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An Interview with the Director of Customer Services at McDonald's

Contributor: Zarina de Ruiter
Posted: 08/12/2015
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We spoke to Jack Upton UK, Director, Training, Education and Customer Services at McDonald's, at Customer Experience Exchange for Retail.

Jack, your background is centred around strategic leadership, plan delivery and people development at McDonald’s. What in your mind are the key elements for a successful customer service strategy in an organisation as large as McDonald’s?

Jack Upton (JU): "To me, a successful strategy starts at the top and requires true strategic leadership. Everyone needs to be engaged, and the message needs to be simple enough to be effectively communicated across the business.

"McDonald’s isn’t perfect, and we have evolved our approach on a yearly basis. There are a number of things we’ve put in place in order to move forward as a business. It’s important to reflect on how many of these initiatives have actually helped, and how many have actually stuck. Some obviously have, some haven’t, but if we really want to put the customer at the heart of what we do, we need to make sure we focus heavily on communication, hiring & training, recognition & accountability and effective measurement.

"Our employees are fans of McDonald’s and we try to create the best environment. It’s all about business enhancement."

Customer Service is now a key differentiator for companies all over the world. How do you approach the challenge of remaining competitive by delivering a great level of service, whilst keeping down costs?

JU: "It’s a great challenge. Firstly, you need to look at existing processes. For example, we historically have a great training programme. We give our staff lots of guidance and support about what customers want from them. We need to add the ‘why’ so that they understand that what they do actually makes a difference in terms of customer expectation. This doesn’t need to be hugely costly. Again leadership and leveraging previous processes should be looked at – you may only need to change a few words and approaches.

"We are doing work with the insight team about what each customer is actually worth. Disney put a value as to how much their customers are worth over a period of time and we think our customers could be worth £5000 over their lifetime. If we do exceed customer expectations and deliver great service, we could double this over time

"Another differentiator we have is the stability of our workforce. A higher staff turnover means that more training is needed which would waste money. The more effort you put into a workforce the happier they should be. It’s definitely important to understand the characteristics of your workforce.

"It’s also about doing the basics right. We have roughly 3 million customers a day. It depends what you class as differentiation. Is it from bad to good? Or from good to great?"

You currently lead the UK Customer Experience Team at McDonalds. What initiatives are you looking at to make sure your service remains world leading?

JU: "We heavily benchmark in the retail space. We are also able to benefit from the global Mcdonald’s brand. We learn, share and scale from counterparts from other countries. Why do we necessarily have to reinvent the wheel? We are already trialling a number of different initiatives across are restaurants, such as the introduction of kiosks. You can place your order away from the counter and then collect it when you get there. We are always looking to evolve this.

"The world is getting increasingly mobile and remains heavily in our plans moving forward. It’s all about doing the little things better and better and this will leverage into some of the bugger initiatives."

What role do you see customer data playing in the new ‘customer era’ and how can this insight be translated into commercial results?

"Big Data is a buzz word and has been for a few years no. For me I would like to see how we can use data deepen our relationship with our customers. Not just a short term voucher scheme, more about building values for both sides. We use insight to help us create new products, taste profile, and excite customers. It’s all about giving them choice and options. Lets use customer data to help give them what they want."

Last year, McDonald’s was in the top 5 Best Workplaces which is a fantastic accolade. Are you able to tell us a bit about this process and how you came to be in the top 5 through your internal training?

JU: This was a long term achievement that doesn’t just happen in one year. There were A number of different initiatives that lead to a committed workforce. We recruit 30-40,000 people a year and individuals are increasingly excited about the workforce they offered. Our staff love what we offer in terms of a career. I’ve seen examples of staff starting work at 15 and are now running a multi million pound restaurant.

"It’s all about aggregation and marginal gain. It’s great to be recognised by a number of major companies. We want to build our workforce to make sure they can be the best they can be. It all links back to delivering a great customer Experience. "

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Contributor: Zarina de Ruiter