The cost of customer service for fast food chains

It appears that other fast food/coffee shops have taken notice of the Starbucks model. For years Starbucks has invited its customers to spend more time in its locations with comfortable seating, pleasant decor, free WiFi and a sense of comfort.  The consensus is that the food and beverages at Starbucks are not cheap.

Is the cost of good customer service that much more, or is it instead the quality of Starbucks products? Should we be concerned that the other players will raise the cost of their food to offset the cost of loitering and freebies, or will customers really spend more?

McDonalds is undergoing a serious renovation to their physical appearance in order to create a better atmosphere and experience.  Subway is removing their “no loitering” signs and Tim Hortons is thinking of making similar changes to make it more inviting for customers to hangout, and even stay for dinnertime.  Since customers are spending more time, it should follow that on average they will spend more money.

Whether customers actually spend more time and money at McDonalds, for example, remains to be seen. The next logical progression would be to train the staff to improve their soft skills but there is no indication yet that this will take place.

Fast food chains are not normally known for exceptional customer service, but there is an opportunity for the staff to make an impact. The customer comes for the food and stays for the atmosphere. However, the staff can be the tipping point for repeat sales through friendly interactions and providing a personal touch.

McDonalds is planning to do away with most of their staff by  replacing them with computer terminals, starting in the UK. This could quickly offset the changes above by losing the human touch.  It seems this is being made in the name of cost savings despite the claim that self-ordering will be on average 3 seconds faster.  How quickly do you really need that Big Mac?

Any change in menu prices from these fast food chains should be reviewed closely.  Will they be related to increased food costs?  Is it a recuperation of the cost of renovations or a way to offset the cost of loitering customers?  This plan appears to negatively impact customer service while the companies aim to create a sense of comfort. Sounds contradictory.

Readers:  Do you think this plan is going to have a positive or negative impact on customers or on the fast food chains bottom line?

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2 Responses to The cost of customer service for fast food chains

  1. trish says:

    At the end of the day the ‘clientele’ of these companies (mcdonalds, tim hortons etc.) remain loyal because of the inexpensive, quick and satisyfying meals. Customer service is not the basis of the success for any of these ‘on-the-go’ companies and replacing cashiers with computers will likely not change the outcome of sales. While many consumers appreciate the ‘human touch’ factor, you will notice more and more people retreating to the self checkout counters in grocery stores. They are just as efficent, if not a faster, easier way to get things done.
    great blog!

    • Support Spy says:

      @trish thanks for your thoughts and for the kind words. It seems that fast food companies will likely be successful with, well “fast” and cheap food.

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