McDonald’s Struggles to Overcome Perceptions of Poor Customer Service

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The turnaround of McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) has been monumental, with global comparable sales up more than 6% in its recent better-than-expected earnings report. As we have pointed out, a lion’s share of this may be coming at the expense of Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX), as CEO Howard Schultz tries to step away from the daily chores of running the Starbucks castle.

The burger giant is still winning from the move to all-day breakfast and from other menu changes. What makes this recovery so impressive is that millennials and the younger generations were not exactly the biggest fans of McDonald’s.

While the company may be doing better than it has in sometime, one ongoing problem for McDonald’s is the perception of its customer service. In the recent 24/7 Wall St. review of the fast-food chains with the best and worst customer service, McDonald’s came in dead last. That review said:

Worst customer service or not, McDonald’s has remained the most visited of U.S. restaurants. But foot traffic has been on the decline for years, and the company had to act to reverse the trend. There are 36,899 McDonald’s worldwide, but according to the ACSI, its customer satisfaction score has never been higher than 73 since 1994 when the ACSI started scoring fast food restaurants. With the help of cheaper drinks, fancy burgers, all-day breakfast, and higher-quality chicken, the chain has recently managed to boost traffic and sales. And to tackle sometimes long, slow lines, McDonald’s installed store kiosks and partnered with Uber for some delivery services.

That ranking was based on the 2017 American Customer Service Satisfaction Index, which measured customer opinions about staff courtesy and helpfulness, table service speed, order accuracy, restaurant layout and cleanliness, beverage and food quality, and more between June 8, 2016, and May 12, 2017. At least McDonald’s did not put in a showing on our latest Customer Service Hall of Shame.

Unlike so many other commercial enterprises these days, at least McDonald’s has little to worry about in the way competition from Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). This despite Amazon’s recent forays into food retail, most notably with its acquisition of Whole Food Market.

In an unusual display of customer service, McDonald’s did bring back its Szechuan McNugget sauce, which was only available for a limited time back in 1998, in the wake of a plea for it in a recent episode of the “Rick and Morty” cartoon — at least for a few lucky recipients.

Though McDonald’s shares traded down fractionally at $155.40 midday Monday, the stock is one of the best Dow Jones Industrial Index performers so far this year. Its 52-week trading range is $110.33 to $159.98, and the consensus price target is $170.25.