You know the story.
You pull up to a McDonald's drive-thru, craving some of that classic, soft-serve vanilla.
Only to have that yearning quickly and utterly crushed when you were met with the following response:
"Sorry, the ice cream machine's down right now."
(Followed by you doing this.)
Well, chin up, fellow soft-serve enthusiasts. According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal:
McDonald's Corp. is getting new ice cream machines after customers complained the old ones were offline too often.
McDonald's says the new machines have fewer parts and are easier to maintain. A spokeswoman for the fast-food giant said the machines will be rolled out in restaurants in the U.S. and Europe.
Just one question: What in the world took so long?
If you've wondered over the years why McDonald's infamous ice cream machines seem to be out of operation more often than not, you're not alone. In a separate report, the WSJ noted that interruption in service was so widespread that it "spawned an avalanche of social-media complaints in the U.S. and abroad--and conspiracy theories."
Caitlin Davidson, a New Zealand native who suffered a meltdown after one particular craving for McDonald's soft-serve went unrequited, posted a video on Facebook to document the experience. (The video went viral, collecting over a million views and almost 5,000 comments.)
"I don't know when I'm going to crave an ice cream," rants Davidson. "Do I need to ring in advance and go, 'Hi, is your ice cream machine working, Ronald? Is it, or is it not? Can you let me know, please? Because I'm about to waste so much petrol to get to your stupid restaurant....'"
"What the heck is the point? Take it off the menu if you don't have ice cream. I've had enough!"
Pretty much sums up my feelings. Exactly.
Contrary to popular belief that employees simply don't feel like getting the machine back online, though, the WSJ's investigation shed some light on what's really going on. In order to keep the machines clear of bacteria, procedure requires the machines undergo "a nightly automated heat cleaning cycle of up to four hours."
Reporters also discovered that getting the machines ready for that cleaning is "an 11-step process that involves combining a sanitizing mix with warm water, removing and rinsing seven parts, brushing clean two fixed parts for 60 seconds, and wiping down the machine with a sanitized towel, according to the manufacturer's operating manual online."
According to one former McDonald's shift manager: "If someone ordered an ice cream while employees were in the process of cleaning the machines, [the employees] often just said it was down rather than reassembling it." And with many McDonald's now open 24 hours, there's the increased challenge of finding a time to initiate the cleaning process without disappointing customers.
Which is why the new machines have gotten so many people excited.
The lesson here is a simple one, but one that so many businesses miss. Every. Single. Day.
Listen to your customers. Listen to your employees. Change what's broken.
If McDonald's had done that years ago, just imagine how many more ice cream cones they would have sold by now.