I had a craving the other day for a big, slutty cheeseburger. So like any other red-blooded American, I drove to the nearest McDonald’s. And that’s when it happened:
“Welcome back,” she said.
Not “welcome” or “good afternoon” or a friendly “hi there!” but —“welcome back.” I placed my order and drove up to the drive-through window and then it happened again:
By this point I am starting to feel pretty special—Sally Field-like on Oscar night (“They like me. They really like me!”)—appreciated, like they really valued my business, and important. They remembered me—how did they know I’d been here before? Yes, I know they were saying this to EVERYBODY. And the odds are way on their side that I have been to McDonald’s before, but it still made me feel good. There was gratitude packed into that phrase.
“Welcome back” had changed my entire perspective on the experience. It wasn’t a new menu item they’d spent years developing or an innovative sales contraption that more accurately (and speedily) took my order. And no pioneering form of payment (Bitcoin, anyone?) to speak of. It was that simple, two-word greeting. I caught myself chitchatting with the cashier because hey, we’re old buddies. And I had more confidence in the associates because I felt that they actually cared about me as a customer.
This is a testament to the power of dissecting and mapping the customer experience—systematically looking at each point of interaction and identifying its role, not just operationally but in terms of what you want to communicate as a brand. For McDonald’s, this wasn’t just a chance to make their customers feel more valued (which they did) but to reinforce what’s special about the brand—the fact that visiting a McDonald’s is one of the few, shared American experiences. I am hard pressed to think of another retailer who could confidently know that they are welcoming “back” every customer who walks through its doors.
I don’t know if this was the brainchild of a single manager or franchise or if it is a more widespread corporate initiative. In my spectacularly unscientific sampling of McDonald’s (i.e., the McDonald’s franchisees I pass on my way to work) I only experienced it at one location. But the intuition was spot-on. What a difference a little bit of thoughtfulness, a single word, can make.