Lessons to be learned from McDonalds
Mar 29

Lessons to be learned from McDonalds

Few things make me happier than washing a greasy big mac with coke. For me, it’s a real reward – I know it’s unhealthy, but it just tastes great to me. It’s weird because I know to some other people (whose taste buds haven’t been wrecked by chemicals) it tastes exactly how it’s meant to – Like processed rubbis

Anyway, there is a whole other reason I like McDonalds. I am in awe of them from a business point of view.

In the UK, McDonalds typically employ people who are relatively inexperienced. Think students, kids still at school, or tons of people for whom English is not their first language. By conventional standards this isn’t a workforce of ‘superstars’, but nowhere can get me hot, tasty food like McDonalds, for as cheap a price.

It’s more sophisticated than Starbucks. I can order my burger without pickles, or without cheese or even without the bun, I can ask for custom things like a double big mac, there are burgers, there are wraps and it’s usually ready within 5 minutes.

As boring as it may sound: It is Mcdonalds’ systems and processes that allow them to operate such an efficient business.

Specifically, the system that directly affects customer experience at McDonalds is the order / checkout system. A couple of years ago, they moved to an easy touch screen interface instead of manual ‘checkouts’. This system seems to be intuitive and takes care of the customers order (even if it’s without pickles and with some weird drink) from placing the order, to cooking it, to fulfilling it – It even takes account of sauces. In fact, it’s such a good system that it probably saves each restaurant a couple of staff whilst improving the speed and accuracy of the service – That’s a clear win.

So, what can an online business like ours learn from McDonalds?

We can learn that staff output largely depends on the tools the team has at it’s disposal. If we just tell our team to email our database and try to sell some of our products, confusion and poor results are inevitable. However, if large parts of the process are already automated, and we have team members for each step of the process, we are able to identify areas for improvement with far greater accuracy.

Specifically, we setup a simple system that automatically informs our team when a user becomes inactive and sends a friendly email to the user. If / when the user responds this will be considered as a “lead” and the sales team can respond with a choice of “canned” replies and customise them based on pre-defined criteria such as the user’s history with us, their country and other details. And just like McDonalds, our goal isn’t to make use of this process in only one restaurant, but everywhere – This way, we will really get value from building this system.

We can also learn that it’s important that any processes account for and track as many exceptions as possible. Just like, if I go into McDonalds and ask for no bun with my burger and declare some kind of weird allergy – If the person taking my order in the drive thru cannot enter this into the system, the message will not get to the kitchen and the whole process will break. Of course such exceptions occur in 1% of cases, but if they’re not accounted for they can throw everything out of sync and not just for the customer. Every time an order is put through that system, the data is used for inventory, advertising, business development and a ton of other things I cannot begin to imagine.

In our business we can see which of our partners users have the longest lifetime with across all our sites for example. This information dictates, which of them we feature and again goes towards keeping the user happy. Almost like how a McDonalds should know that on Friday nights they need to have lots of Fries ready at 3am (or something).

So, can anyone see how McDonalds can help their business or any other metaphors? Or is this all just crazy talk?