Chick Fil A and Healthcare Quality

By Christine Galligan

My friend is allergic to gluten and can only eat the grilled chicken nuggets. One time on the way home from our internship, we stopped at Chick-fil-A and she ordered grilled chicken nuggets. However, when we pulled out of the drive-thru, she realized that she had been given fried chicken nuggets. This was a near miss as she could have had an extremely allergic reaction. We pulled around and parked, and she ran inside to report the mistake. We could have driven away and she could have gone hungry, but we decided to let the management know. At the very least, the cashier or the person wearing a headset at the drive-thru should be made aware. Human error exists. It is not a crime and it is typically not intentional. Chick-Fil-A is quite efficient at standardization. However, no one is perfect. Work one day in the food industry and you will see how easy it is to make little mistakes. Chick-Fil-A works to prevent these errors by enhancing their communication efforts. There are numerous ways to catch human error…

  • Double-checking orders
  • Repeating things back to the customer to give them the opportunity to correct
  • Checking AGAIN
  • Going above and beyond with preventative measures
  • Providing quick access and options if a mistake is made
  • Being open and honest
  • Making some things automatic
  • Acting quickly to correct the situation

It is amazing how much the healthcare industry aligns with the food industry, especially when it comes to hospitals. We can learn so much from Chick-fil-A. I don’t mean that in a funny or sarcastic way. Chick-fil-A has been successful because it recognizes the need for change and listens to its customers.
Chick-fil-A also effectively uses a script. Have you ever noticed how polite their workers sound? It makes customers feel so much more awkward screaming at someone for getting an order wrong when they were just wished “a blessed day”. Unlike other industries, Chick-Fil-A is conscientious of their employees’ needs, not just the customers’. This is extremely important and I cannot stress it enough. For a company to be successful, its employees need to be happy and believe that their efforts are being well received by the community and that they are making a difference.
Every restaurant has agreed and science has been accepted globally regarding the duty of the employee to wash his/her hands before returning to work. There needs to be an effort made to help people self-police their hand washing duty in the hospital. There is probably some technology in the works now to do just that. We know the issues. We see our numbers. We are transparent. Now we need to act on it. We know all the pieces of the puzzle, and now we just need to see how we can fit them together. We need to acknowledge that the best way to ensure that these parts will fit into our healthcare model is to give it a go and try them out.
Chick-Fil-A doesn’t mess up orders often, but when they do, they fix it immediately. They don’t badger you to see your receipt. They trust their customers and they are quite familiar with human error. They understand that sometimes people mess up. We are not computers, we are human beings. I think sometimes it’s easy to forget that because we are so obsessed with our numbers. Our data is flawed because we are flawed. And that is okay. That is expected. What Chick-fil-A does effectively is correct the order and immediately communicate with whoever made the error. They don’t hold it against their co-worker. They simply acknowledge a mistake was made and needs to be fixed. If a large mistake was made, perhaps adding a free cookie or ice-cream would smooth things over with the customer. I have never seen this in healthcare. I think people are scared to admit mistakes because it will go on their file or their company will be perceived as incompetent. However, as a patient, I would be pleased if my doctor told me, “Hey look, we misdiagnosed you, or we gave you the wrong medicine, let me order you a new prescription and that’s on us don’t worry about paying for that.” If my doctor owned up to his/her mistake and corrected it quickly in a way that was convenient for me, I wouldn’t be as mad and I surely wouldn’t go and write up a horrible review on him/her. I would say, “Oh, they made a mistake and it was fixed and the burden isn’t falling on me to pay for that mistake.” I am okay with that.
There is no reason why we can’t become a high reliability organization. The reason that airlines, hotels, and other major organizations are successful is because they revamped their entire program at some point in time. They created dialogues and scripts to react to EVERY possible situation. If they could not provide answers for why they were not meeting customers’ needs, they brought it to board meetings and collaborated together to find the best solutions. I believe we can learn from Chick-Fil-A in many ways. The environment they create keeps consumers and employees happy… And that is what makes any organization successful.