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by Dave Taylor

Why is McDonald’s more successful than Burger King or Wendy’s? Their food isn’t any better; their prices are about the same. Yet McDonald’s sales in 2018 dwarfed those of its rivals with more than $20-billion compared to about $1.6 billion for both Wendy’s and BK. A $20 billion enterprise is certainly complicated, but a key reason for Mickie D’s success starts with their training programs.

Franchise companies like McDonald’s know that their success is only as good as what is delivered by each of its franchisees. McDonald’s has 13,000 franchises in the U.S. alone and another 17,000 in the rest of the world. So McDonald’s long ago started Hamburger University, where its new and existing franchisees receive extensive training on how to run their businesses—everything from order taking to burger flipping to running a smooth drive-thru.

At the store level, McDonald’s has training programs that are designed to train relatively unskilled workers—many of them teens in their first job—to execute the Golden Arches way and deliver an experience for the customer that is quick, pleasant and consistent from one location to the next.

Disney was one of the first companies to recognize the extent of what a brand experience could be. Long ago they saw there was far more to visiting one of their theme parks than just the thrill of the rides. They examined every aspect of the customer experience from signage at the parking lots to the placement of their trashcans. They even reinvented waiting in line with entertaining distractions that build anticipation as their patrons funnel their way toward the ride.

Between attractions, parades pop up spontaneously, actors in full character engage visitors and live events take place every few minutes. Disney has become so good at crafting their brand experience that they created the Disney Institute to train other companies on methods to apply to their own businesses. They focus on teaching leadership, engagement and service skills—each one important to running a business, but equally crucial for creating a great experience for the customer.

Starbucks has more than once closed all its stores to conduct remedial training when they felt that they had lost focus. In one case, it was about how to sharpen their customer service experiences. They retrained their baristas to handle one order at a time and maintain the full process that goes into creating the perfect latte, cappuccino or macchiato. Last year, Starbucks shut down again and held racial bias training for all its employees after an incident at one of its locations.

Many brands make claims that their customer experience is superior, but far fewer follow through with continual training and attention to the details of their service the way McDonald’s, Disney and Starbucks do. Each has taken a different approach—Mickie D’s is all about consistency, time after time and store after store. Disney is masterful at multi-faceted experiences that are fun and fulfilling and can last for days. Starbucks is adept at making each customer feel personally tended to and not part of an assembly line of coffee cups.

While many other elements make these brands successful, their constant attention to training and their excellent brand experiences have helped make them leaders in their industries for decades.