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).

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