McDonald’s has been receiving a great deal of negative press for their financial performance after announcing their new turnaround plan. For the quarter that just ended June 30, the company’s profits sank 13 percent to $1.2 billion and revenues dropped 10 percent to $6.5 billion. That’s a big problem. Both the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal recently ran articles: McDonald’s Earnings Falter Despite Turnaround Efforts and McDonald’s Initiatives Have Yet to Turn Tide.
According to McDonald’s new CEO, Steve Easterbrook, the company is trying to change the menus, work on reducing complexity and streamlining tasks for its franchises, like taking steps out of assembling menu items, changing the way packaging is laid out and implementing technology to improve communication between the counter and the kitchen. However, I failed to see any plan focusing on building customer loyalty or creating the ideal customer experience. What about improving the communication between the front-line associates and the customers?
I understand we are talking about hamburgers. Fast food drive-ins have all become a commodity. However, go to almost any neighborhood coffee shop and just stand back and see how the staff knows the customers’ names, their schedules, how they want their coffee and importantly, how they welcome a customer with that big smile. A smile costs nothing, but is priceless.
McDonald’s, in addition to changing the menu, should make creating and building customer relationships a priority. Hiring the right employees and training them to deliver a customized experience and ensuring employee turnover is kept at a minimum is critical. True, many McDonald’s customers are transient and drive-through, but worldwide are neighborhood stores where just as many people frequent the same establishment. Do any McDonald associates know the names of their customers or anything else about them? I guarantee that employees at Mary’s coffee shop do.
The following statement appears on the McDonald’s website to prospective employees: McDonald’s offers a chance to learn, grow and gain hands-on experiences that can set them up for success – whether here at McDonald’s or anywhere else they pursue their opportunities. And the pride that comes from bringing a little lovin’ to our customers every day.
I am not really sure how they bring a little lovin’ to their customers. Lovin’ is important, but there is more to creating a great customer experience than that. Teach associates the principals in the most successful business book ever written, How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, in 1937. His message is as valuable today as when the words were first written. Mr. Carnegie believed that “financial success is 15 percent professional knowledge and 85 percent the ability to express ideas, assume leadership and arouse enthusiasm.”
It is most important that staff at the counters and drive-in windows be taught to understand the value of creating and building that special relationship. Going to a fast food restaurant should be no different in theory than going to a 5 star hotel. A simple smile and trying to make a connection with another human being must be the basic standard in any industry. Remembering the customer’s name and recalling it on their next visit can be the best turnaround plan for any company. Keeping up with a more nutritional conscience nation, apps that make our lives easier and looking at ways to improve productivity are all important, but when there is no focus on person-to-person communication, the package is incomplete.
Make sure your company grasps the importance of improving the human-to-human connection. That emphasis is the secret sauce to create a winner.