Burger King used the simplest tech to expose McDonald’s customer service

How do you try to fix McDonald's customer service issues? If you're Burger King, you use tech to get personal. Yet it's not as if Burger King is personally so perfect, as I soon discovered.

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Should it mind its own business?

Screenshot by ZDNet

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So, if you're not the No. 1 brand -- McDonald's -- you do all you can to denigrate the No. 1 brand.

You do this in the sure knowledge that No. 1 brands tend not to punch down. Leaders don't do that. Well, in most countries that's true.

It's inevitable, then, that Burger King seems to have built a substantial part of its essence on a snorting mockery of McDonald's.

Its latest effort took some, well, effort. And very simple, oddly human tech.

Would You Like Some Whine With That Burger, Sir?

Burger King's Danish arm decided to scan the McDonald's Facebook page. There, inevitably, was a multitude of complaints about the company's customer service. That's what Facebook is for. Well, that and the dissemination of extreme politics.

Burger King deployed some of its hard-working staff -- and, I fear, some of its ad agency's highly relaxed staff -- to send reply after reply to unhappy McDonald's customers.

Yes, personal replies. Written by a human hand. Well, typed.

What a splendidly personal way to go about things in our highly app-happy world.

"We waited two hours in McDrive," whines a customer on Facebook. Which might cause one or two sentient sorts to suggest it's the customer who has the problem, not McDonald's.

However, Burger King helpfully replied: "Well, everyone can have a slow day in fast food. Here's a quick Whopper."

Such generosity of spirit. Coupled with the gift of a free burger.

"We only got one bun in our Big Mac!" complains another customer.

"Big Mac convertible? How innovative. Here's a two-bun Whopper," offers Burger King.

It's all very clever, isn't it? And Burger King says it's part of a new promise to answer all online complaints within 48 hours.

Is Burger King Actually So Much Better?

Is it the case, though, that McDonald's customer service is so much worse than, say, Burger King's?

"While we're not perfect, we do our best to help everyone. Even our old friends," said Burger King in the ad that collated some of its personal responses.

It's true that the customer service crown lies uneasily on the King's head. You see, I just went to Burger King's US Facebook page and, oh, the calamities.

Sample: "So I just tried to post a picture of my 30 dollar dinner tonight and of my crispy chicken sandwich. By the way I think is the best. But tonight staff was rude and my chicken was small and burnt. I've never seen this before. I guess I'll post it to my own FB page!!! I've never in my life."

Another sample: "What you get is only what they give you. 3rd time in a row ordered with cheese and low and behold no cheese. Oh and no bbq sauce for the nuggets. Carlisle pa Burger King crew fails constantly. Ps. bring back the whopperrito but maybe just to locations competent enough to make it right."

Yet another sample: "Got charged twice for my order. And customer service was no help. So annoying!"

And then there was a video posted. It was entitled: "Worst Customer Service at Burger King in Lake Havasu City, AZ."

I looked hard to find responses from Burger King to these complaints. I failed.

It's Only Over There. Not Over Here.

Then I went to Burger King's Danish Facebook page and what do I find? This, from a disgruntled American resident Vinit Mehta: "I hope the Burger King here in US would address my complaint. I am sure they don't have time to address their own complaints first! Helping Mc Donalds is secondary."

To which Burger King Denmark replied: "Hi Vinit, I'm sorry to hear our collogues [sic] in the states are yet to answer your complaint - I'm sure they're getting to it! However, this campaign is only active on the Danish market and even though I really want to help you, I'm unsure if a Danish Whopper-voucher will get you the quite the right flamegrilled help you need."

I fear that if this idea came to the US, too many people would instantly go to McDonald's Facebook page to complain, in the greedy expectation of getting a free Whopper. We're enterprising like that.

Still, Burger King's urge to chutzpah points is one of the joys of online marketing. You can turn heads in your direction by being clever. Attention is so short and if you're Burger King your customers rather expect you to be wily.

But if they do just a little research -- or, perish the concept, if they have a bad customer experience -- then it's you who may have the problem.

Ultimately, the web has become a better place to get your complaints heard than many of the more analog ways. Why, Burger King recently admitted its physical restaurants are so awful that you should avoid them and order via its delivery app.

Somehow, Twitter has become a far better place to get a response than Facebook.

Just make a loud tweeted complaint about a brand and goodness, its customer service people come a-running.

Well, customer service bots, in many cases.