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Outsourcing Drive Thru?

Ronald McDonald is seen with Michael Roberts, president of McDonald's, center, and Marilyn Wright, owner of ten McDonald's restaurants, in Chicago July 12, 2004, to announce the plans for a newly designed McDonald's flagship.
AP
McDonald's Corp., the world's largest restaurant chain, is testing the use of remote call centers to handle drive-thru orders in an effort to improve service.

Company officials said the idea, being tested at a small number of restaurants in the Pacific Northwest, is aimed at reducing the number of mistakes at the drive-thru window.

"If you're in L.A. and you hear a person ... with a North Dakota accent taking your order, you'll know what we're up to," McDonald's Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner said during a presentation to analysts Thursday in New York.

CBS News Radio Correspondent Lou Miliano reports the strategy is based on the theory that mistakes come from the order-taker, not the cook line. Sending orders directly to a call center and back to the grill could also allow McDonald's employees to focus on delivering better customer service, the company said.

"You have a professional order taker with strong communications skills whose job is to do nothing but take down orders," said Matthew Paull, the chief financial officer.

Paull said a "heavy percentage" of complaints the company receives are from drive-thru customers who got the wrong order.

"Even if 95 percent of the time it is right, those 5 percent are very upset with us," he said.

McDonald's spokeswoman Anna Rozenich said Friday it was too early to say whether the outsourcing strategy would be implemented systemwide.

McDonald's shares closed down 16 cents to $32.59 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange Friday, near the high end of their 52-week trading range of $25.05 to $34.56.