McDonald's announces the creation of a customer experience team

McDonald's new customer team and the requirements of restructuring for CX


As McDonald’s becomes the latest major brand to announce a corporate reshuffle in order to place a greater focus on building a customer experience ‘team’, we look at the key considerations for such a restructure. 

29th Jul 2021

McDonald’s is the latest major brand to reshuffle its operations in order to place a greater focus on building a customer experience team.

According to Forbes, the world’s leading global restaurant chain has created a new customer experience team to focus on the “way consumers engage with [its] restaurants”. The team is set to bring its current global marketing, global restaurant development and restaurant solutions, data analytics and digital customer engagement departments together under the CX umbrella.

The company’s current vice president of international operated markets, Manu Steijaert will lead the new team and report directly to its CEO, as a chief customer officer.

The news comes less than a fortnight after another of the world’s biggest brands, Volkswagen, declared a similar reshuffle in the name of customer experience, hiring Markus Kleimann as its very first chief experience officer and tasking him with overseeing a new team of over 40 senior leaders charged with improving CX at the German car manufacturer. 

Volkswagen is itself following in the footsteps of General Motors, which also announced a renewed CX focus of its own, according to the Wall Street Journal.    

Led by the CEO

Whilst nothing new (as Forbes explains, even in the restaurant space big brands such as Wingstop, TGI Fridays and CraftWorks have been operating with CX teams, of some nature, for several years), the changes at McDonald’s – as well as at Volkswagen and GM – highlight the growing emphasis in big businesses of having customer experience together, as a centralised team. 

But what does it take to oversee a successful customer experience team, who should ideally be part of that team and what should its purpose be?

As highlighted by the McDonald’s announcement, a CX team should ideally report into the CEO of any given business, as a starting point.

For the Genesys report The value of experience: How the C-suite values customer experience in the digital age, the Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed over 500 senior-level executives across 21 countries to learn how global companies manage their CX programmes.

What stood out was how strongly CEO leadership of customer experience appears to correlate with profitability. As the report explains:  

"Companies which believe that they are much more profitable than their competitors are significantly more likely also to have their CEO in charge of customer experience initiatives. Whereas 58% of companies who say that they are much profitable than their competitors report that the CEO is in charge of customer experience, only 37% of less profitable companies say the same. We can say therefore that there is a clear link in our survey between CEO leadership of customer experience and profitability."

In the 2020 MyCustomer research report, Rise of the Customer Experience Leader, around 39% of CX teams stated they reported directly to the CEO in their business. 20% reported to the CMO.

However, with a clear correlation being made between financial success and CX reporting directly to CEOs, it is unsurprisingly that more and more brands such as McDonald’s are making the relevant changes to their structure.


Source: Rise of the Customer Experience Leader

Team size

As further reported in MyCustomer’s research report, Rise of the Customer Experience Leader, 46% of CX leaders have between 2 – 5 dedicated members of their CX ‘team’, whilst 15% had 6-10 team members, 7% had 11-20. A staggering 21% had 20 team members or more.

This trend of big businesses having large CX teams appears to have continued with McDonald’s latest announcement combining four different global departments and VW’s new CX team also comprising of 40+ senior leaders.

Shaun Myers, director of supply chain and customer service at Brenntag, suggested in a recent CX Leader Session for MyCustomer that the data around larger CX teams highlights how much focus brands are now giving to pay to customer experience, as a discipline:

“Return on investment is always tricky in the CX world, so to see any business that commits to the discipline and commits large resource in terms of personnel is a huge cause for optimism,” he said.

“There are many older incumbent organisations that are having to react to newer breeds of business that have been founded on strong CX-based principles. Either way it’s a win for customer experience and putting customers first.”

However, as revealed by Antonia Oakes, executive head of customer experience & responsible business at Old Mutual Insure, large teams aren’t always a necessary route to success:

“Being in CX for over 18 years now, my favoured structured is not one that necessarily needs to be primarily large. Being a sole member [of CX in a business] doesn’t work because CX is required across the entire business so you need eyes and ears on the ground, so to speak.

“But, ultimately, deployment and implementation does not come solely from a core CX team in any given business. Yes, some of the programmes and overseen, driven and evangelised by those working directly in a CX team in a business, but the actual implementation has to happen from every corner of the business. Of course it depends on the size of the organisation, but in large businesses you’ll still have core teams deploying aspects of CX for you, such as digital programmes happening with IT and operations in terms of product development or process design.”

Ultimately, deployment and implementation does not come solely from a core CX team in any given business

Team structure

Indeed, as someone who heads up CX across a large multinational business, Myers added that one of the fundamental requirements of a CX team is being able to create a mindset of customer-centricity that permeates throughout an organisation.

“Brenntag is a very traditional, B2B, technical organisation. What constituted customer service and experience was historically difficult to display. We trained 25 colleagues to a high standard on service and CX in order to try and create a customer-centricity that would resonate across the organisation.

“We knew we needed a group CX manager, essentially, to continue and oversee the development of that group of 25 people, so we hired someone to that role. In turn, over time, we’ve been able to take what we know, train those 25 people, and then build an online training model to further train a total of 80 people in the business on customer service and CX. We worked out that 15% of the organisation needed to be trained CX professionals, and that would be sufficient to breathe life into the whole business and create a feeling of customer-centricity throughout.”

One of the interesting announcements made by McDonald's is that as part of the restructure, marketing will now report into the new chief customer officer. This is a structure that Walmart is also now using, and demonstrates a commitment to driving customer-centricity through the organisation, removing silos, harmonising touchpoints and communications, and putting an emphasis on CX-focused growth. 

Whilst both Oakes and Myers agree that customer experience should be an organisation-wide initiative, Oakes has explained that at Old Mutual Insure the primary goal was to create a team that was able to serve customers at different stages of their customer journey.  

“Our strategic intent is operational excellence. The key touchpoints in a customer’s lifecycle are where we focus our team in terms of organisational design. Previously we had CX specialists, now we have customer success managers and give specific focus to core focus areas of our business – sales, service and claims – in our case.

The key touchpoints in a customer’s lifecycle are where we focus our team in terms of organisational design

“Demonstrating ROI is the most difficult thing, so our team is fundamentally built around that too. Our C-suite and leaders understand the benefits of CX, but it’s also because an internal team can demonstrate the value of CX now, as a result of how we’re organised.”

According to Ebenezer Banful, who has held customer experience leadership roles in a number of organisations in Australia including Yarra Valley Water and most recently, ANZ Bank, any organisation looking to create a CX team from scratch should be focused on eight distinct components:

  1. Gathering data, information and knowledge
  2. Implementing improvements
  3. Generating and sharing insights
  4. Monitoring and measuring
  5. Assessing current performance
  6. Planning
  7. Identifying risks and/or looking for alternative ways
  8. Recommending and advising

“If a business doesn't have clarity about the customer experience function, then your efforts to positively influence the experience of your customers is left to chance and subject to the strongest internal voices and whatever demands people within the organisation care to invent, spend on and call ‘customer experience transformation’.”

With McDonald’s such a monolithic and complex brand it remains to be seen whether its own, newly-devised CX team can successfully have the desired influence to transform customer experience for the better, long-term.

A customer experience team framework, produced by Ebenezer Banful
Source: Ebenezer Banful, Do businesses understand what customer experience teams do?



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