Big Customer Service McMistake


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pierce-hansen-milkshaek-mcdonalds.jpgMcDonalds Restaurants have been listening a little too much to their lawyers, it seems, and not enough to their customers.

One would think that a colossal organization like McDonalds would have the concept of customer service recovery figured out, but apparently not.  Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Last August, Jon Hansen, Jennifer Cameron and their three children visited a McDonalds drive-through in Buckingham Quebec (Canada). The man ordered in English, which apparently annoyed a rabidly Francophone employee so much that he put something in one of the milkshakes – something that their 5-year-old son began to drink. 

To make a long story short, the couple brought a complaint to McDonald’s Toronto Head Office, who subsequently had a sample of the milkshake tested.  The test came back showing it had been tainted with what they would only call ” a store-related compound.”  Jon and Jennifer want to know exactly what this “store-related compound” was, and McDonalds is refusing to tell them.  (see the full story here)

The Buy-Off Didn’t Work

Instead, McDonalds has been trying to buy them off.  First with $1,000, then with $3,000, then with $50,000.

The problem is that the Hansens haven’t been asking for money.  They’ve been asking for the truth.  But McDonalds – I assume on the advice of their lawyers – have decided telling the truth isn’t an option.  And now that the Hansens haven’t been swayed by the cash, McDonalds is trying desperately to spin the story.  In their statement to the press they’ve said things like, ’63 other shakes were sold that day without complaints,’  and “These results were shared with the family last August and we have tried unsuccessfully since then to work with the family to reach an equitable resolution.”

The strategy is an oldie, and one that used to be a goodie – making it sound as though the customer is being unreasonable.  The problem is that, in today’s world of social media, this strategy doesn’t work so well.  The Hansens, for example, have been able to tell their story, and start an online petition to try and force McDonalds to fess up.

What Should McDonalds Have Done?

What does work in today’s transparent world, however, is the truth.  If you have a customer service failure, what customers want and respect more than anything is for you to own the situation, and to let them know that they are important to you that you care about them. 

The message that McDonalds is sending, however, is that they care far more about trying to limit their liability than they do about their customer.  Not a good message to send in the era of Twitter and Facebook.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Simple consumer realities: Truth and honesty engenders trust, and perceptions of corporate stinginess or customer insensitivity has a “long tail”. Companies like BP and General Motors may think they are secure from this kind of response, but they are learning that they can’t hide from, or buy off, their problems..


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