Michael Lage believes anything is possible with technology — as long as that technology makes life better for people. It’s a high tech, high touch philosophy he practices daily as senior manager of digital experience at Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A, a half-century old family-owned restaurant chain.
Chick-fil-A is arguably best known for two things: the breaded, boneless chicken breast sandwich its founder perfected in 1964 and exceptional customer experience.
It repeatedly beats its competitors in restaurant customer service surveys, based on raves about the restaurants’ cleanliness, service, and employees.
Chick-fil-A was named a No. 1 restaurant brand for the fourth consecutive year in the 2017 Harris Poll EquiTrend Study. It also received the top score among fast-food brands and one of the top 10 scores overall for customer experience in the 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings survey and earned a spot on Glassdoor’s 100 best places to work list.
Chick-fil-A at Arke’s CX Summit
At Chick-fil-A, exceptional customer experience (CX) revolves around helping people feel cared for, as quickly, conveniently, and personally as possible. It’s a concept Lage will explore in-depth April 18 at Arke’s annual Customer Experience Summit.
Now in its third year, CX Summit is a one-day forum for Arke clients, partners, and invited guests.
The event includes targeted facilitated workshops, presentations from informative speakers, and a networking happy hour. It will be held at the Buckhead Club in Atlanta.
Lage is one of six speakers on the agenda, all of whom were selected for the unique insights they have to share about the necessity of customer-focused strategies and technologies in a digital era.
Lage led the creation of Chick-fil-A One, a mobile experience designed to create a more convenient and personalized way for customers to engage with Chick-fil-A.
Before Chick-fil-A, Lage worked as a creative strategist at Facebook in Menlo Park, CA and spent a summer with Google in San Francisco. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 2011.
People First at Chick-fil-A
Lage said Chick-fil-A’s late founder, Truett Cathy, embedded customer-centricity in the company’s DNA.
“It’s always been about getting to know your customers and caring for them personally. Now we have the ability to do that at scale. We have the ability to do that in a way that’s even cooler, more convenient and personal than ever before,” he said.
We caught up with Lage in advance of the CX Summit to hear his views on digital customer experience, the role of technology in marketing operations, and how brands can keep it human in an age of automation.
Customers Crave Speed, Convenience
Arke: How do you define customer experience?
Lage: What’s interesting about our business is that we deal in moments. It’s fast food. We don’t want to hold people’s attention or hold people captive for very long.
The very nature of our experience is based on speed and convenience. So for us customer experience really comes down to leveraging and capitalizing on the moments we share with our customers. It’s all about the little touches and the little interactions throughout your experience at Chick-fil-A that make all the difference.
It is the team member who makes eye contact, smiles and addresses you by name. It’s our employees who say, “My pleasure.” It’s the speed of our drive-thru experience. It how quickly you can grab your meal and be on your way when you order ahead with our mobile app.
In reality, we’re only going to be interacting with our customers for a few minutes. So we need to be intentional about the ways we use those minutes and seconds we share. We want to make sure our customers have an experience that encourages them to return and hopefully share about it with others.
Lessons Learned at Facebook, Google
Arke: You said your experience at Facebook and Google “opened your eyes to the ways technology can change the way that we interact with each other and the world around us.” How did that lead you to Chick-fil-A?
Lage: Those experiences whet my appetite for what might be possible for what was and remains my favorite brand in the planet — Chick-fil-A. Since joining the company, we’ve engaged in an unbelievable team effort.
There are so many really smart, passionate, thoughtful, caring people at Chick-fil-A who care a great deal about innovation. But not just innovation for innovation’s sake. They embrace innovation for the sake of caring for customers personally. They look for unique and different ways to make someone’s day brighter, simpler, or more convenient.
Creating Powerful Moments
Arke: How and why is customer experience even more important in the digital era?
Lage: Today, the time we get to spend with our customers has dropped from minutes to seconds. Moments now are even more powerful because the interactions are quicker and faster.
Convenience becomes that much more critical because expectations in the marketplace have inflated in terms of how simple something can happen on behalf of the customer. And we really like that development at Chick-fil-A because it’s always been our heart to deal in moments.
It’s always been our heart to make experiences incredibly convenient for customers. Now, with the onset of technology and with the expectations companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple are creating for customers, we really like to lean into that. We ask, “OK, how might we make our customer experience better? How can we make moments with our customers even more powerful?”
Are you a marketing, sales, IT, or customer experience leader? Join us April 18 at the Buckhead Club in Atlanta for the Arke CX Summit. Register now!
Atlanta-based Arke develops strategies and implements digital technologies for better brand experience for your customers.