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David Sims - TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist[April 29, 2005]

McDonald's Drive-Through Call Center Ramping Up

By David Sims, TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist

You might remember in early March McDonald’s announced it would begin testing a centralized call center handling drive-through orders at a small number of restaurants in the Pacific Northwest, aimed at reducing the number of mistakes at the window.

Chief executive Jim Skinner said during a presentation to industry analysts in New York: “If you’re in LA and you hear a person ... with a North Dakota accent taking your order, you’ll know what we’re up to.”

The strategy, according to company officials, would help process orders more quickly and allow employees to focus on delivering better customer service. “You have a professional order taker with strong communications skills whose job is to do nothing but take down orders,” said Matthew Paull, Mickey D’s chief financial officer.

Paull said a “heavy percentage” of complaints received by McDonald’s are from drive-through customers who got the wrong order.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, McDonald's is ramping up its testing of remote call centers for drive-through orders.

The world's largest restaurant company is now trying the system at 30 restaurants in the U.S., including some in the Chicago area, according to Ralph Alvarez, McDonald's president for North America.

The company has a contract with SEI Information Technology, an Oak Brook-based company that runs remote call centers. "We're getting pretty good practice," Alvarez said.

The new system allows employees in far-away locations in the U.S. to take drive-through orders, and send them back to the restaurant by computer. Implementing it will not cause layoffs, according to McDonald's, since the same restaurant personnel now take the orders and hand over the food.

The 30 test restaurants -- at undisclosed locations -- are in Minneapolis, the Chicago area and North and South Dakota, Alvarez said. They are handling 25,000 orders per day using the new method, he said.

Alvarez described SEI as "a call center company that handles a lot of other work for us already. They're helping us with the testing, the technology, and doing the call-center type of items," he said.

Alvarez declined to elaborate on SEI's role. He said that while McDonald's initially thought of staffing the call centers with its own employees, "we've hired some folks from the outside" to staff the ones now in use.

David Sims is contributing editor and CRM Alert columnist for TMCnet.

To discover how contact centers can save money and increase productivity by making the switch to IP Telephony, be sure to attend TMC's IP Contact Center Summit May 24-26, 2005, in Dallas, Texas. IP Contact Center Summit is co-located with the Speech-World conference, where you can get expert guidance in the deployment of speech technologies to strengthen customer relationships.

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