August 24, 2009

Remote call centers help self-service with McDonalds

McDonalds has been experimenting with remote employees handling the drive thru self-service ordering. This free's up employees at the restaurant to improve delivery times & quality/ McDonalds ranks fourth in speed of service (Wendy's is #1 at 121 seconds).

That order taker may be at home

McDonald's test aims for more speed, accuracy

By Kelly House and Chris Otts
The Courier-Journal

nstead of getting the usual greeting from a restaurant worker shouting over the din of a noisy kitchen, customers who drive through the McDonald's in Sellersburg, Ind., might have their orders taken by a stay-at-home mom in North Dakota.

That McDonald's is the first in the Louisville area to experiment with off-site order takers. The drive-through speakers are operated mainly by home workers in rural states like North Dakota and Montana. They punch in orders on home computers and transmit them to screens in the Sellersburg restaurant's kitchen.

The store has been running the system since December.

John Yelenosky, manager of 30 corporate-owned McDonald's in Kentucky and Indiana, said the Sellersburg store and one in Columbus, Ind., are among about 100 nationwide testing the idea.

Rather than saving money, the goal is to improve order accuracy and free up workers to fill orders faster, he said. Increased efficiency could lead to more sales, Yelenosky added.

In the fast-food drive-through business, time is money. The more efficiently customers are moved through the line means more time to sell more food. It's common for fast-food restaurants to time every transaction, looking for a way to shave a second here or there.

Wendy's ranked first last year in QSR Magazine's survey of fastest drive-throughs with an average time of 131.08 seconds; McDonald's was fourth at 158.77 seconds.

While in-store order takers have to operate cash registers and deal with kitchen noises, off-site order takers “can sit in a very quiet atmosphere and focus on the customer and getting the order right,” Yelenosky said.

Shannon Mauck, a floor supervisor at the Sellersburg store, said she likes the system. “Instead of two people taking orders, I have two people to help with other things.”

Around 2005, McDonald's began experimenting with centralized call centers to take orders, but the concept has shifted to at-home workers, Yelenosky said.

Corporate spokeswoman Danya Proud said the results “so far have been positive,” but no decision has been made to expand the system.

Virginia Ferguson, a spokeswoman for Louisville-based Yum! Brands,— said its KFC and Taco Bell— chain do not have plans to outsource order taking.

Mauck said the change has led to better service at the bustling Sellersburg store just off Interstate 65, but customers occasionally complain when operators are too quiet.

Yelenosky said correcting orders is not difficult because the computer software gives the remote order takers one-touch access to the in-store manager.

Reporter Chris Otts can be reached at (502) 582-4589

Posted by staff at August 24, 2009 07:42 AM