You Want Fries With That CRM?

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One of the innovators of fast, friendly customer service, McDonald's has been running a self-service pilot program using touch screen kiosks at the counters. According to company spokeswoman Lisa Howard, customers punch their order into a touch screen, put cash in the machine, and receive the appropriate change when their order is delivered to them at the counter. "The kiosks have been great, since they allow us to increase capacity, taking more customers' orders than we could before," Howard says, noting that customers can also use the kiosks to customize their order. There are currently seven locations in Raleigh, NC, and a few restaurants in Denver piloting the kiosks, and more will be rolled out in coming months, Howard says. Other technology additions include what some are calling a risky decision by McDonald's: wireless Internet (Wi-Fi) access. The pilot has been deployed in 300 locations in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, Howard says, and has been generating good reviews, even with some glitches. "There have been occasional dropouts in service," Howard says, "but we made sure to contract with providers that had roaming partners and an open network to ensure the best quality of broadband service." Howard posits that wireless connectivity is a way to connect with a market that many might not associate with McDonald's: traveling sales executives. "It's a great way to get connected back to the home office when you are on the road," she says. Roberta Wiggins, director of wireless mobile services at Yankee Group, says that the technology is in place for Wi-Fi access, and that there is a demand for the service. "When you think of business travelers and Wi-Fi access, you'd think airports and hotels catering to traveling salespeople, but the local salespeople really seem to like using the McDonald's Wi-Fi access," she says. "Meetings can be set up easily because McDonald's are in easy-to-find locations, or salespeople can pop in to upload or download information quickly." Wiggins does note that improvements need to be made in terms of reliability, consistency, and continuity of service, but adds that these are all commonplace pitfalls of emerging technologies. Peter Kastner, executive vice president with the Aberdeen Group, adds that since nearly all laptops being sold today have Wi-Fi capability, more and more consumers will be actively pursuing ways to utilize Wi-Fi access. In addition to Wi-Fi access, McDonald's has implemented a redesign of its kitchens to provide better customer service up front. The new "Made For You" kitchen system automates more food preparation processes, leaving store associates to provide more personalized service. "We still need the same amount of people to run the store," Howard says, indicating that the automations are not to cut head count costs. "These changes simply give our associates the ability to focus on accuracy of orders and to provide a better customer experience overall."
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