McDonald’s, the burger chain with 14,000 restaurants in the U.S., faced a customer backlash after its mobile application crashed during a free ice cream offer to celebrate National Ice Cream Day on Sunday, the Associated Press reported.
Fed-up consumers complained on Twitter that the app wasn’t working after McDonald’s offered a free vanilla cone to people who downloaded the app and visited a participating location from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The company also promised to award a lifetime supply of ice cream with a “Golden Arches Cone” to one lucky winner. Actually, the prize was a $312 McDonald’s gift card and a check for $4,680, the company said.
The company responded to aggrieved customers with instructions to ask cashiers to honor the promotion, and to ask for a free cookie. McDonald’s tweeted to its more than 3 million followers that the company was trying to fix the app and get it “back online soon.” A company spokesperson later apologized for the technical glitch and said the app was working again.
The exact causes of McDonald’s app crash haven’t been revealed, but it’s very likely that scalability became a major issue as thousands or even millions of people downloaded the software to get free ice cream. McDonald’s, Baskin-Robbins and 16 Handles all included mobile app downloads in their promotions for free ice cream or special offers, Time magazine reported.
McDonald’s likely will learn from the technical gaffes and work to improve its mobile app, which underpins its strategy to win over consumers who have left the brand or never eaten its food. With nearly 75% of the target population living within three miles of a McDonald’s in its five largest markets, McDonald’s sees significant potential with mobile ordering and delivery service with UberEats.
McDonald’s has worked to improve customer service and revamp its menu to appeal to millennials — who typically like to eat out or order in but often not with fast food chains, according to data from the USDA via Forbes. The chain gets about 70% of its U.S. business from drive-through windows, but the wait times at drive-through windows rose to nearly 3.5 minutes last year from 2.8 minutes a decade earlier, according to QSR magazine. The company can alleviate some of those time pressures by urging people to pre-order by mobile to maintain fulfill its long-term promise of providing low-cost, quick and convenient meals.