Even when it seems that criticism and competition will make feathers fly at Chick-fil-A, headlines tell a different story. Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, we’ve been interested of late in the lessons community banks and credit unions can learn from success stories in other economic sectors, which brings us to Chick-fil-A.
Pull up a chair, grab some sweet tea – Chick-fil-A’s is like nectar – and listen in to some wisdom from the booming fast food giant that’s provided internal and external success. Specifically, we’ll look at five reasons Chick-fil-A has beaten back older, bigger, more established competition, and weathered even political attacks from politicians in the culture wars.
Most recently, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a boycott of Chick-fil-A in the city, because of the company president’s opposition to gay marriage. One columnist in the New York Post called the mayor’s stance, “a clucking travesty.”
Apparently for New Yorkers, a good chicken sandwich trumps politics any day of the week. In the wake of de Blasio’s call, hungry folks lined up around the block to patronize Manhattan Chick-fil-A restaurants, according to news reports.
You may not be able to fight city hall, but New Yorkers prove you sure can ignore it, especially when it comes to food.
But how does the restaurant manage not only to weather such publicity storms like the de Blasio business, but thrive? How has it managed to fry its competition in the “Chicken Wars”? And most important, what does the Chick-fil-A example mean for your community bank or credit union?
Just a bit of background on the success of the chain that started with one small Georgia eatery, but now has 1,700 locations. According to a story in Time magazine, Chick-fil-A overtook KFC in 2012 in terms of market share in the American limited service chicken segment of the fast food industry. Keep in mind that KFC has 4,491 stores, Time reported.
Here are five keys to the company’s success:
- Core Values: Chick-fil-A raised eyebrows in some circles for its decision long ago not to open on Sundays. The Cathy family, founders of the chain, are folks of deep faith, and refused to compromise its principles. Based on the earlier numbers concerning market share, closing on Sundays didn’t make a bottom line difference. In fact, truth be told, Chuck-fil-A’s values may have strengthened customer loyalty. Banks and credit unions need to establish and abide by their core values and make them known. It helps build ties that bind with customers and communities.
- Commitment to Excellence: I have a friend whose family grabs lunch from Chick-fil-A every Saturday. It’s standard operating procedure for the brood on a usually hectic day. In all the years of hitting the drive-thru, my friend has never been served an incorrect, or bad-tasting order. Keep in mind, my friend’s family of five always has a large order. Banks and credit unions must be committed to that same sort of excellence. Money matters to your customer, so you must be right.
- Customer knowledge: Chick-fil-A is sensitive to customer wants and preferences. It rolls out seasonal items, like a Peppermint milkshake during the holidays and a peach shake in the sweltering days of summer. It’s also responded to health-conscious diners with a kale salad and other low-calorie items. Banks need to know their customer preferences when it comes to marketing – is your demographic most interested in financial planning, college savings plans, retirement products? Banks must take the time not only to build relationships, but to mine data to learn what customers want.
- Careful Creativity: Here’s an idea as to why KFC has fallen behind Chick-fil-A in the “Chicken Wars”: It laid an egg with its ad campaign resurrecting the late KFC founder Harland Sanders through not one but three actors, Jim Gaffigan and “Saturday Night Live” alums Norm Macdonald and Darrell Hammond. While the company points to a 7 percent rise in sales, many consider the ads “distasteful.”
Meanwhile, kids have embraced the Chick-fil-A cows and the “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign that’s grown into costume contests at franchises and more. Chick-fil-A also partners with local schools and nonprofits for fundraising, using the cow to boost crowds.
Chick-fil-A has also partnered with college football in advertising and sponsorship. Baseball may be the national pastime, but college football is a big deal to many in Chick-fil-A’s target market.
When banks and credit unions market, be creative, but do so with care. One bad ad campaign can hurt. Find ways to tie the campaign to your community. It’s another tool to build customer loyalty.
- And last, celebrate your people: When a Chick-fil-A franchise hires an employee, it does so carefully. And it also asks the candidate about long-term goals. In turn, once that employee is part of the family, the company helps him/her meet that goal. Training, advancement, educational opportunities, all factor in to the equation. The end result is a high quality, happy staff. At your bank or credit union, don’t just fill a vacancy, recruit and hire for the long haul.
And here’s a bonus as summer approaches: On your next trip to Chick-fil-A, pick up a frosted lemonade for your employee of the month. Friends, that’s a beverage that can boost loyalty.
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Here’s another wonderful article on Chick-fil-A and what they can teach us: