Have you ever thought about what your company does? I mean really does? What is it you do? Why do you exist? What’s your purpose? Are you a helper or a server? Is there a difference? Does it matter? I’d suggest it does matter…greatly. Are you still wondering why the picture of the chicken sandwich? Keep reading.
Pay attention the next time you’re in a buying situation. You walk in a store, a restaurant, or car dealership, and in just about every possible example you’ll hear these four words – “can I help you?” To help, as opposed to serving, boils down to a mindset. We are taught as children to “help one another” in school, or to “help out” around the house. As we get older the concept of helping others is seared into our brains as the right thing to do. Consequently in business, we bring those same thoughts with us, setting out to help someone or some business. But let me propose a different viewpoint; one that supports the benefits of serving others rather than helping. An unexpected encounter at a quick-service restaurant brought this concept to my attention.
While on a recent road trip, my wife and I decided to stop for something quick to eat. We didn’t want to spend time in a full service restaurant. We wanted something fast, and as close to healthy as possible given our travel schedule. We pulled into a drive-thru and placed our order. From behind the audio box came a voice that was filled with energy (genuine) and asked, “How may I serve you today?” What did she say? How could I be sitting in a drive-thru of a fast food restaurant and be this impressed? This didn’t make sense. We placed our order, pulled up to the window where we were greeted by a crisply dressed, smiling cashier who completed our transaction, and said, “thank you for your business and I look forward to serving you again.” WOW! That restaurant was Chick-fil-A.
This experience got me thinking. Who says “how may I serve you?” Everyone says they want to help, but do they really? “How may I help you” is regular, predictable, watered down. And how often have you heard those words knowing full well the person asking couldn’t care less about really helping you? But the question “how may I serve you?”, is a purple cow. Something so simple, yet so remarkably different relative to today’s buying norms that you notice, and notice in a big way.
I wondered if this was a fluke or if there was something more to this one experience. I conducted a bit of research and visited 3 other Chick-fil-As in different areas. Shockingly, all provided the exact same experience as the first location. How can a company whose brand is represented by independent operators deliver such a consistent experience? I just had to ask…
This remarkable service is the result of many things, but two things in particular: training and modeling. Training content, material, philosophy, and methods are provided by corporate for consistency. Modeling is provided by the independent operators. The owners walk the same talk as all store employees. One such owner that I had the privilege of meeting, walked around the store refilling customers drinks and asking if there was anything else she could do to serve the customers. Remarkable.
When being served, you may feel special, perhaps honored. When serving others you might feel fulfilled, satisfied, humbled. As a result of this experience I have challenged myself and others in my network to give thought to shifting their paradigm from one of helping to one of serving. I personally, have found this subtle shift in thinking to be empowering. It fosters a bond between the one being served and the one doing the serving. Try it and see what a positive change it can make to your customers’ experience. Are you brave enough to serve or will you stay in your comfort zone and help? You decide.