Sunday, June 21, 2009

Quality standardization - the McDonald's way!

I was at Gwalior in Northern Madhya Pradesh last week and was pleasantly surprised to see a shopping mall and a McDonald's outlet there. The city of Gwalior has surpassed Madhya Pradesh's capital city - Bhopal atleast in two aspects - one of being a better tourist destination thanks to the fabulous Gwalior fort and the other of having a better mall culture with big brands establishing an outlet there. (A third and irrelevant aspect where Gwalior surpasses Bhopal is in the prevalance of gun toting culture across the district and nearby areas.)

I have been an ardent McDonald's customer, never missing a chance to walk in to a McDonald's outlet if I pass by one. I have always been impressed by the level of standardization that works across all McDonald's outlets - standardization of not just the burgers but of the processes as well as of people. On seeing a McDonald's outlet in Gwalior, I decided to walk in and have a taste of my favorite Veggie Meal. It had been almost 6 months since I ate at a McDonald's outlet; the last was at the outlet in Navi Mumbai just before the Mumbai Pune Expressway commences. I was also curious to see if they have the same level of standardization and quality as a McDonald's outlet in Mumbai.

Over the last 3 months, I have been trying to identify and recruit good quality people for the various vocational technical education centres that we are setting up in Madhya Pradesh & Uttar Pradesh. However, our search has been very painful, to say the least. We just could not get the quality of people that we expected and hence had to compromise on a few counts in order to fill up our positions. We believed that we could possibly train them and make them as good as what we expect them to be. When I saw the McDonald's outlet, I was curious to see if they have the same quality of people that I have seen in their outlets in Mumbai and elsewhere. I was wondering if they have been able to standardize their processes and people here too to the same extent as their other outlets.

When I walked to the counter to place my order, an old lady was standing ahead of me in the queue and was having a conversation with the person at the order counter. She apparently seemed to have ordered for something which was not available in the outlet at the moment and she was upset about the same. The McDonald's service guy at the counter was very polite and was extremely apologetic about the same. His English was amazingly good (it has been a long long time since I heard anyone speak good English in Madhya Pradesh!) and his mannerisims mirrored that of any good service personnel in any other McDonald's outlet elsewhere. When the lady demanded to see the Shift supervisor, the service personnel called a petite lady to talk to her. The shift supervisor too was very polite, spoke good English and tried to reason with the lady. Somehow the matter was resolved and the lady walked over to take her seat. I was impressed by the extent of professionalism shown by the service personnel and the shift supervisor in meeting the customer's expectations and handling a customer complaint.

While I placed my order, I received the same level of promptness from the entire service team. I have always seen people in Madhya Pradesh to have a laid back and lazy attitude. However, I found the contrary in the entire service team at McDonald's. I noticed the surnames in the name badges of the service personnel and was re-assured that all of them were localites. I was thoroughly impressed by the service culture and mannerisms exhibited by the entire team. I am sure there must have been a lot of effort gone in training this entire team to change them from being a motley group of youngsters from a small city in Madhya Pradesh to a world class service focused team.

This experience gave me a few insights. Here was a team of highly motivated individuals trying to provide customer satisfaction to the best possible extent. I am sure they were all born and brought up in the same culture as the other people of Pradesh. However, what differentiates them was possibly the grooming that they got from McDonald's. If there was some way we could aim to groom youngsters in the state of Madhya Pradesh similar to a McDonald's way, I am sure the state would possibly have a much better work force.

More importantly, if a McDonald's can train and groom these youngsters to such high professional standards, I am sure any other organization working in the state of Madhya Pradesh too can do the same, provided they have the desire to make a difference. Unless organizations working in Madhya Pradesh take an active interest in enhancing the quality of the work force in Madhya Pradesh, they will never find good quality people in the state. With no effort to train and groom their workforce, organizations can only lament about the non-availability of good quality people in the state. For me, I have my task cutout. Invest in training my people and stop worrying about non-availability of good talent! Way to go!

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