Industry News | April 12, 2013

How McDonald's Can Improve Customer Service

The Wall Street Journal reported about a recent webcast McDonald’s executives delivered to the company’s franchisees discussing the deterioration of the customer-service quality delivered by employees. The article describes the fast-food giant’s strong position on fixing these issues and addressing the customer-service problems. Comments on the Web echo the same feelings, recognizing what can sometimes be apathetic—maybe even outright rude—attitudes received from employees.

In every organization's performance, people represent the largest variance factor. Just as consistency is applied to all other aspects of the customer experience, so it should be applied to people. Not to turn them into robots, but to guide them and inspire them.

Emotional engagement is playing an increasingly greater role in every value proposition. People deliver such value. But McDonald’s proposed response is more processes. Companies tend to focus on what they think they can control, and in the high-turnover world of fast-food restaurants, it seems as if companies and franchisees simply have given up on the possibility of engaging employees to care.

Here are some thoughts for McDonald’s to consider:

1.     Recognize that people matter. Match your investments in products and processes to your investments in your people. When designing new customer experiences, place a greater emphasis on designing your people’s performance and developing tools that enable them to deliver it.

2.     Shifting the paradigm. Stop being the laughing stock of the workforce. Today,
“flipping burgers” at McDonald’s is often considered a bad gig. It’s time to rebuild the reputation of working for you. As long as you are considered to offer one of the least-desirable jobs in the marketplace, you will continue to employ people who simply do not care.

3.     Rethink your definition of service. No one wants to wait in a drive thru for 10 minutes or sit in a dirty restaurant. Speed of service and cleanliness, however, aren’t the only components of customer experience. In fact, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Create a true vision of exceptional service; show your employees how you want them to perform and interact with your customers.

4.     Train your employees. Training is key. Skimping on franchisee and employee training is ignoring the most difficult element in your formula for success. The argument many executives make for not investing in training programs, high attrition rates, is weak. What comes first, the lack of training or the high attrition rate? You be the judge.

5.     Put your money where your mouth is. If you’re serious about customer service, pay for it. Create specific incentives to recognize top performers and penalize poor performing franchises. PowerPoint presentations and webcasts are a good start but far from the end of the journey. 

6.     Establish daily rituals. Customer service doesn’t improve by hanging a poster or holding a quarterly webcast. Customer service improvements happen over time via multiple activities and behaviors. Make sure to repeat and reinforce daily to ensure your employees stay sharp and committed.

Customer service is a product of company culture. To improve customer service quality, McDonald’s needs to decide that people are the true key to its success and start investing in creating a culture that supports its goals.

Lior Arussy is the president of Strativity Group, a global customer experience research and consulting firm. Arussy is the author of five books, including Customer Experience Strategy – The Complete Guide From Innovation o Execution (4i, 2010).



I recently called the customer service number at a local McDonalds to complain about the long wait in the drive through lines..up to 10 minutes, left my message on a recording and no one ever called me back for details- state of customer service these days!

I'm dumbfounded by the "expertise" of the author here. Don't get me wrong, the article is well founded but McDonald's spends a significant amount of resource to develop and implement every suggestion above. The point is that it's not working.I spent A significant amount of time working at the corporate headquarters in Oak Brook and I've worked side by side with hundreds of staff that started "on the line ". McDonald's has an excellent rewards program for their staff and upward mobility is consistently encouraged at all levels.Franchisees are held to the highest standards and it is not unheard for the corporation to strip a store from an underperforming owner/operator.McDonald's wrote the book on corporate training and has been a leader in this area from the beginning - if you doubt the fact visit hamburger university any day of the week.Honestly, I don't have a solution but I do dispute the actions that McDonald's needs to take to fix the problems. All points mentioned above are great points but McDonald's must be innovative as it always is. New programs must be implemented and implemented quickly. I personally feel that Disney is the master of customer service and Amazon is quickly catching up. Take a page from their books - at this stage anything is worth a shot.

This IS a limited service segment - if you want service, please go to a 5 star plus hotel and get what you pay for. But then, if someone is aggrieved, fundamentally, at the core, please take notice MCD. Let's temper this management bashing and "all is not well with the world" - I did not say "stop bashing", I said "temper". Where do you draw the fine line?

I used to work for RTS, who provides remote desktop support for McDonalds restaurants. The people that called from the store were of the lowest form you could imagine. And of course, we were owned BY McDs up until Xerox bought us. So we were treated with less respect that the sh*theads that called and abused us. Xerox immediately tanked our wages by $1.50 an hour as well, and BOTH companies had us working staggered start times & split shifts... all the while throwing ridiculous demands upon us & cutting our wages. Where does 99% of the IT for McDonalds occur? Grand Forks and Fargo, ND. Why? Because we're a step up from India and speak English. It's all exploitive abuse and I will not ever... EVER again spend a penny at that company. Fun fact for you all: it's costs McDonalds $0.34 cents of materials to make a Big Mac. I know... I also had to do their inventory, payroll, scheduling, etc on top of their "I.T." for $11 an hour. Do you know what the turnover rate for McDs employees is in Europe? 66%. The USA? 333%!!!! That means the sh*thead that can't fill your order for m/w is employed there on average start to finish less than SIX WEEKS!

Manhattan, Kansas  815 N 3rd....Walked into the McDonald's right to the counter, an employee was standing there going through some papers.  I waited for her to finish, she finally finished, looked up at me and walked away. There was a manager standing over by the drive through, I know he had to have seen what was going on.   Couldn't believe it!  Drove over to the McDonald's on the West side of town and asked the manager there if the person who owned that one also owned the one on the East side of town and told him what had just happened.  He said he would be glad to take my order, I told him thanks but my money would still be going to the same owner.

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