This entry is contributed by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director with On The Mark Strategies.


Earlier this year I was working with a client on a marketing audit in Wichita, Kansas. To start the day, I headed to a familiar place – Chick-fil-A. Well known for its “my pleasure” consumer engagement tagline, I expected to receive the same service as I do at the Chic-fil-A in my hometown.

I didn’t.

It was even better.

The folks at this particular Chic-fil-A knocked the brand and consumer satisfaction ball out of the park for me. What was the big deal?

  • They greeted me as I walked in (the norm, for Chic-fil-A)
  • Smiles and good eye contact
  • Order taken quickly and efficiently
  • Good food, sparkling-clean restaurant (again, their norm)

Here’s where it gets better. The young man serving me asked if I’d like a free cup of coffee. That set off a bell – I saw a television commercial just that morning advertising their new Free Coffee February. Intrigued, I said “sure,” because, free cup of coffee, right?

Did I get a ratty-looking cup of coffee in a plastic cup? Nope. Suddenly, the courteous young man became a barista. Regular or iced? Any cream (he then named several types available)? Any sugar? How many? In a few moments, I had a custom-made cup of coffee, in my hands, with my name on it.

And … it tasted good. Very good.

I’ve no doubt the amazing customer experience I had while there added to the positive taste of the coffee. And I’m sure Chick-fil-A planned it that way.

So, what are the applications for banks and credit unions? Plenty.

  •  Ingenuity still counts. If Chick-fil-A can take something as simple as a cup of coffee and re-invent it for a consumer in their restaurant, with heavy competition from the folks at Starbucks, then surely your financial institution can morph boring financial products and services into something cool. How? By a-bombing the typical banking experience and offering something better. If you’re not different, you’re just background noise. Do you want to be background noise in a town full of competitors? Didn’t think so.
  • Service still counts. In fact, it counts now more than ever. Honestly, I can get the same cup of coffee elsewhere, cheaper. But customized for me, by name, with a genuine smile? In a clean, inviting atmosphere? The list shrinks with those requirements. Because of the experience at this Chick-fil-A, I will now go out of my way to have coffee there again. Can your bank or credit union say the same thing about repeat consumers?
  • Brand still counts. As a business traveler, I went to this Chick-fil-A to get the same service, food and process I get back home. I wanted the norm, not an adventure. They delivered that (and more) in a positive way. Same seating arrangements, same menu, same uniforms, same greeting, same smiles. All very comforting. All very reassuring. And all well-branded. This wasn’t a rogue shop, it was a well-oiled branding machine. Are all your branch facilities similarly in line? Do consumers get the same look, same service, same engagement in all your branches (including that one way out there in Podunkville)?

Banks and credit unions looking to stand out and improve their consumer engagement experience could do worse than examine the Chick-fil-A model. Free coffee isn’t always the answer, but it sure doesn’t hurt.