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Think you’re safe? Think again

 In Uncategorized

What do fish and chips, rainy bank holidays, Ant and Dec have in common? They’re institutions. We accept them for what they are and assume they’ll be with us forever. The royal family is another great example – and a big TMP welcome to the world, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. But problems can still be heaped on the biggest of names when they believe they have an automatic right to their status. Just think of all the celebrities that have fallen from grace over the past couple of years…

Take McDonald’s. Those golden arches are so familiar to us all that they’re often the first thing that kids can ‘read’. Show a group of four year olds a picture of the company’s logo and my experience shows that most will be able to say the name of the company.

That’s impressive brand loyalty – but this week has shown that even the world’s biggest restaurant chain can get things wrong – and they’ve been getting them wrong for some time. Incredibly, McDonald’s sales have fallen for nine months in a row. Shares prices have fallen by 1.7% this week alone and Standards & Poor have cut their credit rating from A to –A.

So what’s gone wrong?

McDonald’s stopped listening – and hearing what your customers are saying is something The Monachie Project’s consumer experience research shows is crucial to businesses of any size. But McDonald’s started telling customers what they want instead of asking. They didn’t worry about the competition. In short, I’d suggest that the top brass thought they were untouchable. Ouch!

The media fell out with McDonald’s a long time ago – remember Super-Size Me? The company tried to change their unhealthy image by introducing salads and wraps – but they didn’t understand why customers visit one of their 35,000 restaurants and it didn’t stop there. Ever since beef prices started to rise, McDonald’s have been trying to steer their customers towards chicken products. But is that what consumers go to McDonald’s for?

We don’t go into one of their restaurants for a wrap – we go in to buy a burger and fries. Proof was in poor sales and McDonald’s recently removed several unpopular sandwich options from their menu. I might want less fat and salt in my McDonald’s take-out but I still want it to come from a cow. We don’t want healthy alternatives from you Ronald, just make the products you’re famous for healthier.

Yes, some changes were initially outside of the organisation’s control – like the US law stating that menus must show the calorie content of meals – but they’ve had plenty of time to make those numbers look more favourable. The fact that they didn’t respond to this challenge shows yet again that they’d lost the art of listening.

And then there’s the current economic conditions. While other fast-food chains have managed to work around rising commodity and labour costs, McDonald’s haven’t fared so well, with customers complaining that their value menu isn’t so purse-friendly anymore – and they can get cheaper elsewhere. It’s not even as if the company can claim that rising costs are to ensure fair pay for their workers – another news story that hit the company’s reputation hard. In the US, McDonald’s workers have announced another large scale protest to demand an end to ‘poverty wages’ – and when you see that they’re paid an average of £5.85 per hour you can see why. Remember, we like to see our own values reflected in the businesses we use – and not appreciating others isn’t going to be high on our list of priorities.

Get complacent about your customers and they’ll do the same to you.

This week, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook admitted that McDonald’s had failed to respond to the needs of its 69m daily customers and announced a whole raft of changes designed to revitalise the company. Phew, finally someone talking sense.

The chain is to undergo a restructuring that would concentrate on the company’s top international markets and new, high-growth countries such as China. Well done Steve – rebuilding brand loyalty is the first step any business should take when it hits the buffers.

McDonald’s have started to listen again. Concerns over the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections eventually got through to the board who last week agreed to stop selling chicken treated with human antibiotics. And at last they’re going to deal with what I – and ex-McDonald executive Jerry Langley – believe is their biggest issue: their complicated menu. If I want to give my brain a workout I’ll do The Times’ crossword, thanks very much, not try and order my lunch.

Keep it simple, give consumers what they want and improve customer service. I really am lovin’ that – it’s what The Monachie Project is all about. Get in touch to find out how our user experience research builds brand loyalty and discovers what consumers actually want from you.

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