McDonalds Outsourcing Drive Through Order Takers
January 23, 2005 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Would You Like Fries With That? Fourteen McDonalds in Oregon and southeastern Washington have been linked to the call center operated by SEI-CCS Inc.,(link works in IE only...) a Fargo, N.D.-based company that works closely with McDonald's. The call taker in Grand Forks enters your order into a computer and relays it back to the home restaurant, where it pops up on a screen in the kitchen. Meanwhile, a digital camera photographs your car as you drive through. The photo pops up on a separate screen next to the order at the drive-through cashier's window to match the order with the car. A total of 50 McDonald's are expected to be on line within a few months, including seven more of Adams' restaurants and five in the Portland area, he said.
posted by pwb503 (59 comments total)
 
So I guess I should
1. call a phone
2. order while/before driving toward
3. pay something for the service
4. be happy I got my fatburget in 3 minutes less ?

Ohhh..mmhhh...ok, I pass.
posted by elpapacito at 11:56 AM on January 23, 2005


There was a story on this phenomenon on Marketplace recently.
posted by euphorb at 12:00 PM on January 23, 2005


that's supposed to be faster? ugh.

and while the guy says he hasn't reduced his staff, you know he will.
posted by amberglow at 12:02 PM on January 23, 2005


meanwhile in washington dc, a computer system runs the digital photo of your car through the homeland security alert database ... (puts tin foil hat on)
posted by pyramid termite at 12:05 PM on January 23, 2005


This doesn't make much sense - it sounds like too much trouble and expense to be worth it for the customer or the restaurants. Maybe some Yuppie types will go for it, but they aren't McDonald's main clientele anyway. The waiting time at McDonald's is pretty negligible as it is.
posted by orange swan at 12:06 PM on January 23, 2005


Unbelievable. Sites that are designed strictly for IE, should take heed of browser-usage statistics.

As for the idea, it's just to eliminate staff (as much as they claim it's not). I'll laugh my ass off the first time there are problems with the system, and it costs all these restaurants (and eventually a lot more) a lot of $$.
posted by purephase at 12:19 PM on January 23, 2005


and the photo of your car and plate is stored with a count incremented on each visit in case you decide to sue mcdonalds in 15 years for your health problems.
posted by donkeysuck at 12:21 PM on January 23, 2005


Next stop, India.
posted by caddis at 12:21 PM on January 23, 2005


Do you think you can buy a copy of your picture of you ordering a McDonalds meal? Perhaps in a delightful cardboard frame.

The moment there's a glitch in the system that location is going to have a severe panic attack trying to figure out how to get the order ("I can see the customer looking at me but I don't know what he wants to eat! Arrrgggghhhh!!!!").

At this point wouldn't it just be easier for them to shoot bags of food at your car as you speed by and charge your McDonald's brnaded credit card? .
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:24 PM on January 23, 2005


I think some of you are "not getting it". The customer experience would be the same as a normal McDonald's. But the disembodied voice that takes your order isn't some teenager inside with a headset, it's someone at a centralized call center. They take your order and send it to local restaurant to be fulfilled. Since this is all done with computers inside the restaurant already, it should be rather efficient.

You don't have to call in your order yourself to the call center, or anything weird like that.
posted by smackfu at 12:26 PM on January 23, 2005


McDonalds Outsourcing Drive Through Order Takers

Isn't really 'outsourcing' if it stays with in the country.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:27 PM on January 23, 2005


Soon, "Slippery Jim" DiGriz's favorite hideout will become a reality. When I see "100% American Porcuswine" printed on their wrappers, it's going to be time to go.
posted by FormlessOne at 12:30 PM on January 23, 2005


This idea is so dumb it hurts my brain. How can it possibly be cheaper, easier, or more efficient than having the minimum wager who is already behind the counter take your order?

Has anyone considered the fact that this makes special orders almost impossible? Oh wait, they never get special orders right at McDonalds anyway.
posted by ilsa at 12:32 PM on January 23, 2005


This is a good idea. In the marketplace story one of the call center workers said that she used to work in a mcdonalds proper. She said she liked it much better at the call center. Something about not stinking of grease. I'm assuming that the call center folks can type up special orders. Seems like it'd work fine to me. At the most minimum the efficiency of having the people talking to customers work in a less noisy environment is an improvement.
posted by Wood at 12:41 PM on January 23, 2005


Related: NYT article about the call monitoring centers all over the world that monitor your orders and customer service calls. Very interesting read.
posted by scazza at 12:53 PM on January 23, 2005


Isn't really 'outsourcing' if it stays with in the country.

