September 15, 2017

How McDonald’s Supersizes Their Customer Service Strategy

Topline Summary

More and more brands are recognizing that consumers are people and have human needs. When customers raise questions and concerns, businesses should be swift with helpful responses. Dan Gingiss, Senior Director of Global Media for McDonald’s, champions customer service as a major component of the brand experience. Satisfied consumers can be invaluable assets, he believes. Since people are becoming increasingly accustomed to having their brand questions answered via social media, it’s crucial to maintain a strong and efficient platform presence.

As a published author and podcast host, Dan understands the power of communication for engaging audiences. The right approach to starting brand conversations and addressing customer issues depends heavily on the technology and manpower behind it. In some instances, Dan finds, AI provides communication solutions. In others, however, it’s necessary to provide clients with a human representative. (These show notes were prepared by Jay Tellini.)  You can find Dan’s book, Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media on Amazon.

On this episode of Renegade Thinkers Unite, Dan provides expert customer service insights. He also offers podcasting advice, explaining some of the challenges and successes of his show. You can listen to the RTU episode here. These are some sample questions and answers from Dan’s interview with host Drew Neisser:

Drew: What is your podcast about?

Dan: The show is called Focus on Customer Service. We interview brands that are doing social customer care really while we don’t talk a ton about marketing, but it is all social media and it’s all focused on the “how do you engage with customers?” piece of it.

Drew: Tell me about an episode or two that made you go, “Oh my God, that was just so great!”

Dan: Two of them surprised me. One of them was probably one of my favorite episodes. Definitely top three out of 51 was a guy named Scott Wise who owns Scotty’s Brewhouse. If you read Jay Baer’s book, Hug Your Haters, he’s also in that book. Scotty’s Brewhouse is about a dozen or more pizza and Brewery kind of places in Indiana, and I think he’s expanded into Florida. When I asked Scotty what business he was in, he told me he was in the customer service business. That surprised me so I pushed him a little bit and I said, “Well what do you mean? Like at your own restaurants, are you telling me that customer service is more important than the food?” “Absolutely!” he says. Like not even a question. “If you have a restaurant that has amazing food and crappy service, you have no customers,” he said. “But if you have a restaurant that has good food–great food–and incredible service, you have loyal customers for life.” He focused his entire brand on this is the place you come for amazing service. He follows through on that on social media. He told some really funny stories about people even tweeting while they were sitting at a table and he answers the tweet basically by calling the manager of the restaurant and saying, “Get over to table 48 and solve this problem!” So he was doing it in real time, which I thought was amazing.

Drew: What was the other episode that surprised you?

Dan: One other example that I really loved was the guys from Spotify. The reason I love this example is that they integrate their product into their responses. If you tweet at Spotify, oftentimes what they’ll do is respond back with a personalized Spotify playlist that when you read the titles of the songs from top to bottom are actually the answer to your question. They’ve built their own proprietary algorithms so they can sort of type in the answer and it spits out the songs. But I thought that was so clever and such a great use of the product and so I started looking. There are some other companies that are doing a nice job of this as well, integrating in their product in some way to sort of show that personality and to frankly differentiate from all the other companies out there.

Drew: When you were at Humana, you focused on generating real-time responses to customer questions. How did that translate into perceptions about Humana among customers?

Dan: Let’s all be honest. The healthcare industry is in a difficult spot in the United States and healthcare companies are not exactly the kinds of brands that people wake up in the morning hoping to engage with during the day. Frankly, I think it’s important to acknowledge that. I acknowledge that when I was a discoverer as well. Nobody wakes up wanting to talk to the credit card company. They do because they have to or because they need to. I think it was important to acknowledge that and then to acknowledge that when people need help and it pertains to their health, it’s a very sensitive personal situation that is emotionally charged. It was really important that we train our agents to understand that and to know that it isn’t really about that we declined a claim. It’s about that somebody has an illness and needs some service from a doctor and their insurance is saying no. That’s an emotional moment right there. A lot of times the reason why a claim was declined because it was the wrong code or it was some stupid thing that you could fix. I think the expectations were low because we were in this industry that people love to hate.

Drew: What happened when people tweeted at Humana?

Dan: When people tweeted at us or posted on Facebook and we responded, I think you could tell it was a pleasant surprise. A lot of times people would tweet you–almost could tell from the text that they didn’t expect us to respond. I do think that was successful in changing perceptions in that way.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to engage your audience on social media
  • Best practices to follow up with customer questions
  • How to turn your employees into brand ambassadors
  • Advice for building and marketing a podcast

Quotes from Dan Gingiss

  • It’s good content that gets shared.
  • We were in this industry that people love to hate. And so when people tweeted at us or posted on Facebook and we responded…it was a pleasant surprise.
  • Respond to everyone, including people who are complaining, people who are asking questions, and people who are complimenting your brands.
  • If we…take a step back and realize one thing, which is that without our customers we don’t have a business, then this whole customer obsession thing makes a lot more sense.