What Happens When You Stop Listening To Your Customers?

Research and insight plays a central role within the fast food giants overall strategy.

Research and insight plays a central role within the fast food giants overall strategy.

Lauren Cody, vice president of business strategy and insight for McDonald’s UK recently told market research website ‘research.’ that research and insight plays a central role within the fast food giants overall strategy.

You may or may not know that in 2003 McDonald’s made their first ever quarterly loss.

Health lobbies stepped up the pressure on the chain and critics claimed that McDonald’s was accountable for corrupting America’s health. It was in the 4th quarter of that year that they posted a loss of a whopping $343.8 million.

What changed?

So, how did McDonalds turn themselves around into a business that now has over 30,000 restaurants globally, operates in over 100 countries and employs over one million people worldwide?

Cody reveals that research played a pivotal role.

Research is ‘what gave us the confidence to change and it guided us as we navigated new, uncharted ground’. She says that McDonald’s ‘learned the hard way’ what happens when you stop listening to your customers but it spurred them into action to keep their ear to the ground and finger on the pulse.

Don’t be afraid to ask the ugly questions

The food chains research and customer insight efforts identified the need for McDonald’s to ‘rebuild consumer trust and drive reappraisal’ and to do this she said they went back to basics ‘tackling all the ugly, negative stereotypes head-on’.

In McDonald’s case, the turnaround aided by research was successful, very successful actually, because in the quarter ended July 2004, the company announced that sales had reached a 17-year high!

So, what lessons can we take from this example? Well, businesses of all sizes, from small one man bands to multinational corporations cannot underestimate the importance of customer feedback and insight, particularly in an economic climate as tough as the one we live in today.

Whatever sector you operate in, research in the form of focus groups, polls and of course online surveys can help you to determine opportunities and predict problems before you hit them head on.

To learn more about collecting customer data for data-driven email marketing, read dotMailer’s downloadable guide.

Don’t just ask. Act.

It’s true that simply conducting a survey or running a focus group was never going to be enough to turn around a business as spectacularly as the McDonald’s example. Like they did, businesses conducting research of any kind must ensure that they actually listen, understand and react in a meaningful manner when customers relay valuable information to them rather than simply asking, hearing and doing little or nothing about it.

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