It's exactly outsourcing, just in the real meaning of the word and not the political buzzword meaning.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:55 PM on January 23, 2005


Speaking from personal experience, yes is is true degree from UND will only qualify you to take fast food orders.
posted by nathan_teske at 12:59 PM on January 23, 2005


I predict in ten years, India will have 2% unemployment and the entire subcontinent will be working over the phone and internet to serve the fifteen people in the United States who still have jobs.
posted by Arch Stanton at 12:59 PM on January 23, 2005


Isn't really 'outsourcing' if it stays with in the country.

Tell that to the governor of the state where the workers used to be employed.

All politics is local, Steve.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 1:01 PM on January 23, 2005


I can see a few advantages to this, but the potentials for disaster are far more plentiful. In addition to all the ones already said... let's see...

1) When was the last time you tried to talk to somebody on a speakerphone? As bad as drive-through speakers are now, this can only increase the incomprehensible "wahWAHwahwah."

2) Example: Unscrupulous bastard asks for a Big Mac. Call center diligently enters Big Mac order and transmits it to McDonald's. McDonald's employee assembles Big Mac and hands it to unscrupulous bastard. UB opens bag and shouts, "I asked for a quarter-pounder with cheese! I'm not paying for this!" UB receives one, possibly two free burgers because how is the manager going to double-check?

Isn't really 'outsourcing' if it stays with in the country.

Yes, it is. Companies were outsourcing to American companies long before they discovered they could get foreign work even cheaper.

(On preview: Ditto Space Coyote.)

And Wood, I'd much rather work in a call center than a McDonald's, too, but that might not be an option for the inevitably downsized order-takers (if, for example, the call center is in a different state).
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:02 PM on January 23, 2005


Call center diligently enters Big Mac order and transmits it to McDonald's. McDonald's employee assembles Big Mac and hands it to unscrupulous bastard. UB opens bag and shouts, "I asked for a quarter-pounder with cheese! I'm not paying for this!" UB receives one, possibly two free burgers because how is the manager going to double-check?

Solution: use Diebold technology - no paper trail. You'll take your Big Mac AND LIKE IT, asshole.
posted by psmealey at 1:06 PM on January 23, 2005


Soon, "Slippery Jim" DiGriz's favorite hideout will become a reality

man, did I love those books :)
posted by soulhuntre at 1:09 PM on January 23, 2005


What speakerphone?
posted by caddis at 1:11 PM on January 23, 2005


Why bother with this? If you're looking to cut out the order-taking job, use voice recognition or something.

- "Please speak the number of the items you want now."
- "ten, six, twenty-four, two, two, two"
- "Did you say you wanted [switch to real voice]A BIG MAC WITH CHEESE, and a CHICKEN SANDWICH and a LARGE COKE and a APPLE PIE, and a APPLE PIE, and a APPLE PIE? If this is correct, say SIX now.

It would be so much more impersonal. Their call-center idea just isn't quite impersonal enough. It still has that hint of "we care slightly."
posted by odinsdream at 1:16 PM on January 23, 2005 [1 favorite]


Yes, the "out" in outsourcing means out of the company, not out of the country. The idea is that you determine what your company's core competencies are, and hire other companies to do the things that are not your core competencies (but are theirs). This results in lower costs and higher quality. It's essentially Ricardo's principle of comparitive advantage for companies. Anyone who hires an outside accounting firm rather than keeping their own books is outsourcing.

Why keep a warehouse of products ready to ship out, when you could outsource the warehousing to Airborne Express, who will keep the merchandise at their hub in Ohio for a reasonable price, allowing you to accept overnight orders for it as late as 3 AM? PC Warehouse was one of the first to take this deal, and most big mail-order retailers do something similar now, outsourcing if not to a shipper itself then to a third party located really close to UPS's big hub in Chicago or to Memphis (FedEx). It costs less and makes customers happier. Billing is another function that is commonly outsourced -- rather than having an A/R department, you hire someone else to send and collect your bills and take a flat percentage off the top. Since they specialize in collecting bills for lots of companies, their employees are more efficiently employed than yours due to economies of scale, and you save money. Other commonly-outsourced functions include directory assistance (for phone companies) and customer service.

