Remember when smiles were free?

During a recent road trip I experienced the worst service I’ve ever had at a McDonald’s.  This experience got me thinking.  It really doesn’t matter how cookie cutter your franchise or business systems are, IF the human element isn’t coming up to bat, THE ‘system’ breaks down.

OK, I know I wasn’t at a 5 star restaurant, but even at McDonald’s I have certain expectations.

When you’re on the road for 1800 miles with a 5 year old, the golden arches can be a bit of a beacon.  You pull in thinking you can get a quick inexpensive happy meal (with fruit of course) and there will be a play area to work out the little one’s “I’ve been in the car for two days straight” blues.  Because I work from home I love that most McDonald’s offer free WiFi so I can catch up on a few things and my daughter can play.  It can be a win win for a work from anywhere on the road mom.

Without getting into a rambling fit about the service the other day I decided to list my top 3 grievances.  These are the ones that reinforced my own work ethic and I’m interested to know how you all might feel about these points as well.

1.  Zero sense of urgency.  It took 22 minutes for our food to arrive according to the time stamp on my receipt.  I am sure McDonald’s does enough market research to know how long people will wait for fast food and I expect their system is set at a thresh hold well under 22 minutes.  Even at a fancy restaurant I would have been served drinks and a basket of bread within 22 minutes of being seated!  Most consumers have an expectation of delivery.  Failing to meet or exceed that expectation can have long lasting effects.

2.  Lack of Empathy.  I did get a “sorry for the wait” when the food arrived, but mostly the people working behind the counter seemed resigned to the fact that they were working within a failed system.  I don’t remember anyone smiling, but I remember a lot of sighing.  There is nothing that speaks louder than service staff saying nothing at all and looking at you like you’re the problem for having higher expectations.

3.  Unsafe Environment.  Maybe it’s the clown, or the happy meal with toys.  It might even be the play areas designed for young children.  Call me crazy but I think of McDonald’s as a kid friendly place.  Which is why it frustrated me to no end to be in a family restaurant at 3 in the afternoon listening to a group of teenagers drop the F bomb every other word.  I know I’m probably over-reacting here and showing my age, but it’s just not acceptable to me and management should be on hand to ask the offender to quiet down.  Having worked in a bar, I’ve seen people thrown out at midnight for a lot less.  At 3 in the afternoon at McDonald’s I would like to think that isn’t something I would have to worry about subjecting my 5 year old to.  I know I can leave if I don’t like it, but I wonder, is that the environment McDonald’s wants to cultivate?

As a marketing enthusiast I’ve read a lot about the McDonald’s franchise model.  It’s a model, like most franchises, that prides it self on offering a consistent product.  But I surprised myself the other day.  I don’t pick McDonald’s because of the product.  I’m looking for a specific experience that matches my needs.  I’m the consumer and like all consumers I have the power to take my money else where.  I can choose to be this fickle.  I know not all McDonald’s are going to be like this one because I’ve been to hundreds of good ones, but I don’t have to give them a second chance because I have plenty to choose from and so do my clients!

For the next little bit every time I see the golden arches I’m going to remember this experience and I’m probably going to look for a red headed girl with braids instead.

And I’m going to be a little more interested in my customer’s expectations and how well I’m meeting them too!

Tweet On!

PS: Please comment and let me know what you think. Am I over-reacting? Are my expectations for service too high?

Need help with your Social Media Marketing?
Email me your questions at Tami (at) TamiRoss (dot) com


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