In recent years McDonald’s has worked hard to change its image ‘from fast food to good food fast.’ But speaking at social media and digital marketing conference #SMWF Europe earlier this month, Pierre Woreczek, chief brand and strategy officer, for McDonald’s explained how digital technology is changing McDonald’s structure, offer and customer relationships.

Moving from mass McDonald’s to my McDonald’s

Woreczek said the company was shifting to a much more personalised approach as it moved from mass McDonald’s to my McDonald’s. However he said it was a tough ask: “Personalisation is not a unique element but it is a pretty challenging goal for a mass business like McDonald’s,” he said. However he said digital, if McDonald’s does it well, could be “our road to heaven in our restaurants and we way we do things,” he said. So exactly what changes will it bring to the business and how it does things?

How digital will change the hospitality and service in McDonald’s…

In the retail environment kiosks are nothing new. But in the restaurant environment Woreczek said McDonald’s has been the first company to implement them with scale – with kiosks now in every one of its French stores. He described how digital technology will change the offer:

a) By allowing customers to access the food in a less stressful way.

Woreczek pointed out the benefit of kiosks to place orders in a less stressful manner than face to face when the customer can feel rushed or pressured – especially for families who are placing orders with their children in tow. Customers had fed back on the ease of use and convenience it offered he said.

b) By allowing the introduction of table service

The introduction of kiosks instore has, what at first glance appears to be a rather old school benefit – that of being able to offer table service in a fast food restaurant. “Table service will be possible and although it’s nothing new for the restaurant industry if you can have the opportunity to have the food served at your table in a modern way without waiting too long then it’s great,” said Woreczek. “Kiosks will allow you do this because when you order you can decide in which part of the restaurant you will sit,” he said.

c) By allowing mobile ordering to allow for greater flexibility and choice

Woreczek said the ability to customise all the different elements a customer wants to order – at counter, at kiosks, at table – was key. “We are not forcing people to act in one way or another. We give more flexibility and freedom for the customers. The ultimate freedom is to allow our customers to order wherever they are and whenever they want,” he said. McDonald’s was, he said learning much from the retail market, to understand the simplest, easiest way to do it and introduced web and mobile ordering in France at the end 2013. Customers order online or via mobile and then check in via kiosks when instore so that the order can be prepared and debited.

d) By allowing remote drive through ordering too

Woreczek said this was currently in testing in three or four stores in France to work out how customers could best order remotely if they are in their car. The trial is ongoing.

What digital means in changing McDonald’s interaction with its customers…

Woreczek said it wasn’t just the way that the company did business that was changing but its relationship between customer and staff too. “Before it was just about serving, serving, fast, fast, fast and was very stressful. Today the relationship is changing radically in the following ways, he said.

a) Changing the way the human relationship is happening in the store.

He said training was vital. “They spend time to support the customers to serve them but the relationship has totally changed and it’s a big challenge because we need to train people to be fully different in the contact they have with the people and the way they interact with them,” he said.

b) By allowing McDonald’s to learn more about its customers

Woreczek pointed out that, like in the retail world, kiosks and mobile and web ordering will allow McDonald’s to build a unique and specific relationship with its customers. “We will be able to know exactly what our customers are doing and how they are relating to us. Clearly that will give us the opportunity to satisfy them more than we do today. We can give them an opportunity to buy whenever and wherever they want and give them trial offers. The goal is to bring them more often in our stores and ensure they feel rewarded when they go more often,” he said.

c) By operating a more localised offer

“This will be the beginning of a totally different relationship we can start to have with our customers,” said Woreczek. “We are a franchise business so in all our restaurants the franchisees are in charge. This is a very localised concept. Every customer decides which restaurant will be his or her restaurant and the mobile relationship will be based on the restaurant which will be able to interact with the customer so that they can become a local hub for the customers. They will receive local promotions based on how they are interacting with that restaurant,” he said. However he said the company would limit itself to four messages in a month.

Lessons McDonald’s has learnt from the implementation of digital…

As Woreczek implied McDonald’s has gone through big shift in culture and operation to introduce digital instore. He shared the lessons the company has learnt.

a) Think and act like a start-up

“We are a big company and sometimes very heavy company. If you don’t move and don’t take risk and don’t start before it’s perfect nothing is happening. The things we have learnt is go on, try, test and move fast. Improve time after time step after step. This is a new mind-set for a big company like us,” he said.

b) Break down silos

“The second big element was how we organised ourselves around digital and who should digital report to? You need to have a strong reporting line but in reality if digital is not covering the entire functions and scope of the company it will never work so that was also a big change for us – we had to break the silos inside McDonalds to ensure the way digital was embedded was understood by the entire system so that all the functions would work together,” he said.

c) Bring everyone to the same level of knowledge

Woreczk admitted that for a business with two extremes of staff – under 25 year olds in store and older staff in head office – understanding everyone understood the role of digital meant a culture shift that brings everyone to the same level of knowledge and talked about McDonald’s digital university – which brings staff together to understand how digital is affecting the business.

Woreczek’s talk was certainly an interesting one but it was also, he said, just the beginning. “We also want to entertain customers and have social relationships with them,” he said.

Digital really is changing McDonald’s and fast.

Social media and digital marketing conference #SMWF N. America will be returning to New York on May 28th – 29th, with speakers including Dunkin’ Donuts, Mondelez International, MasterCard, Sonic, Wendy’s, Capital One, Coca Cola Company & many many more – find out more here.