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  • Nick Hague and Paul Hague

Scale it up

In our blog we regularly feature small businesses as the champions of customer experience. Small businesses know the importance of looking after customers as their lives depend on it. So, this raises the interesting question as to why these small businesses that excel at customer experience don't grow into big ones.

One reason may be to do with Keynes’s theory that people choose to have more leisure time as their material needs are satisfied. In other words, our customer experience hero in the small business decides to spend time fishing or sitting in a deck chair rather than building the empire.

Another reason, and arguably one that is more likely, is that people who are good at customer experience don't know how to pass these skills to others. They may acknowledge that a smile helps or that it is good to react quickly to people's needs, but somehow they can't scale it up.

Americans are very good at scaling up customer experience. Just look how they deal with customers at a Cheesecake Factory restaurant. As soon as you enter one of these experience emporiums you are greeted by someone who checks your needs. They determine the size of the party and leave you with a clear understanding of what is going to happen next. You are then taken to your table and it is seconds before someone else delivers the menu. From nowhere appears someone to fill your glass with iced water. And so it goes on. The whole event is broken into component parts and each person knows and excels at their role. This means that wherever you are in the States the customer experience at a Cheesecake Factory outlet will be excellent and it will be the same.

No one does customer experience better than Chick-fil-A, an American fast-food joint. They know the power of subtlety. Instead of saying to the customer "you're welcome" (which is really good) their staff say "it's my pleasure". It's a small difference but it's what they talk at the Ritz-Carlton and it does seem to add an element of class to the service. And, if it's raining, a Chick-fil-A employee will take pleasure in walking you to your car with an umbrella. It's another touch of class. The waiters are trained to call customers by their first name, to complete orders in just one or two minutes and to regularly check with the customer that everything is to their satisfaction. The food is good and the experience is phenomenal. It is especially phenomenal because it is the same in every Chick-fil-A restaurant. Not only have they scaled up, they have added touches of class to a chicken sandwich. No wonder the most recent figures published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (June 2020) reported Chick-fil-A as having a customer satisfaction score of 84 (out of 100) – out beating rivals in customer satisfaction ranking for the sixth year in a row.

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