I went in a Chick-Fil-A the other day as my son had a craving for one of their sandwiches. I was astounded at how busy they were. There was a line of cars wrapped around the building and inside there was a similar line of people waiting to order. And none of this was because of slow service, on the contrary, they were so busy because of all of things they, in my opinion, did so well.
To help facilitate the glut of cars, they had two people using iPads to take people’s orders. This enabled them to quickly relay the orders to the workers inside so that the food could be ready when cars got to the window.
As I thought it might be faster to go inside, I decided not to use the drive-thru option. When I opened the door, there was a queue of people but it looked like it was moving pretty fast. When I got to the counter and ordered, I found out why it moved so efficiently. There was a certain choreography established. When the order was taken, I was given a number, kindly asked to stand to the side and my order would be delivered, which it was in a matter of minutes. There was a smooth cadence to the whole thing. The team worked together in a calm manner; no panic was ever apparent. (I once worked in the restaurant business and it is easy to get panicky when a rush of customers hits.)
One other thing I noticed was certain language that was used over and over. Whenever I said thank you to anyone who worked there, I got the same “my pleasure” as a response. What that told me was that all of the things I saw and experienced in this short interaction were trained. These employees had been trained to know what actions to take when things got really busy, to follow the choreography to make things efficient and to use certain positive language to make the experience enjoyable.
What’s the lesson? Employees need to know what to do, they need their roles defined, how to handle situations, the language of your organization and be given the flexibility to do whatever is necessary in favor of the customer. How are you and your organization defining things for your employees and how are you then allowing just enough flexibility to make the experience breathe?