FreshMeat #3: We Love To See You Smile

FreshMeat #3 from Steve Portigal

               (oo) Fresh                  
                \\/  Meat

Give the gift that reeks of love…give FreshMeat!
Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the cheese

Recent news reports state that McDonald’s
“now has another problem: customers turning away in
droves because they don’t like the way they are
treated…the problem could be responsible for $750
million in lost sales every year.”

Now, if this were a talk show instead of email, I could
slowly lower the paper from in front of my face, and
raise my eyebrows in a look of sardonic significance.
But we’re stuck here, aren’t we, so rather than defining
a new emoticon for the reaction one has to really obvious
news stories, let’s look a little deeper.

I don’t think any of us are surprised. Customer service
at McDonald’s (indeed, all QSR chains — Quick-Serve
Restaurants, industry jargon for “fast food”) is
terrible. If we’ve patronized those places, we know the
story. The frightening question is how can McDonald’s
seemingly just be figuring this out?

In my work, I’ve interviewed QSR staff, store managers,
regional managers, and corporate folks. The higher up
the organizational ladder you get, the less focus there
is on the customer, and the more there is on the food.
They gauge their own success by such factors as speed
(kitchens feature overhead countdown timers and alarms),
temperature, and consistency. The customer focus may be
as simple as “clean.” One regional supervisor told me
that their best employees work in the kitchen. All a
counter employee has to do, they said, was be able to
count (since they handle the money).

In the space we have here, I think the point is this:
There but for the grace of God go each of us. Every
company has made specific, often implicit, choices about
what to be excellent at. And neglected others. McDonald’s
chose food over customers. Now they are realizing that
they have been paying a price for that. Many
organizations never get to that point of self-awareness,
and may continue to neglect something crucial that is
holding them back. The humor in the news story comes from
the fact that we could see what McDonald’s wasn’t able
to. Have the laugh, because you deserve a break today,
but maybe we can apply the lesson here to our own

Postscript: check out “The Deep End” starring Tilda
Swinton to see a current portrayal of customer
service. Often it is played for comedy, but here
the difficulties of getting help over the phone turn
into horror.


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