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Hold the data

The March 29 issue of Forbes Magazine has an interesting piece on McDonald's and how management shelved its customer-is-always-right approach in favor of a complex data network completely divorced from actual customer experiences.

It seems the company's now-fired CEO, Jack M. Greenberg, wasn't too fond of gauging customer attitudes by flipping burgers alongside the rank-and-file employees. Instead he relied on a one-billion-dollar network that fed streaming sales data from 31,000 restaurants to HQ. Even Greenberg's U.S. operations chief didn't think the system painted an accuracte picture of how things were evolving on the ground. Greenberg didn't back down.

The burger behemoth's new chief executive, James R. Cantalupo, sent the project the way of the styrofoam container. Cantalupo's first order of business was to put McDonald's back in touch with America's fast-food-loving community. Efforts included visiting facilities, examining the quality of the food, rubbing shoulders with staff and dialoging with customers.

As public relations professionals we need to help management look beyond data, to throw light on the underlying reality. I read recently where the CEO of a major hotel chain took a week out of his busy corporate schedule to work as a bell boy, cleaner, desk clerk and so forth in order to see where improvements could be made. As I recall he redesigned staff uniforms for enhanced mobility and comfort. His employees thanked him profusely for his engagement and the chain saw a measurable jump in productivity and service quality.

More chief executives should get some dirt under their fingernails. As far as intelligence gathering goes, nothing comes close. //Billy McCormac

March 24, 2004 in Posts in English | Permalink