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McDonald’s Customer Service Sucks - But It's Not Just Them

Updated on February 25, 2015

For many years now economists have proclaimed that we’re shifting to a service economy because of so many manufacturing jobs being lost to lower wage countries. If so, you would think that companies would make a concerted effort to excel at face-to-face service, a function impossible to out-source to a foreign entity. You would think that but evidence of such continues to be elusive.

More often than I should, I eat at fast food restaurants. That sin is mine and I accept full responsibility for it. What I can’t accept, nor abide, is the consistently poor service I receive, the root of which is non-existent listening skills. As many of us who have worked in the call center/customer service environment learned long ago, listening is an active skill that requires a commitment on the part of the listener. That can be difficult on a telephone call subject to distractions on either end of the line. You’d think it would be a piece of cake on a face-to-face basis. Again, you’d be wrong.

Typically, when I decide to go to a fast food sin palace I know exactly what I want and I’m going to eat it there. Today, for example, I stopped at a McDonald’s in Glasgow, Delaware. I had a coupon, buy either the Bacon Clubhouse Burger or the Bacon Clubhouse Chicken Sandwich and get fries and a soda free. Having previously attempted this purchase and encountered problems, I was very specific. I told the young lady that I wanted the Bacon Clubhouse Hamburger and handed her the coupon. As usually happens, she stared at it in confusion, looked at me and looked at it again, before it dawned on her what it was.

Step one – train your employees on the specials you’re running.

She then asked if I wanted the chicken or the hamburger. I took a breath. This annoys me more than it should but I repeated that I would like the Bacon Clubhouse Hamburger and that would be for here.

Step Two – train your employees to give their full attention to your customer and to actively listen to what the customer is saying.

She rang it up and I paid. She gave me my change and I waited. Finally, the light came on and she handed me a drink cup, thankfully without putting her fingers inside of it, which happens far too often, an action I’m quick to correct.

Step Three – teach your employees a routine based on the most efficient way to render service. Encourage them to adhere to that routine. Monitor their compliance with your directions.

I thanked her and as I stepped away to get my drink she remembered that she hadn’t asked my name to write atop my order slip. I told her my name, got my drink and waited for my meal to appear in a bag because, despite being told twice, she’d logged it as take-out.

Step Four – there are two choices: eat-in or take-out. There’s a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Why, so often, do they get it wrong? Rate your employees on their ability to comprehend and take action.

When it arrived, in a bag, I asked for a tray. She pulled out a tray and dropped my bag atop it but not before sucking her teeth as if I had played a trick on her and now was just being cruel.

Step Five – train the attitude out of your employees and fire the ones who resist that.

That is my normal experience and I guess that makes me an idiot for continuing to frequent these establishments but, I keep hoping against all reason that someone at the corporate level will recognize that service is important and listening, comprehending and retaining that knowledge are key components of any service job, particularly when your customer is standing right in front of you. I guess I could try the drive-thru, but I’m scared as hell at what I’ll likely find in my bag.

Bottom Line – The presumption is that many of these kids will age out of their fast-food jobs and find a place in our service economy. It would certainly increase their value in the job market if they had experience with a company that knows how to value service and to train their employees based on those values. Besides that, it might actually improve the customer experience, sinful though it may be.

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