Making Profits Does Not Always Mean Satisfaction

Posted by

Just because a company is making money does not necessarily mean they are making people happy with their service. That is what was discovered in a recent study by Empathica Inc., a leading global provider of Customer Experience Management solutions. The study surveyed 10,000 US consumers, asking them various customer satisfaction questions about recent visits to many fast-food burger places. From the responses, they put together a ranking system on things like food quality, staff and atmosphere.

Interestingly, those that ranked the top three in actual sales were ranked at the bottom in the survey. As one writer at CSM put it, “Despite industry leadership in sales volume, Empathica’s QSR Benchmark Study reveals low customer satisfaction scores for "Big 3" – McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.”

The report itself shows that all three of the “Big 3” ranked near the bottom in almost all categories, including food, staff, menu and atmosphere. So how exactly are they the biggest in sales? You would think, rationally, that the places with the worst service should have the least amount of profits, but that isn’t always so.

For one, I believe there is a connection between the profits and the number of locations, as well as the prices. Quick access and availability most likely play a high role in amount of visits. Someone may not like the service or even really like the food as much, but sometimes convenience kicks in and people choose to run down the street to the closest McDonald’s for a dollar menu special, rather that drive a few miles more for a Five Guys five-dollar burger (one of the higher ranking places).

The Chief Customer Officer at Empathica, Dr. Gary Edwards, had this to say in a related article about the study on Quick Service Restaurant’s (QSR):

There are more than 100,000 QSRs in the United States alone, which makes this industry an extremely competitive marketplace. Of course these restaurants must be quick and have great tasting food, but service is where they can differentiate themselves from the competition. According to our Benchmark results, service is the area that needs improvement across the board – it is also a key area that can drive customer loyalty and satisfaction.

The study found that the likelihood of a return visit greatly increased when customers had a higher satisfaction rate, which seems logical of course. However, I did not find where the study revealed anything about the amount of locations for each type of restaurant in the various areas surveyed, so I wonder how much that may have affected the results. In other words, you find the big three on most every corner in most every size town, while the number of available Five Guys, In-N-Out Burger, and Whataburger (the top three) restaurants may not be even close to that amount in any given town. Did the people have access as easily to the other brands, or mainly just the big three? And when looking at the overall sales, this availability as well as item costs would play a factor too.

In the end, it really should come down to the service received, but in some cases it does not. In today’s economy especially, cost and convenience often trump great service. People are not always willing to be inconvenienced or pay more for better food and service, sadly. And as long as the big three continue making profits, there is no real incentive for them to change their service practices.

I have not stepped foot in a Burger King or McDonald’s in years, even though they are located within walking distance from my home. It comes down to service and quality of food for me, and I will quickly dismiss convenience and drive the few miles across town for a Five Guy’s experience any day. Increased cost just means I cannot do so as often as I may like.

In researching a little further, I was reading what others had to say about why people choose bad service places often, and ran across some good points being made in an older article titled We Prefer Bad Customer Service  on The Atlantic site. He concurs that most people make decisions and buy by price, as I have mentioned, but also connects public acceptance into the equation. “If poor customer service really bothered us, then we could boycott the worst of the perpetrators. I happen to be one of the few people who sticks to a boycott when I’ve been terribly wronged, but I think I’m in the minority… Most people have a very short memory when it comes to bad customer service, especially when low prices entice them to return to the company where they experienced annoyance last time.”

So, whether a company pushes to provide a great customer experience or not, if you are going into a CSR related field, do not settle for just getting the job done like some of these burger joints seem to be doing. While there may be profits, they will not be near as much profits as there potentially could be with better service, and you standing up and offering better service may rub-off on those around you.

Image courtesy of Ambro at


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch