As freelancers, we're always wondering how we can get a step ahead, or set ourselves apart in our industry. While our services and prices may be the first thing that set's us apart, how we portray ourselves online, and how we treat our clients can really make a difference in building our business. When I think about standing out in a saturated market, Chick-fil-A in the quick-service (or fast food) restaurant industry is a great example. This is in large part, because of how they conduct business, which really goes back to their core values.
According to their website, Chick-fil-A's business is built on, "a commitment to service – service to our customers, service to our franchised Restaurant Operators and their Team Members, and service to our communities." This plays out in a few different ways:
It's hard to resist Chick-fil-A fries. And their chicken biscuits. And the Chick-fil-A sauce. And their tea (well, so I hear... I don't drink tea). When you have a solid product, it makes building your business 10x easier. (Yes, even great marketers can sell a bad product, but we're talking about having a great product today.)
Chick-fil-A strives to serve healthier fast food. They've reduced the sodium content of most menu items, using antibiotic-free chicken, and removed high fructose corn syrup. With the increasing attention to being healthy and watching what we eat, these moves were smart for Chick-fil-A to do -- and it shows they care about their customers.
INVESTING IN their community
Chick-fil-A loves to be involved in their community. Chick-fil-A's often do local fundraisers (like Spirit Nights for local schools), they donate food during disaster relief, and they partner with local businesses. A few of my local Chick-fil-A's even do "Mommy and Me" events, and Valentine's Dinners for dads and daughters.
But, investing in people doesn't stop with their customers -- Chick-fil-A also serves its team members well. The Chick-fil-A corporate office provides on-site daycare, and health club access, among other great benefits. Chick-fil-A team members are also given the opportunity to apply for scholarships as they pursue higher education.
One of my favorite recent stories about Chick-fil-A actually started in my own city, and has spread to other Chick-fil-A establishments across the nation. Families who put their cell phones away during their meal can get free ice cream! This started after a Chick-fil-A store owner saw a mom on her phone while eating with her kids. The owner wanted to change that, and make families focus on each other.
Customer service alone might be what sets Chick-fil-A apart the most -- which makes sense, as this is the foundation of their business. Here's a few ways they do that:
- During rush hour times, employees will actually stand on the sidewalk and take your order long before you get to the menu. This helps the customer get served faster, and gives the kitchen more time to cook the food.
- The practice of employees saying, "My pleasure" to each customer is probably one of the most well-known aspects of Chick-fil-A.
- Employees ask for your name, instead of just giving you a number in line.
- Most establishments will bring your food right to your table, come by and offer refills, and take your tray for you when you're done.
You may be thinking, okay -- but these are all things that happen at restaurants. The key is that Chick-fil-A is a quick-service (fast food) restaurant, but sets the bar higher by acting more like a sit-down restaurant.
Incorporating your values into your business
Service is the driving force behind how Chick-fil-A does business, and it's very apparent from the moment you enter their restaurants. What is the driving force behind your business? Is that apparent to outsiders and clients?
For example, one of my core values is to encourage others. As freelancers, it can be lonely, frustrating and scary just running our business from week to week. Whether it's encouraging other freelancers in their big launches, or encouraging my clients when they start to feel overwhelmed as they begin their business.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
- What do I value most as a business owner? How can (or do) these values influence how I do business?
- What is something extra (and simple!) that I can add to my process to delight in my clients more? How can I make this process feel more personal?
- How can I invest more in my community -- whether online or locally?