Happy Meals, analytics, Customer focus and a Happy Glow
When we took our three year old daughter to McDonalds for her birthday treat recently, I checked whether there was a ‘birthday drill’ they had (like some Pizza joints). They did, but it sounded a little too loud for a three year old’s comfort. So, I settled on buying a happy meal, given the little toy that comes with it. The series was that of the Smurfs and I was quite curious to choose an interesting one. What surprised me was the fact that the person at the counter brought the whole box of toys, spent time finding unique ones and then let me choose. It isn’t the end just yet. When I chose three of them and asked my wife if she was ok having a “happy meal” too (just so that we could get all the three toys), the employee intervened and said that we could order whatever we wanted and that the two additional toys were a gift from McD’s.
What struck me and stuck with me was the fact that here was a person who wasn’t a manager, had the initiative to bring the entire stock of toys, had the discretion to have a colleague fill in while he moved out of the counter to help me select the toy and actually give two more toys away! There was a manager around all the while and the employee did all this in the full view of the manager. So, obviously, he did nothing ‘illegal’ in the McD’s ecosystem. From a business point of view for McD’s, I think the return on investment of two additional Smurf dolls has more than paid for itself. Not only did I gush about it on Facebook and to my friends, you are reading about it probably half way across the world too!
So, what led to all this value creation for McD’s in this case? Was the employee given a bonus? I don’t think so. Did he feel happy too? I am sure he did. I felt something was missing here. Rather, something was happening here. Typically, every business faces a fundamental paradox. Its called the Principal-agent problem in Economics, and to put it simply, it is because the promoters and the employees are expected to behave in their own little self interest. Go a little deeper and we are looking at constant tension. If a bonus is paid for achieving sales, it goes against the Principal’s self interest. If it is not paid, it goes against the agent’s! Assuming that the bonus is actually going to produce a favorable behavior, it is worthwhile to remember that the behavior is likely to continue as long as the stimulus is present. So, in order to achieve psychological satisfaction for the employee, while not draining the Principal is the dilemma.
So, is there a way that value creation of the business can be achieved with a humanized approach? I think there is.
Much like in solving a coaching dilemma, the answer lies outside the plane of focus. One of the ways of solving the problem of seemingly opposite self interests is by making the organization purpose driven. Purpose has this seemingly magical quality of dissolving the paradox and aligning the inherent interests of both the principal and the agent in the same direction. The purpose of a company need not possibly be an esoteric statement. It could be a Customer Promise.
While writing this article, a little online research took me to the website of cedwardsgroup.com that is the operating company of seven McDonald’s restaurants in Western North Carolina. “The McDonald’s Promise” reads thus, “With a sense of fun and youthful spirit, we will proudly serve an exceptional McDonald’s eating experience that makes all people feel special and makes them smile every customer – every time.”
Having a customer promise and aligning all people systems to either feed into that eventually could be any service company’s dream goal. Just having constant ‘indoctrination’ from induction to learning to appraisal to compensation to recognition to talent management to exit, is definitely the first step in the right direction. Reporting them back to the employees in the form of effort/efficiency/effectiveness metrics is the next step that helps build learning into the system. But it shouldn’t possibly stop at that. Having Impact metrics that are customer centric like the Net Promoter Score helps moving the organization from going around in circles to moving up a virtuous spiral of value creation. The plus point being that the entire organization’s decision making sounds like a well tuned instrument that allows individuals make a difference to others, all the while working in the best interests of the company. Compassion is known to create happiness to the practitioner. So, would such employees have a glow? I am sure they would. So would the customers. Wouldn’t they?
Introducing the three Smurfs who triggered this article. Noticed the glow on one of them?
Siddharth is the Chief People Officer at www.Cloudninecare.com, India’s premier Maternity and Child care centre. He has authored a free e-book on HR analytics at www.HowManyTheBook.com