Look how McDonald’s handled an unhappy customer

While most Singaporeans relished McDonald's all-day breakfast campaign yesterday enjoying the free Egg McMuffins, the fast-food giant found itself in the midst of a PR storm with one unhappy customer.

Visually impaired Cassandra Chiu said she was “refused” service at McDonald’s because she was with her guide dog. When entering the Jurong Park Mcdonald's outlet, she was yelled at for bringing in her dog, she explained on Esme the Guide Dog Facebook fan page.

This resulted in netizens taking to McDonald’s Facebook page to criticise the situation. McDonald’s was quick to respond. Addressing the situation, McDonald’s said it would “like to clarify that it welcomes guide dogs at its premises, and has a standing policy to that effect.”

It added that the comments of this particular staff “in no way represents the company’s stand and that it will definitely counsel the staff member involved and reinforce the guidelines on assisting customers with guide dogs.” McDonald’s also said it is “actively exploring ways to further educate the staff” on identifying guide dogs.

"We have seen the customer’s account of the situation, and we believe there must have been some misunderstanding and that it was not our manager’s intention to cause any offense or to refuse service. We take this matter most seriously and are counselling all the staff members involved," the McDonald’s statement read.

The latest

Chiu received another call from McDonald’s this morning, inviting her to the outlet to review what happened. Here is what Chiu posted online after the call.

Just a quick update friends that a Ms Qhiu from MCD just called me and apologised about the incident yesterday. She said the staff were mistaken that it was a pet and the manager had no intention not to serve me. Ms Qhiu wanted to invite me back to the outlet to review with the manager what happened. I told her that there was no need, as she did not want any action taken towards any members of staff.

The point was to move forward and find out what is socially acceptable. She also said they would want to work towards making all their outlets guide dog friendly. I thanked her and asked her to contact the Guide Dogs Association of the Blind. If there are other friendly businesses reading this, you could also contact the association to get more information or grab yourselves some guide dog friendly decals.

Whilst a one-off incident, it goes to emphasise two things: why it is absolutely critical for your staff to be aligned with your brand values, and the role social media plays in amplifying even the slightest of negative experiences but also in managing it.

So, how does a company ensure it communicates well with its employees across all levels; well enough to keep them engaged and become advocates?

Read: Internal comms: Keeping the house in order

Think you’re managing the crisis? Maybe not

A great campaign nonetheless

Overall, McDonald's saw 120,000 people received free Egg McMuffins across 121 restaurants island-wide. Along with the give away, McDonald’s Singapore also introduced its first ever “All Day Breakfast” where customers could continue to enjoy the breakfast items beyond breakfast hours till 6 pm.

Andrew Hipsley, chief brand officer of McDonald’s for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, earlier said the brand aims to show that there are affordable and convenient ways to have the most important meal of the day. “Breakfast is a significant business for McDonald’s. And we know the convenience of a hot McMuffin on-the-go makes breakfast so much more accessible for people who are often caught up in the morning rush,” he said.

Speaking with Marketing in an earlier report, Sarah Casanova, managing director of McDonald’s Malaysia and regional manager of McDonald’s Malaysia and Singapore, said that the initiative was conceptualised and done first in Malaysia and is now being adopted by other countries.

Marketing understands that DDB Singapore is McDonald’s creative agency while GolinHarris handles its PR duties.