Chances are, you’ve never thought of your landscape services like a chicken sandwich.
That’s understandable. It would be a little strange if you had. After reading this, though, you’ll see why the comparison might not be such a bad idea.
With 2,400 locations in 47 states, Chick-fil-A is the third-largest restaurant chain in the United States.
It’s famously harder to get a Chick-fil-A franchise than it is to get accepted into Harvard University. (Chick-fil-A’s acceptance rate is approximately .15%, while Harvard’s is about 4.5%).
Despite being closed 52 days out of the year (Sundays) and enduring occasional controversies in the media, Chick-fil-A has experienced remarkable success throughout its 75-year history.
Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, was always open about what made the restaurant unique, even writing a book on the subject called Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People. Countless other books, case studies, and research reports have focused on the business’s remarkable levels of brand loyalty and efficiency.
Companies within the restaurant industry and beyond have sought to tap into the magic of Chick-fil-A over the years, to varying levels of success.
The connection between a wildly successful quick-service food chain and the landscape world might not be immediately evident. A deep dive into how Chick-fil-A operates, though, will reveal key insights for lawn care and landscape businesses looking to experience some of the same extraordinary levels of customer satisfaction and retention.
Exceptional customer service
Next to its fried chicken, Chick-fil-A is probably best known for offering an exceptional customer experience.
Franchises are generally well staffed, with employees who call you by name when your order’s ready and stop by your table to offer free refills. When you thank a staff member, they respond with, “It’s my pleasure,” a phrase used intentionally to make the interaction feel special.
Chick-fil-A is always looking for new ways to go above and beyond even those high standards of everyday customer service, as it did with the Mom’s Valet initiative a few years ago.
The program allowed parents to order in the drive-through, then come into the restaurant with their kids to eat—finding their table already set up with the appropriate seats, high chairs, utensils, and condiments.
Innovative programs like this have been implemented at franchises across the country. Built on a deep understanding of the restaurant’s customers and their needs, they contribute to the loyalty many people feel toward Chick-fil-A’s brand.
When it comes to customer service, even the smallest considerations can make a big difference. (Think “it’s my pleasure” instead of “no problem.”)
What’s your company culture like? Do employees in the field go above and beyond to take care of your customers? Do staff in the office treat clients with respect and step in to help each other when needs arise? If the answer is no, it could be time to re-evaluate—and to make sure you always hire people who will represent your company well.
The most successful landscape contractors are able to maintain a steady stream of new customers based on referrals. While marketing strategies like email marketing, social media advertising, digital marketing, and SEO improvements can help you reach potential customers, testimonials build your reputation help bring in new business partnerships.
Fostering a healthy culture will impact the way you treat employees, the way employees treat each other, and the way your business interacts with customers.
Despite having fewer locations than many of its competitors (and being closed for an entire day every week), Chick-fil-A leads the fast-food industry in average unit volume—by nearly $2 million.
The restaurant’s drive-through lines are notoriously long but seem to move at an impossibly fast pace. And despite high volumes of customers, the experience of ordering, receiving your food, and dining is typically seamless, regardless of the location.
At the heart of this success is Chick-fil-A’s relentless pursuit of efficiency. Company leaders hone their processes at three innovation centers around the country, where they experiment with restaurant designs, train team members, find ways to improve the customer and employee experience, and explore new technologies.
For a lawn and landscape businesses, this could look like finding ways to speed up service on a property (without sacrificing quality), revamping your invoicing process so jobs are billed faster, or getting rid of paper timesheets that create lots of manual work and opportunities for errors.
Software is instrumental in helping the best-organized businesses function at their highest capacity. One in two Chick-fil-A franchises uses Jolt, a platform built to help restaurants manage employee performance and food safety.
It allows them to manage checklists, train new employees, and track food safety information. Franchises who use the program say it saves them time and money by reducing wasted work hours.
Jolt works well for Chick-fil-A because it’s an industry-specific solution for restaurants. While Jolt itself isn’t the right fit for landscape companies, plenty of business management software programs are available for the green industry. The best solutions can streamline operations, provide real-time insights, and help get rid of time-consuming manual processes.
