The curiously high cost of McDonald’s coffee and how it’s very McClever

For customer experience, we love to focus on what people ‘love’ and what people ‘need’ but maybe thinking about the lowest acceptable experience might help us even more.

To understand this blog, you have to comprehend Australian’s love of coffee. If you are not Australian, please read the postscript first. Let me also state that this is my opinion rather than an evidence based customer analysis.

‎McDonalds or (Maccas) as it called in Oz has in the past 5 years rolled out the McCafe which is essentially a café put at the front of the store. It has ‘barista’ made coffees and various pastries, muffins etc. To all intents and purposes, it is a café. It is also more expensive than most of the 400 other cafes in the immediate area, the coffee is not as good and the atmosphere is rather ‘McDonaldsy’. McDonalds therefore loses on almost all measures of customer value or experience but the McCafes are still there.

‎Here’s one of the reasons I think why

‎If you are choosing to have your hourly Cappuccino like most Aussies, it is very unlikely that you going to choose McDonalds as the number 1 coffee destination. However, I don’t think McDonalds care. This is because they have the awesome power of the Egg Muffin and the Big Mac in their arsenal. 5 years ago a customer with a real urge for a sausage sandwich at 10am would typically weigh up their options and decide that the need for a good coffee outweighs that of the McTastysnack so they would choose the bacon roll from the local café with their double shot extra foam Macchiato.

‎Today with the option of half way decent coffee at McDonalds, this allows people to focus on getting their Egg McMuffin and removes the reason to not go to McDonalds. It’s worth mentioning that Maccas don’t sell the McCafe products at the normal counter so this is probably where they are aiming anyway. McDonalds want to influence your decision making before you go in, not because they want to sell you coffee but because they want to get you in the door to sell you a sandwich. I think it’s very similar with salads which I’ve never actually seen anyone order; if you are out with 3 people, one absolutely wants a salad which would normally exclude McDonalds, but if the option is there, you take away the reason to say no.

‎Okay, so what.

‎We put a lot of effort into defining the ‘what good looks like’ in customer experience and on understanding what people love and what makes them happy. What we typically produce as consultants is a target customer experience journey with a supporting service design. We look at the delta between that and the current state and that becomes the customer transformation plan. The aspirational journey can often be just that, an unrealised wish.

‎Perhaps then, we need to consider the ‘just about good enough experience’, what is the journey which will keep people on board just long enough to not leave? If we test the lower level of expectation then we will know how far above we are aiming. With all the data and insights becoming available, we have the ability to see what triggers for behaviour will influence decision making. Rather than using this information to provide a universally better customer experience, why not develop the personalised ‘minimum viable experience’. There is obviously more to it than just this, but we could be thinking a little differently.

‎I know that my personal cut-off for waiting for a bus is 45 minutes before I’ll look for a taxi. If you build the system to charge me half price after a wait of 30 mins then I’ll probably wait longer. I know that I’d give up a weeks salary to avoid going to Ikea on a Saturday so offer me bookable parking and a free hot dog. I also know that I like a coffee at 10am but I’d probably quite like an Egg-McMuffin too.

I don’t need a reason to go, I need the excuse removed for why I can’t go.


‎PS People may try to convince you otherwise but the best coffee in the world is in Australia. It is treated with the reverence and respect the French treat a late harvest Chardonnay, or the way the Italians consider a tomato sauce. If you ask people where serves the best coffee they will often give you the location but only with a caveat about needing a specific barista. I know people who do not drink a coffee unless it can be confirmed as ‘single origin’. If you give Australians the choice to lose coffee forever or sacrifice barbecues for all eternity. It will be the double lattes which remain. If you are British and enjoy the coffee at a chain, you will be treated with the contempt you deserve.

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