This McDonald's thing is a pretty extreme outsourcing example, but I'm glad to see they're still trying to innovate. Frankly, they'd probably get a bunch more orders if they gave customers direct phone access to the call center, and I don't doubt that this is in the plans. Imagine, you whip out our cell phone, place your order, and the next McDonald's along the highway has your order waiting for you when you pull in, no matter where you are. Not that I like McDonald's so much, but if they do it, their competition will be forced to follow suit, and some of their competitors I do like.
posted by kindall at 1:28 PM on January 23, 2005


I so want to be there when the phone line goes down or gets hacked, or someone releases a special virus. Not in line, I mean, just observing...
posted by c13 at 1:31 PM on January 23, 2005


Imagine, you whip out our cell phone, place your order, and the next McDonald's along the highway has your order waiting for you when you pull in, no matter where you are.

Okay; that would be neat. Of course, you can already do that with your favorite local pizzeria or Chinese carry-out.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:34 PM on January 23, 2005


how is the manager going to double-check?

I'd guess the manager could still talk to whoever took the order, but instead of talking face to face they would do it through the relay. I can't really think of any reason someone taking drive-thru orders has to be physically present at the restaurant.

I guess the next step is to centralize cashiers and have them communicate through holograms or avatar robots.
posted by bobo123 at 1:43 PM on January 23, 2005


If the phones go out at the call center, not one, but every McDonalds in a XX mile radius stops taking drive-thru orders. Oh, the burgerholics are going to have problems with that...
posted by wendell at 2:03 PM on January 23, 2005


Space Coyote: That is why I put 'outsourcing' with the quotes
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:07 PM on January 23, 2005


Um...Ok, then, the answer is: it isn't 'outsourcing', it's outsourcing.

Of course, since the original quote was "McDonalds Outsourcing Drive Through Order Takers", and not "McDonalds 'Outsourcing' Drive Through Order Takers", I'm not sure why you used the word "really", as if implying that someone had said it was 'outsourcing', which no-one did.
posted by Bugbread at 2:38 PM on January 23, 2005


Steve, aha, so your latest romance with incompetence has just as much to do with your inability to effectively punctuate as it does with your inappropriate politicizing of a non-partisan item. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by esoterica at 3:04 PM on January 23, 2005


So much for Osama Bin Laden's, one dollar hot fudge sundae fetish. I for one think that a trip to McDonalds now becomes an event that requires a costume. I think there could be a nationwide competition for the best McDonalds drive through disguise. No wonder I hate shopping so much, anymore, synthetic telepathy anti shoplifting messages, and being photographed at burger joints. Very soon, the prairie dogs will have it better than we do.
posted by Oyéah at 3:08 PM on January 23, 2005


Okay, I copied some stuff to paste off the parent company's website. The Remote ordering is handled from Hungary. "Hung-freaking-gary".
I am sure the communications will be substantially increased, by individuals whose mother language, most resembles Korean. Anyway, yes, this is a big outsourcing piece. You know that McDonalds won't buy into this with out cutting cost, some other way. Oh, and that the nation of Hungary, can take pictures inside the United States day in and day out, is kind of unnerving to me as well.

Here is the copied verbiage.

*****************************************************

SEI is an American company(see www.sei-it.com), headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, comprises two main business units: Customer Care Services (CCS), and a new entity, the Remote Order Centre (ROC). Both units are independent legal entities, with subsidiary organizations in adherence, Hungary.

SEI CCS (www.sei-it.com) provides high quality IT Support services to a variety of well known client companies from its Call Centre Operations in Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota and adherence Hungary. SEI Europe established a multi-lingual service desk to support international clients in Debrecen in 2003 and will eventually reach around 140 professional call centre staff plus a number of software developers

SEI-ROC is a new SEI start-up being created in conjunction with an existing client. The ROC business is in the pilot stage with one of the world's largest Quick Service Restaurants. If the customer decides to roll out the new function, and if SEI is successful in acquiring a significant share of the business and can execute successfully, ROC has the potential to grow to 10,000 call centre employees by the end of 2006. ROC will most likely be operated from Grand Forks, North Dakota. In addition ROC will also have a significant European operation, initially supporting this new initiative, and later developing a similar product within Europe. Now we are seeking a
posted by Oyéah at 3:17 PM on January 23, 2005


bobo123 - i've known people who work at mcdonalds ... odds are the manager will just give them the extra burger to keep them happy ... it happens all the time
posted by pyramid termite at 3:18 PM on January 23, 2005


