoing basis in an inconspicuous way. They are small enough to be understood and owned by all concerned but their effects can be far-reaching. Collectively a few trojanmice will change more than one Trojan horse ever could.”

Admittedly, Peter is talking more about the employee experience. But the same logic can be applied to innovating in customer experience. I believe little things can truly make a difference. They become beacons along the journey from being an “also ran” to becoming a “loyalty leader.” Maybe the ultimate question is really,

What are your Frugal Wows?”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Not only should we be asking What? But we should also be asking Why? A new friend Sharon E. Reed recommended I watch the following Ted talk by Simon Sinek. Powerful stuff. I dare you to only watch it once:

This video forced me to think about the WHY of 9 INCH MARKETING? Here is my current thinking:

WHY? I believe marketing needs to change. For too long marketing has been about chasing the prospect and bowing to quarterly results. It needs to start first with the employee and then focus squarely on the customer. Brands need to adopt a surplus mindset of giving. Marketing needs to be less about the eyes /ears and more about doing the little extras on the journey to the heart.

HOW? Writing and speaking to evangelize the need for change and celebrate those who are winning via marketing g.l.u.e (giving little unexpected extras)

WHAT? Books, Keynotes, Webinars, Seminars, Workshop, Strategy Sessions, Consulting