Back in the early 1950s in California, there was a little drive-in family restaurant run by the McDonald brothers. The place was nothing special to look at, but they had a revolutionary idea: make the experience of eating there faster, easier and more enjoyable for the customer. Fast food didn’t exist until they invented it, but it took Ray Kroc, a traveling milkshake maker salesman, to see the incredible potential. Ray took their one location and figured out how to scale it on a massive level without losing that key concept: Customer Centricity.
Think there’s nothing you can learn from Ray and the brothers McDonald? Think again!
The McDonald brothers had a concept that revolved around making the whole dining experience, from start to finish, more enjoyable and hassle-free for their customers. They envisioned the process from their customers’ viewpoint and developed ways to improve it at every point of contact. Instead of waiting for someone to take their order, they could do it themselves directly. To speed cooking time, the brothers developed an “assembly line” system. The burgers came directly off the grill and into the customers’ hands. And when they were done, they could simply toss the food wrappers in the trash and go. It’s simple, yet genius. (read further below picture)
Ray failed at his initial attempt to franchise the business because he marketed the concept to wealthy investors who were only interested in returns…in other words, the wrong people. With a business model that relied on customer satisfaction, Ray realized that he needed owner-managers who would be enthusiastic, hands-on, and believed in their product.
If you really want to get onboard the customer centricity train, remember that quality always trumps profit. Today, quality is not the first thing you think of when you think of McDonald’s, but it was the brothers’ guiding principle. As the company expanded, it was often a struggle between profit and quality.
For example, in an attempt to save money and expedite the process (and against the wishes of the McDonald brothers) our friend Ray replaced the ice cream in their milkshakes with powdered milkshake mix. But the customers could tell the difference and they weren’t happy. Result? You guessed it, the ice cream came back. When in doubt, ask yourself, if you were the customer, would you want to buy what you’re selling? Is the quality good enough for you? If it’s not, chances are it’s not good enough for your customers either.
We’ve said this before in previous posts (for instance, see our June 15th post Scaling Experience Across Points of Sales). Specific skills can be learned, so hire people who share your values, who understand what you’re doing and buy into your mission. Nothing is more powerful than someone who believes in what they’re doing and is proud to do it. Ray learned it through trial and error. You can skip that step.
Having a great concept that turns out to be a success is awesome. But just because it works great in one place doesn’t mean it will automatically work just as great in other places. When it’s time to grow and expand, make sure you understand the characteristics and needs of your new markets and be responsive to them, whether that means offering a different mix of merchandise, opening at different hours or playing different music in your locations. After all, that’s what customer centricity is all about!