Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that McDonald’s, the fast food chain known for its signature Golden Arches and Happy Meals, has experienced a significant rise in customer complaints as of late.

The newspaper obtained access to a webcast presentation given by company executives to franchise owners last month. According to that presentation, one in five customer complaints are related to friendliness of the staff, and it’s getting worse. A slide delivered by McDonald’s USA Vice President of Business Research Steve Levigne went so far as to say, “Service is broken.”

Exactly why the restaurant chain is experiencing this problem is open for debate, but the WSJ cites several franchise owners who say it might be due in part to the growing number of ways customers can now provide feedback. From receipts prompting visitors to complete online surveys to customer service email addresses and social media platforms, it makes you wonder. Is this lack of friendliness a new problem, or is technology just providing people with more ways of lodging complaints?

Technology Game-Changers

Social media has dramatically changed the way brands interact with customers in both B2C and B2B markets. Throw into the mix the growth in popularity of smartphones and tablets, and practically every customer walking into a McDonald’s franchise is armed with a mobile device connected to the Internet, ready to relay their complaints in real-time to the company and the rest of the world.

When businesses fall short, be it in customer service, product development or any other area, we can blame technology for rising customer dissatisfaction. We can say that things aren’t getting worse, it’s just that more people have access to platforms where they can voice concerns. But the reality is that social media and mobile technologies are making it more important than ever to positively engage with current and prospective clients and address any problems they bring to your attention.

In McDonald’s case, this could be a new PR problem, or one they’ve had for a while and are only just now realizing it. Either way, one thing is clear. Social media and online influencer relations are a critical parts of any brand strategy if PR black eyes are to be avoided.

In The Evolution of PR, Content Marketing and Blogging, we cover:

– The ongoing changes in the world of PR
– The principles of content marketing for tech companies
– Important blogging strategies
– How to use press releases for more than just brand-building

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2 Comments


  1. I haven’t read the WSJ piece, but based on what I’m reading here, these are the wrong questions.

    Consider the following:

    If customers have always complained about service, but management never knew it, then they should be grateful to social and mobile for the chance to improve a problem.

    If customers are just complaining more because they can — then that still doesn’t detract from the problem at hand: service!

    The only question worth asking is “how do we fix it?”

    Frank Strong
    April 11, 2013

  2. Thanks for the comments, Frank. I agree that service should be the number one focus. Moving forward, I’m curious to see if brands in these situations use the feedback they’re getting from social media effectively or if they ignore it to their detriment, and how their PR strategies will evolve.

    Brendan Reilly
    April 12, 2013
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