Is Poor McDonald’s Customer Service Eating Away at Sales?

mcdonalds retro fast food

Should McDonald’s Corp (NYSE:MCD) copy Starbucks Corp (NASDAQ:SBUX) and start writing customers’ names on their to-go bags? Maybe so, as more and more customers are complaining about their poor McDonald’s eating experiences, contending that the chain’s customer service is poor and impersonal.

The question is, where is Ronald McDonald when you need him?

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A research report released Thursday by Dunnhumby, highlighted by The Wall Street Journal, elucidates the reality that the customer eating experience is becoming more and more important to consumers. With so many fast-food options available, they make their decisions based on loyalty — and a significant portion of this support is garnered through a chain’s friendly customer service and good eating experience.

It is without doubt that McDonald’s is still winning over Americans with its cheap Dollar Menu offerings and convenient drive thru service. But its poor customer-service scores are ultimately hurting its sales– a certainty supported by the Dunnhumby report that demonstrates that restaurants with higher customer-service scores tend to show higher comparable sales growth over a two-year period.

Thus, if the world’s largest restaurant chain wants to maintain its edge over competitors,  it must not only focus on price and promotions, but also the experience it offers to customers everyday.

And McDonald’s executives agree. The Wall Street Journal explains that in a webcast these executives held with franchise owners in March, they called its service “broken.” The number of customer complaints related to friendliness issues have only increased, and complaints about speed of service also “have increased significantly over the past six months.”

starbucks_cup

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Is it then perhaps possible that customers are becoming more accustomed to the friendly service and loyalty rewards they receive at growing chains like Starbucks and Panera Break Co. (NASDAQ:PNRA), and then less tolerating of the subpar services they encounter at other fast food chains? If so, if McDonald’s wants to stay on top, it might need to teach its staff a little lesson in customer service. They could even hold class sessions in Starbucks, where baristas maintain constant smiles and chipper attitudes throughout the entire length of their shifts.

Euan White, senior vice president of consumer markets at Dunnhumby agrees, saying, “The fast-food industry will need to react to what Panera and others are doing with loyalty in order to stay competitive.”

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