Ashton Media
Marketing & Customer Experience Hub

Delivering an ‘Always original’ customer experience



At KFC, we have a clearly defined brand purpose that provides for a focused customer experience. Our approach relies heavily on the brand’s retail operators putting originality into every transaction. To put this into context, if a KFC consumer interacts with our brand through advertising alone they might only spend 13 minutes with the brand in a year, whereas if they interact as a regular customer – and some of our heavier customers come to our brand once a week – they can spend 520 minutes with the brand over the same period.


It makes sense, then, that customer experience falls under the operations umbrella within our organisation. The global head of customer experience for KFC reports into operations as do our local customer experience people. Although we’ve got a chief marketing officer and a whole marketing team, fundamentally, they rely on us to deliver their ideas to the customer.

I am passionate about consumers and more importantly insights having started my career in major agencies then moving to client-side marketing. The one constant through all of these roles is how insights, ideas and data work together in order to improve the business.

An opportunist, I have transitioned from working media agency side on the KFC brand to in-house as part of the marketing team. I then went on to lead customer experience at KFC and for the first time, I am now in a pure operations role. I believe that in the role I have today I actually have a bigger impact on the customer experience than I did when I was in marketing.

The people behind CX

KFC has around 30,000 staff across the country. In reality, we serve probably 2.5 million customers a week. That’s what I call fast-moving retail. A significant portion of our people are between the ages of fifteen and seventeen.

A big challenge for the business is motivating a large workforce and empowering 16-year-olds to get our customer experience message across consistently to every single person we serve.

For us, it’s all about simplifying our approach.

I’m a big believer in the fact that if our people aren’t having a great time then our customer will never have a great experience inside our environment. To make this happen, we’ve set up a number of internal culture initiatives.

Many brands, like ours, have an established formula or system for customer experience. With our brand purpose being ‘Always original’, rather than having a rigid system, we want our team members to actually be themselves within the system. It’s amazing what our people do to bring our customer experience to life in their stores.

One of the things we’ve done recently is allow our team members to say to the customer things like, “K F C U later”, when they leave the store. Or they might say, “Have a zinging day”.

Our brand really wants to celebrate originality, just like the Colonel was original in his thinking when he came up with the 11 secret herbs and spices, we’re letting our team members be like that as well.

We recently ran an internal project we called ‘Friendly Friday’ where we empowered the staff to dress up in their stores. We had people dress up as all kinds of things including superheroes.

Be prepared

It’s important for customer experience leaders to be ready to deal with absolutely anything. You can have the best intentions and the best structure and it doesn’t matter if you’re running a call centre, a digitally-based business, or a retail offering like ours, you have to be ready for anything. I’ve seen some of the best strategies and ideas written down but once they’ve reached the execution stage, they have fallen apart. One of the big things we pride ourselves on is being able to take that strategic direction all the way down into real world execution.

KFC relied on an outdated, mystery-shopper way of measuring if we were good at the customer experience. That’s completely changed to a new guest experience program which I implemented in 2014. We’re also using our social data to understand how customers are feeling about our brand at any point in time. This extends to a 360 view of the customer that’s fueling programs from a mobile ordering platform to our in-store TV network and a CRM project.

Within this, we have a model of “test and learn”. As a business, we’re not afraid to make a few mistakes before we actually get it right which is why our brand is so successful today. We’re a little bit like the Colonel in that he didn’t quite get the 11 secret herbs and spices right the first time. We still have that approach to our business today.

The work that we’ve completed in Australia around the customer experience is now global best practice for KFC because we’ve been able to simplify it down into one page, make it real for our team members and deliver a better experience, all while considering our numbers. We are also leaders in mobile technology and CRM.

That’s what I mean by being able to make a bigger impact with the customers in this role than potentially what you can, sometimes, as a marketer.

Hear Paul Meischke talk about KFC’s Always Original customer experience at the Customer 360 Forum on October 26.

About Paul Meischke - Head of Customer Experience, KFC
Prior to taking on the role of NSW Operations Manager for KFC, Paul spent two years leading the brand's customer experience function. He has a marketing background having worked for the KFC marketing department and before that, media agency side.