Kindness pays off

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Kindness pays off

“Lean forward.  Look for someone to help.” That’s the instruction Francisco Castellanos, owner of the Chick-fil-A store in Harlingen, gives to his employees.  “My job as a leader is talking about the word ‘anticipation’ and about trying to create a meaningful difference in interactions with guests through intentional acts of kindness.  If I preach this every day and back it up with actions of my own, you can make it happen.”

Chick-fil-A owner Francisco Castellano checks on a frequent customer.
Chick-fil-A owner Francisco Castellano checks on a frequent customer.

Chick-fil-A’s mission is to be America’s best quick-service restaurant. And Castellanos said that will be achieved through remarkable customer service based on attention to detail and genuine kindness, on the individual and corporate level.  Each employee watches a short video called “Every Life Has a Story,” which awakens viewers to the reality that everyone (customers and co-workers) is dealing with issues such as illness, single parenting, entrance exams, job jitters, loneliness.  Team members approach their work intent on having a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.

“From a business standpoint, if you’re happier here, you’re going to come more often, spend more, and talk about us,” said Castellanos.   That’s why he and his team work to have the cleanest play area and Purell wipes (which appeal to mothers), tasty food and fast, friendly service.

Castellanos is a realist, admitting that the workforce at Chick-fil-A is entry level, with few skills initially.  So, he hires kind people with genuine smiles and trains them in the necessary skills. Yet 75 percent of his employees come through referrals.  “It’s nice to have a pipeline of people you can recruit from.”  The recruit pool may be so deep because Castellanos creates situations for team members where they are winning by working at the franchise. “We support any school schedule you have,” he said, and arranges work hours around class hours, an uncommon setup. “That has worked real well for us.”

Frontline employees are empowered to make significant customer service decisions, which most likely impacts job satisfaction.  And Castellanos budgets $500 monthly to reward and recognize his hard workers based on customer feedback, job performance, and other criteria.

IMG_0378WebThe independent business owner listed required service behaviors, which include helping a mom with young kids, opening doors for people who parked in a handicapped spot, carrying large orders out to the car, delivering trays to tables and refreshing drinks, giving a mini-cow toy to a tired toddler, and holding an umbrella over customers on rainy days.  The many different ways of paying attention, being attuned to the customers’ needs, fits into Chick-fil-A’s “second mile service.”

Castellanos champions excellent customer service and the concept of paying forward, while meeting benchmarks for his size of store, expecting accountability, and increasing operational excellence. “If we do 1,500 transactions a day and did 95 percent of them right, that’s 75 transactions we need to do better on.”  Operation Excellence is about doing your job right:  being surprisingly fast, clean, enthusiastic, and making eye contact and smiling at the customer.

To read more on this story by Eileen Mattei, pick up a copy of the July edition of Valley Business Report or visit the “Current & Past Issues” tab on this Web site.

Freelance writer Eileen Mattei was the editor of Valley Business Report for over 6 years. Her articles have appeared in Texas Highways, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Parks & Wildlife and Texas Coop Power magazines as well as On Point: The Journal of Army History. The Harlingen resident is the author of five books: Valley Places, Valley Faces; At the Crossroads: Harlingen’s First 100 Years; and Leading the Way: McAllen’s First 100 Years, For the Good of My Patients: The History of Medicine in the Rio Grande Valley, and Quinta Mazatlán: A Visual Journey.

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