Rethinking The Business Of Wellness

What McDonald’s Can Teach Your Wellness Business

It’s smart to look at the lessons you can learn from other industries. Even McDonald’s offers useful insights for health & wellness businesses:

1) Consistency is a beautiful thing.

A friend who grabs breakfast every morning at McDonald’s told me recently that every single day the egg on his biscuit is folded exactly the same way and cooked exactly the same way.

Lesson: The quality of your customer service shouldn’t vary wildly depending on which employee a customer happens to encounter. Sure, an experienced employee will often have a knowledge advantage. But everyone should be on top of key information, key processes and the like. Test them with common customer scenarios and see how they do. Observe their behavior.

We spotted a problem recently at a fitness center. Personal trainers were supposed to wipe down equipment between clients – but only one person consistently did it. When she was on duty, the cardio equipment was sparkling clean. When she wasn’t there, you’d find bubble gum in cup holders (not kidding) and pools of sweat on the stairclimbers.

2) Design simple processes – and train your employees

McDonald’s has worked hard to streamline and automate food preparation so that it minimizes training complexity. They’re also experts at how to train a constantly changing workforce with little job experience. As a result, they’ve built an organization that does a great job of producing consistent food and a consistent customer experience, even though turnover of their front-line employees is extremely high.

Lesson: Some wellness businesses seem perversely proud that “it takes at least a year to know how we do things around here.” Ridiculous! Evaluate your management team’s performance (and pay them) based on how well they’re streamlining and simplifying customer-affecting processes.

And don’t just run employees through a half-day orientation on filling out your internal paperwork. Teach them how to handle the most common customer situations. Test their knowledge. Get feedback from customers. Incorporate that feedback into employee performance evaluation. And periodically update employee training based on customer and employee feedback.

We hear over and over that “we can’t afford to take the time to train.”

Here’s another way to think about that statement: “We can’t afford to make sure that our employees know how to help customers. We can’t take the time to make sure that our customers have great experiences with our business.”

Still think it’s OK?

3) The “mom veto” matters

Salads and sliced apples aren’t top sellers at McDonald’s. So why do they keep offering these healthier items when everyone knows that it’s really all about the Happy Meals, the quarter-pounders and the fries? Simple. McDonald’s knows that moms are the key decision-makers about whether the family eats at the Golden Arches. If moms don’t feel that they can order something healthy for themselves, they’re less likely to take the kids.

Lesson: Think about reasons that your customers might “veto” a visit to your business.

For some health clubs, lack of day care may be a reason. Parking problems may be an issue. Another business has a couple of members that flirt relentlessly with female members – but the manager hasn’t addressed their complaints. And we know of one yoga studio that’s only open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with no weekend hours at all. Nothing wrong with that – just realize that it’s costing you students.

4) Don’t bet your business on bandwagons

The “first mover” advantage (the idea that the first business to do something new makes the most money) is a myth in most industries.

McDonald’s studied the premium coffee market for a long time before starting to add fancier coffee drinks. That gave them time to learn from the experience of Starbucks and others, figure out what customers really wanted and develop methods for preparing the drinks that could be easily implemented.

Sure, Starbucks did it first – but McDonald’s is now reporting fantastic results from its coffee drinks.

Lesson: Health and wellness is perpetually excited about the “next big thing”. Gyrotonic training, suspension training, older adults, inactive people, people with Type 2 diabetes, kettlebells…the list seems endless.

Every one of these ideas is a great fit for one wellness business – and a really bad fit for another. Plus, it takes time, money and focus to flesh out each new idea and integrate it into your existing business.

Instead of constantly worrying about the next big thing, focus on what your customers are telling you they want. Start with your target audience and look for products and services that really mesh well with how they approach health and wellness. Your business will save time and money – and you’ll be far likelier to make a success of your new ideas.

5) Robotic repetition is no substitute for sincerity

McDonald’s does a great job of training its employees to say exactly the same thing over and over. It sounds the same almost everywhere:



What’s missing? Sincerity. They rarely actually make eye contact or engage with the customer in any personal way. All too often, they’re just going through the motions.Try saying “Thanks”. You often won’t get any sign that they even heard you.

Lesson: Yes, consistency matters – but it’s just the beginning. It all starts with employees who actually care about your customers and want to help them succeed. You’ll never be able to train empathy, sincerity, and genuine caring.

Too many wellness businesses interact with their customers on autopilot. They hire based on who’s cheapest and ignore the negative effects of constant turnover and employee disinterest on their customers’ experiences.

Ask yourself how often your customer’s first point of contact is with your least skilled, least knowledgeable, or least empathetic employee. Then – to borrow a phrase from Dr. Phil, Oprah’s self-help guru – ask yourself “How’s that working for your business?”

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