Learn from McDonald’s success when it comes to customer experience

There was a stage when McDonald’s clients’ satisfaction was on the decline. After two consecutive years of weakening scores, they focused on customer experience through their employees to improve their business.


Since 2014, McDonald’s came in last in the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). They had suffered a 9% decline in customer satisfaction over two years.

Not too happy with these results, McDonald’s realised the only way forward was to listen to what their customers were saying. After some research, they found the root cause to the biggest complaints they were receiving boiled down to poor customer experience.

The main problem areas were:

  • Inaccurate orders;
  • Long waiting times for food;
  • Rude employees; and
  • Dirty restaurants.

These are all “human” elements when it comes to delivering a service. So, they decided to tackle this head-on to improve customers’ experience.

How McDonald’s used a “happy employee = happy customer” approach to improve revenue, retention and customer experience

The ACSI’s Customer Satisfaction report for June 2016, showed the internationally-renowned fast food company enjoyed a 3 % growth from the year before. While you can say some of this growth can be credited to the introduction of all-day breakfast promotions, it also happens to overlap with another factor. Namely, customer satisfaction.

As mentioned above, McDonald’s move towards a focus on customer experience, saw a connection between happy, knowledgeable employees and happy, satisfied customers. So that commitment took a focus of greater employee experience.

It was good news for a business that received plenty of customer complaints about employees. The most common complaints were inaccurate drive-thru orders and slow service. And for the most part, these two major complaints tend to coincide, because while employees fixed one customer’s incorrect order, they were making other customers wait.

As part of the focus on employees, McDonald’s deeper investigation revealed two key ingredients it need to invest in. These were staff wages and training.

Happy employees = happy customers

We’ve all heard the catch-phrase: Happy wife = happy life. Well, in the same way, happy employees = happy customers.

1. Better Pay

Compensation is by no means the answer to getting staff more motivated to give great customer service, but in McDonald’s case employee feedback put it on the top of their list. According to McDonald’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, the pay-rise he implemented led to the results he wanted. Happy employees led to better interactions with customers, improved survey scores and a decrease in staff turnover rates. Their loyalty meant employees stayed longer, so they have a greater ability for product and process knowledge.

Simply put, happier employees have more motivation to perform and more reason to stay in their current job. This means happier employees are more likely to be more productive, and also more likely to stick around, and the results of this is better experience. Both for customers and employees and McDonald’s results show this.

Just remember though: This doesn’t mean you can disregard employee satisfaction, and it also doesn’t imply that just increasing employees’ salaries will be the cure for dissatisfaction and inefficiency. The important aspect here was to listen to your employees and respond accordingly.

2. Better Training and Practices

As part of addressing the root cause of poor customer experience, McDonald’s also improved both training and processes for their staff. They introduced the “ask, ask, tell” approach to drive-thru orders, because this was the area which often had the most errors. By this simple way of employees repeating each order, it reduced the number of customers receiving the wrong food. While this exercise did delay the order process by a few seconds, it saved a lot of time wasted on having to fix incorrect orders.

More importantly, it prevented customer dissatisfaction and frustration that came with these mistakes. And we can tie this back to improved customer experience. McDonald’s also trained its employees to take advantage of the extra time they save from not fixing mistakes. By educating them on the products, it increased their capability to sell and upsell other products. This way McDonald’s gave employees the skills to maximise revenue with each customer contact.

And, because clients aren’t upset about wrong orders or waiting too long for their food, they’re more likely to take the employee up on his suggestion – and actually buy more products!Better Training and Practices

As a side note: You can’t just implement a one-size fits all training programme and then never look at it again. It needs to be tangible and based on actual customer and employee insights. Training needs to cover real strengths and weaknesses in the processes and employees need to improve on strengths and work to eliminate weaknesses. It must evolve and transform based on changes in business objectives, marketplace conditions, and customer expectations – and of course, as you grow your customer intelligence, so too will you need to grow your training plans.

What can you learn from this?

There is one thing that McDonald’s recent success proves… Listening to your customers is vital to your business. The “happy employees = happy customers” formula isn’t only for a specific product, brand or service. It’s the driving force behind all businesses. These real results show that your business will benefit!

You can’t assume that improving your employee satisfaction will improve your customers’ experience. Find out if this is the touchpoint causing problems, by listening to your clients and identifying areas of concern to improve your customers’ experience.

Contact us to find out the root causes of your customers’ pain points, and how you can improve customer experience in your business.

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