Chick-Fil-A Bests Other Fast Food Joints on Customer Service


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Chick-Fil-A topped other fast-food restaurants, such as McDonald's and Starbucks, on this year's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) after earning 87 points, just three points shy of a perfect score.

The ACSI evaluated a number of elements, including accuracy of food orders, employee courtesy and helpfulness, the speed of check-out or delivery services, and website satisfaction.

Chick-Fil-A is known for good service—it has been an ACSI leader before and, according to QSR Magazine's annual drive-thru report released at the end of last year, Chick-Fil-A is statistically the most polite chain in the restaurant business. For example, the report revealed that Chick-fil-A employees said "thank you" in 95.2 percent of all drive-thru encounters, based on data from roughly 2,000 visits to 15 restaurant chains.

Though praise for Chick-Fil-A is not unprecedented, there were some surprises in this year's ACSI report. It was the first year, for example, that quick-service restaurants had higher customer satisfaction scores than full-service restaurants.

"Lower customer satisfaction is a major threat to the restaurant business," Claes Fornell, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) chairman and founder, said in a statement. "If a lower-price competitor has higher customer satisfaction than a rival that competes on quality, the latter is obviously in serious trouble. Low price alone rarely leads to high levels of satisfaction, but high quality usually does."

Quality ingredients used to be a differentiator between fast-food and full-service restaurants, but now premium ingredients are available at fast-food chains as well. Chick-Fil-A, for example, recently introduced a gluten-free bun for customers on gluten-free diets. Now, it all comes down to service.

"Quality ingredients combined with fast service and low prices are helping limited-service restaurants outperform full-service restaurants," the ACSI report stated.

Another surprise in this year's report is Starbucks' low position in the index. The company tied with Burger King and ranked seventh, despite the popularity of its new mobile ordering service and its popular rewards program. Competitor Dunkin Donuts earned higher satisfaction scores and ranked fifth, tying with Chipotle. Chipotle, in its own right, performed better than expected considering the troubles that have plagued the company recently.

Back in February, Chipotle's CEO announced that employees' salaries would be tied to how well they delivered customer service. Time will tell whether that, among other changes, will continue to improve customer satisfaction.