What an, odd collection of, commas.
posted by Bugbread at 3:26 PM on January 23, 2005


Hey Formlessone, thanks for the Stainless Steel Rat reference!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:55 PM on January 23, 2005


Space Coyote: That is why I put 'outsourcing' with the quotes

Hee.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:00 PM on January 23, 2005


SEI is an American company(see www.sei-it.com), headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois


Oak Brook is also where McDonald's has their headquarters. Coincidence? I think not.
posted by o0o0o at 4:07 PM on January 23, 2005


Hahahaha, holy crap, I just realized I used to work for SEI (known as Sykes Enterprises at the time) supporting Gateway computers. Judging by how often there were phone problems, there will definitely be some service interruptions here. Ahhh, sweet memories of soul crushing call center life...
posted by TungstenChef at 4:51 PM on January 23, 2005


that the nation of Hungary, can take pictures inside the United States day in and day out, is kind of unnerving to me as well

So, are you unnerved because we are giving away our best drive-through trade secrets to foreign countries, or because we are potentially giving terrorists access to recon on our fast food habits?

/Sarcasm


So, I have 100 stores that each require someone to take orders "over the phone." This person is busy, say, 80% of the time. If I create a centralized location to handle these order entries, I can replace the 100 people working at 80% capacity with 80 people working at 100% capacity ( or, even 90 people at 90% capacity, approx.). Why would I not want to reduce inefficiency? (Yes, this is a very simplistic example, but it makes the point.)

Sure, language could be a problem, but the few times I've been to a McDs drive through, the communication skills on the other end were not that great anyway.


If the phones go out at the call center, not one, but every McDonalds in a XX mile radius stops taking drive-thru orders.

That's a little like saying they shouldn't use electric cash registers because the power could go out.
posted by Bort at 5:05 PM on January 23, 2005


Again, I'll ask why something devilishly simpler wasn't considered before this ridiculous call-center idea. After about 30 seconds of consideration, I came up with this:

BUTTONS

Yes, buttons. A menu, with little buttons next to each item. Drive up, push buttons for what you want, and push "ORDER THIS STUFF."

Real news just sounds more and more like The Onion, to me: "Fast Food Ups Efficiency by Outsourcing to Hungary"
posted by odinsdream at 7:02 PM on January 23, 2005


You know, the biggest problem I have with McDonald's isn't that they suck and are evil. It's that when I drive through to get a Coke and ask for extra ice, they never give it to me. This development will make the likelihood of getting the extra ice that much more remote. Bastards.

Odinsdream --- do you really want to be touching buttons on the McDonald's drive-thru?
posted by socratic at 8:16 PM on January 23, 2005


At this point wouldn't it just be easier for them to shoot bags of food at your car as you speed by and charge your McDonald's brnaded credit card? .

I would love this! Where do I sign up?
posted by ricecrazy at 9:09 PM on January 23, 2005


It's that when I drive through to get a Coke and ask for extra ice, they never give it to me.

Which is actually kind of stupid of them when you consider that you're asking them to put, say, 1.9 cents worth of Coke syrup into the drink instead of the full 2.0 cents. You're making them more profit, you think they'd be all over that.

Which leaves the question ... why would anyone want extra ice?
posted by kindall at 9:27 PM on January 23, 2005


Probably the biggest problem with buttons is that too many people would be unable to figure it out.
posted by drezdn at 10:51 PM on January 23, 2005


This reminds me of another situation where McDonald's is testing a new technology using digital images of cars in the drive-thru line. Hyperactive Bob is a system that scans the line of cars in the drive-thru, and uses the information on what cars are waiting to make a smart prediction of how many hamburger patties to put on the grill in the next minute.
posted by mach at 11:17 PM on January 23, 2005


Isn't really 'outsourcing' if it stays with in the country.

"offshore outsourcing" is what you're thinking about.
posted by gluechunk at 12:32 AM on January 24, 2005


kindall, the ice costs more than the syrup, and the cup more than both combined. Or so I recall from somewhere else.

