Guiding principles a recipe for success

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2012, 12:00am


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McDonald's unwavering commitment to 'QSCV' - quality, service, cleanliness and value - has been the bedrock of the fast-food chain's long-standing success globally and in Hong Kong.

'For 37 years, McDonald's Hong Kong has adhered to the principle. It is our gold standard,' says Randy Lai Wai-sze, managing director of McDonald's Restaurants (Hong Kong), which scooped the gold award at the 2012 HKMA Quality Award.

Lai says McDonald's Hong Kong formulates its annual strategic plans based on the QSCV principle. 'It is about providing high-quality food and superior service to our customers in a clean and welcoming environment at great value every time they visit our restaurants,' she says. 'We strive to be our customers' first choice. We put customers in the driver's seat.'

The company gathers feedback from existing customers through various channels, organises monthly visits by mystery shoppers and conducts market research with the aim to develop new products that customers will enjoy. Views of potential customers are also solicited through focus groups and the tracking of opinions in the media and on digital platforms.

Lai says it is imperative for each member of staff to know the company's plans and direction, which calls for effective communication. 'It is only when our employees are happy [that] our customers will be happy. We go from the 'board room' to the 'crew room' to connect with our employees,' she says.

Yet, this is no small feat for a business with more than 230 stores across Hong Kong and a 15,000-strong workforce. The company collects feedback from employees regularly, Lai says. She meets with more than 10 store managers each month during a casual lunch gathering and listens to the challenges that frontline employees face at work, their achievements and suggestions for improving customer service. Sometimes they even delve into personal matters.

'We are frank with one another,' Lai says. 'The monthly communication session is a great way to find out what is happening on the ground and think of ways to help resolve the issues. I would then come up with strategies that would cascade down the organisation.'

The company's emphasis on two-way communication reflects the value it places on teamwork. Indeed, founder of McDonald's Ray Kroc once said: 'None of us is as good as all of us.'

Lai says: 'We must rely on our employees to continuously deliver high quality service. Our staff and their families are often themselves customers of McDonald's, which puts them in the best position to offer advice and suggestions.'

While at the helm of the organisation, Lai doesn't see herself as the boss. 'My philosophy is to be fun, firm and fair. I am here to serve my people, helping them find resources, setting the direction and giving them as much support as I can to enable them to provide excellent service.'

As a market leader, McDonald's Hong Kong - which serves about 1 million customers a day - faces the perennial challenge of catering to the demands of customers and offering service of the highest quality consistently. Training is essential for employees to embrace the customer-focused philosophy, and Lai says a comprehensive training system has been put in place.

Frontline staff don't just learn about cooking French fries, taking orders or operating the cash register, she says. Team leaders and assistant managers working in the store are given the opportunity to acquire soft skills in people management, leadership and business planning in order to prepare them for the role of a manager. Baristas working in McCafe, a coffee-house-style chain under McDonald's, are required to go through 300 hours of training. Meanwhile, top-performing store managers are selected every year to join the 'high potential development programme', which equips them for the work of a business consultant who supervises several stores.

Perhaps Lai herself is testament to the benefits of rigorous training. In addition to attending the Hamburger University, a training facility of McDonald's in Chicago, when she was with the marketing department, Lai in 2009 went through a fast-track training programme in Hong Kong, where she worked in the Admiralty store and learned the basics like a newcomer.

The first woman managing director of McDonald's Singapore and the first home-grown managing director of McDonald's Hong Kong, Lai says the exposure she gained from the training and working in different departments was invaluable. The company is dedicated to nurturing local talent, she adds. 'All members of the leadership team in Hong Kong are from Hong Kong,' Lai says. 'We know what Hong Kong people want. We are based here and have created 15,000 job opportunities for the people of Hong Kong.'

The company will devote as much effort into enhancing service, while stepping up its community endeavours. The recently set-up employee volunteer team is expected to be more active, while the 'I'm Amazing' campaign has been launched to raise funds for charity. The programme encourages children to design the first McDonald's-themed restaurant in the world by submitting their ideas online, which will be voted on by the public. The most popular designs will be crafted into furniture or display material, and be shown at a McDonald's restaurant. The artworks will be auctioned and the proceeds will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities Hong Kong. This programme 'inspires and implements the idea of 'children helping children'', Lai says. 'In addition to working hard, we should try and help the community of which we are a part.'