Finding the right software solution for your company can be overwhelming, so we created the Ultimate buyer’s guide to landscape business management software, which you can download for free at the link below.
If you’ve signed up for Chick-fil-A’s rewards program or created an account to order online, you have a customer record in the company’s CRM.
(CRM stands for “customer relationship management,” and it’s a tool designed to help businesses keep track of their customer records—like a more advanced address book.)
Chick-fil-A uses its CRM to create customer segments based on order history, location, and more. Then, it uses those segments to send targeted messages customers will find most relevant.
Landscape CRM software works in a similar way, allowing you to keep a record of current, past, and prospective customers. For each client, you should be able to see what services they receive, a record of past communication, contract details, contact information, and other notes.
Using a CRM to organize your landscape customers is a great way to manage relationships, quickly find and group customers, and never miss a renewal date.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of cross-selling, it’s what happens when you ask a client who’s already purchasing one type of service from you if they’d be interested in purchasing a different type of service as well.
Chick-fil-A launched a cross-selling campaign a few years ago that suggested breakfast items to customers who had previously ordered similar items for lunch, leading to a staggering 450% increase in orders.
The campaign relied on an existing pool of customers (people who had ordered from Chick-fil-A in the past), proactively encouraging them to return with a thoughtful invitation based on past behavior and “interest.”
This strategy is common in retail and restaurant markets because, in general, it works. For a minimal investment of time and money, you can increase profits by tapping into relationships you’ve already built.
For landscape companies with multiple offerings, this represents a significant opportunity.
If you have maintenance contracts with several apartment complexes, for example, you could invite them to use your services for holiday light installation or snow removal. Or, if you’re installing a garden for a restaurant, you could offer to continue the relationship with a maintenance contract.
If it helps to provide incentives, you could offer lower pricing for homeowners or commercial clients who sign up for multiple lawn care services.
Customers aren’t the only people who love Chick-fil-A. The company’s staggering 96% staff retention rate speaks to the fact that its “people first” mission included employees from the very beginning.
During her 30-year career at Chick-fil-A, Dee Ann Turner recruited hundreds of restaurant operators and corporate staff. In her book, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture, she describes how the company’s prioritization of people led to a rigorous hiring process—and resulted in a culture people didn’t want to leave.
Dee Ann says Chick-fil-A recruits for character, competency, and chemistry (the three C’s).
Once employees make it through the thorough interview process, they know they’ll be supported. The company is known for paying employees well, promoting from within, offering college scholarships, and closing on Sundays to give staff time to rest.
The care Chick-fil-A puts into its recruitment and retention efforts is evident in the quality of its food and dining experience.
In the landscape industry, where labor issues are even more challenging than in the restaurant world, incorporating some of these hiring practices and priorities can help. Consider looking for ways to foster a healthy company culture, evaluate hiring processes, and invest in employees so you end up with a high-quality pool of landscape professionals.
The systems Chick-fil-A has put in place behind the scenes enable the organization to succeed. Its service-oriented, people-first approach is evident in every aspect of the business from the customer service guidelines to educational support for employees.
At the end of the day, though, people come to Chick-fil-A because, well, they love a good chicken sandwich. A pleasant dining experience helps the restaurant stand out among its competitors, but experience alone can’t make up for a low-quality product.
The final lesson we can learn from Chick-fil-A, then, is the importance of providing customers with what they want, in a way that makes them feel valued—and encourages loyalty to your brand.
To review, here’s how landscape business owners can apply Chick-fil-A’s tried-and-true processes to improve customer satisfaction and retention:
- Provide exceptional customer service
- Prioritize efficiency in the field and the office
- Use software to stay organized and reduce wasted time
- Personalize communication with customers
- Look for opportunities to cross-sell services
- Empower employees to do their best work
- Strive to offer the highest-quality landscape service on the market
Now, the next time you stop by a Chick-fil-A, will the sandwich remind you of landscape equipment and work orders? Maybe not. But hopefully the “nuggets” we’ve uncovered today sparked some ideas for ways you can take your landscaping or lawn care business to the next level.
Interested in learning how Aspire business management software can help you gain complete control over your business? Schedule a free demo today!