It would make sense considering I rarely ever find a McDonald's that has a working ice dispenser.
posted by shepd at 12:41 AM on January 24, 2005


odinsdream
There's a very good reason they don't use a system like that. It's pretty obvious when you think about it: their meny is always changing. If they had, say, ten items on their menu, and always had the same ten items, then yes, a button system could work. But McDonald's is constantly changing their menu, with new burgers and other items all the time. Not to mention the ever-changing specials, deals, combos, and such. Even if they figured out a way to create a button system that would not require them to physically add buttons for every new itme, it would still be prohibitively expensive to overhaul their system every few months.

That being said, I can imagine a button system within the system the FPP talks about. You dial a number on your phone, and then go through a series of menus, picking out what you want. If set up properly, it would be quick, easy, and very efficient. Perhaps they could even have a way to call back and cancel or change an order within a certain period of time. Since the menus are digital, it would be easy to change them or add new things.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:20 AM on January 24, 2005


Fuck--why hasn't that motha fuckin Kumar (jonmc) said anything about White Castle being the best franchise restaurant yet? I read this whole thread looking for it!!!!!@1
posted by The God Complex at 2:53 AM on January 24, 2005


I think the buttons thing wouldn't be as difficult as Sangermaine seems to think but I then I'm also surprised that there's any human interface at all. Voice recognition software will soon mean the location of the human is irrelevant (Ans: The Job Centre). (I have to admit to being very impressed by the UK's new national rail enquiries phone service, which has a much better record regarding names in Cornwall than any human operator I have spoken to since moving here.)
posted by biffa at 6:50 AM on January 24, 2005


Do you suppose it is just a coincidence that North Dakota's minimum wage is $2.10 an hour lower than Oregon's?

His workers start at $7.50 an hour, 25 cents above Oregon's minimum wage, and average $8.45 an hour.

Chris Read, customer service care manager for SEI-CCS in Fargo, declined to discuss the call centers or how much employees earn an hour. North Dakota's minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, identical with the federal minimum wage.

posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:01 AM on January 24, 2005


Judging by the number of MacDonalds employees who have been trained on the buttoned cash register and can't find items I can't see this flying for the general public.
posted by Mitheral at 9:13 AM on January 24, 2005


Boo to buttons - you want a touch screen. The items can then change whenever you like.
posted by chrid at 9:21 AM on January 24, 2005


Bandwidth is now, officially, too cheap.
posted by Vetinari at 12:03 PM on January 24, 2005


I can't seem to find it on Google (probably not using the right words), but didn't I read a few months ago something about McDonald's investing many millions working on completely automating their food production lines? As in, your burger combo is prepared and assembled by machinery, as opposed to human burger-flippers and fry specialists?

Couple that with outsourced call center ordering - and probably eventually automated voice-recognition order-taking AI software - this could almost completely remove humans from the fast-food loop. Certainly the restaurant staff would mostly be eliminated.

To zoogleplex the science fiction fan, this is heady, amazing future-stuff I've been reading about for years. To zoogleplex the guy who lives in LA in 2005, it's kind of scary, since *poof* there goes many, many jobs and opportunities for people, in the name of absolute corporate money-making efficiency.

Something's gotta give here, folks. While increasing efficiency is all well and good, maintaining a system that requires people to have money to live and survive, but pushing that system to the point where there are few ways to make money... well, it's going to break somewhere.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:25 PM on January 24, 2005


Even if they figured out a way to create a button system that would not require them to physically add buttons for every new itme, it would still be prohibitively expensive to overhaul their system every few months.

On the contrary, most Australian TAB's (betting shops) now have a push button betting system, from which you can bet on horse races all over the country. Races change every day, odds change every minute, and these machines are in use all over the place.

And anyone who tells you McDonalds eaters are too dense to work out how a push button menu works hasn't gotten an eyeful of the interior of a TAB recently. Hardly the nation's best and brightest, but they've worked out how to 'drop a lobster' on the number four in the fifth race at Randwick, fancy computer interface or no.
posted by backOfYourMind at 6:00 AM on January 30, 2005


I like to get the nutrients pumped directly into my sensory simulation pod from the corpse-slurry vats, personally.
posted by nanojath at 9:29 PM on February 22, 2005


« Older King of Late Night passes.   |   All Our Yesterdays Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments