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1 The Expansion of McDonald’s Business in Thailand Pariya Rinrattanakorn Bangkok University INTRODUCTION Today, organizations pay attention to the effectiveness of communication with their customers. Providing information and building a trustful relationship with the customers are more important than just solely persuading customers to buy the companys products (Proctor & Kitchen, 2002). Furthermore, in the age of globalization, organizations have begun to enlarge their businesses to the international markets. Because customers are different in cultures, attitudes, values, and beliefs, different communication strategies are necessary in order to reach each segment of the customers. Specifically speaking, the organizations that expand their businesses to other areas should be concerned with communication in locality. Caywood (1997) stated that providing information and maintaining relationship with customers is a significant goal for an organization. The organization tries to find

effective ways to reach their customers. The companies that expand their businesses to international or multinational markets ought to adapt communication strategies to be compatible with different regions, cultures, and customers. The effective adaptation can lead to success in local and global markets. McDonald’s, a famous quick service restaurant, which expands its businesses in various countries in the world, similarly attempts to adapt its products and services to be compatible with cultural differences and customers’ demands in each area. Although McDonald’s restaurant had been originally established in California, U.SA, by two brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald, in 1948, McDonald’s has broaden its branches to international markets. Consequently, McDonald’s is currently the leading global quick service restaurant with more than 30,000 local restaurants in more than 100 countries including Thailand (History, 2008). The first McDonald’s restaurant in Thailand was opened

in 1985 when Mr. Bulsuk and his friend wrote to the McDonald’s headquarter expressing their interest in expanding the franchise to Thailand. Mr Bulsuk and McDonald’s Corporation later registered McThai and opened the first McDonald’s restaurant in Thailand on March 16, 1985, at Amarin Plaza. Currently, there are more than one hundred McDonald’s restaurants opening 24 hours in many parts of Thailand including Bangkok, Central, Northern, Eastern, Southern, Western, and Northeastern parts (History, 2008). In order to create a trustful relationship with customers, organizations have to recognize customers’ uncertainty. Normally, the uncertainty about products or services are likely to reduce when customers receive more information from various channels such as print media, popular articles, broadcast programming, point-of-purchase displays, and personal acquaintances (Anderson & Weitz, 1989). Previous studies about the Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT) emphasized a new

acquaintance relationship. They focused principally on using this theory to examine the communication processes between partners in the initial stages of a relationship or interactions between strangers (Berger, 1975; Berger & Calabrese, 1975). Although the concept of this theory refers to various communication contexts including interpersonal, intercultural, health care, mass communication, and organizational contexts, previous research has not fully applied Uncertainty Reduction Theory in the marketing relationship between an organization and its customers, particularly in the context of the relationship between a quick service restaurant and Thai customers. 2 Besides, the previous research has not addressed about using information-seeking strategies to reduce customers’ uncertainty and executing communication strategies to build trustful relationship with the customers in the context of quick service restaurant. In order to fill those gaps, the purpose of this study is to

examine the marketing relationship between McDonald’s in Thailand and Thai customers through the lens of communication strategies, the Uncertainty Reduction Theory, and information-seeking strategies. It means that this study specifically focuses on exploring communication strategies that McDonald’s executes to provide information and build trustful relationship with Thai customers. Also, this research emphasizes on analyzing the information-seeking strategies that McDonald’s Thai customers use to reduce their uncertainty regarding McDonald’s products or services. The research results can help quick service restaurants and other businesses in the same line manage effective communication strategies that are accessible and appropriate with Thai customers. Additionally, the outcomes in this study can illustrate the strategies that customers utilize to reduce their uncertainty. LITERATURE REVIEW Trustful Business Relationship Trust has become increasingly interesting in the

discipline of business relationships during the last two decades (Anderson & Weitz, 1989; Dwyer, Schurr, & Oh, 1987). Recently, rapidly changing competitive businesses have aroused a large number of firms to become interested in building trust with their customers because the high levels of trust between parties can reduce uncertainty and transaction costs of businesses relationships (Schiller, 1992). Various studies have attempted to determine the conceptions of trust, concerning business relationships. Zucker (1986) indicated that trust is the belief of one party towards the other party. When one party believes that the other party would maintain their agreements and benefits, trust in the relationship will be produced and preserved. Similarly, Blau (1964) demonstrated that trust can occur when individuals believe that they will obtain benefits from preserving relationships with either party. Furthermore, most researchers have increasingly discussed the extent or dimensions

of trust. Kasperson, Golding, and Tuler (1992) argued that the extent of trust can be divided into four dimensions: commitment, competence, caring, and predictability. Firstly, commitment manifests some levels of vulnerability. The partner wants to ensure that the other partner can commit to the agreements between them. Secondly, competence is also a crucial component of trust because trust occurs when competent targets completely follow their obligations. Thirdly, caring refers to expressions of one partner that is concerned with the other relational partner. Finally, predictability involves the expectation of one party towards behavior of the other party. If people can predict the acts of partners, the partners are trustworthy. Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT) Establishing a relationship is always full of challenges. Berger (1975) stated that, uncertainty can occur within any face to face communication, including first dates, marriage proposals, and connections with foreigners or

stranger, because communicators cannot perfectly predict how others will react to or interact with them. Therefore, individuals who want to generate or maintain an interaction episode with a partner have to reduce their mutual uncertainties and seek more information to adapt to ever-changing social realities (Berger & Calabrese, 1975). Within the boundary of consumer behavior literature, there are many causes that provoke customers’ uncertainty. Pras and Summers, (1978) stated that uncertainty will 3 arise when customer have inadequate knowledge or information about brands’ attributes. With high uncertainty, customers cannot make decisions or predict the performances about brands, products or services. Furthermore, when customers lose confidence in judging the outcome levels of products or services, the customers’ uncertainty can occur (Bennett & Harrell, 1975). Moreover, Kahnemann and Tversky (1984) articulated that uncertainty arises in the situations in which the

product or service outcomes are different from the customers’ expectation. Additionally, uncertainty can be analyzed through the lens of intercultural dimension because people living in different cultures are more likely to have perceptions about uncertainty differently. Hofstede (1980) proposed that individuals living in a highpower distance culture always value hierarchical relationships and openly respect authority of class divisions while individuals existing in a low-power distance culture are more likely to accept the egalitarianism. People in a low-power distance culture, consequently, prefer to contact other people with informality and reduce the hierarchical process. Consequently, McDonald’s customers in a high-power distance culture and those in a low-power distance culture tend to have different uncertainty regarding McDonald’s products or services. Brady, Robertson, and Cronin (2001) found that customers in a high-power distance culture emphasize the emotional

gratification of the dining experience, relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, as well as convenient services rather than the expense for products and service value. Correspondingly, Thai customers, who live in a high- power distance culture, view that McDonald’s restaurant is not only the place for having meals, but also a sociable place where they can spend time with their groups: families, colleagues, and friends. Even if Thai customers perceive that price of McDonald’s products is not cheap and not consistent with their expectation, Thai customers still maintain the relationship with McDonald’s and patronize McDonald’s products because they like its relaxing and comfortable atmosphere. Obviously, McDonald’s in Thailand attempts to create the atmosphere that matches Thai customers. This purposeful effort leads to reduction of uncertainty regarding price of McDonald’s products. On the other hand, American customers, who live in a low-power distance culture, are less likely

to pay attention to atmosphere and decoration of quick service restaurants. Inexpensive price and fast services are the significant attributes of quick service restaurants. Thus, they tend to be concerned about McDonald’s products’ prices and speed of services rather than the atmosphere, decoration, and facilities (Brady, Robertson, & Cronin, 2001). Information Seeking Strategies Information-seeking strategies, also known as information acquisition, are associated with uncertainty reduction. Berger and Calabrese (1975) originally proposed that when individuals have uncertainty that comes from having interaction with other people, they usually use information-seeking strategies to reduce their uncertainty and keep relationship with their partners. Similarly, Kellermann and Berger (1984) claimed that in order to reduce uncertainty, people attempt to acquire as much information as they can so that they might display appropriate behaviors and effectively communicate with their

partners. Although the original perspective of information seeking strategies was particularly discussed in the context of initial relationships, they have been extensively applied in various communication contexts including marketing communication to reduce customers’ uncertainty. Mitra, Reiss, and Capella (1999) proposed that customers employ various information-seeking strategies to reduce their uncertainty about products or services and maintain a good relationship with the companies. Similarly, Locander and Hermann (1979) indicated that when customers encounter uncertainty 4 caused by purchase situation, they tend to seek information from direct observations, previous experiences, and other information searches. Communication Strategies Communication strategies have been particularly important in the organizational context as most companies recognize the significance of communication with customers. The previous research on communication strategies can be categorized into

two traditions: the modernism perspective and the postmodernism perspective. Strategies based on a modernism perspective assume that communication channels have been used independently, thus messages that are transferred through these communication channels are less attractive for customers (Schultz, Tannenbaum, &Lauterborn, 1993). According to Pelsmacker, Geuens, and Bergh (2005), they indicated that the main attributes of the modernist perspective focus on using single communication tool; advertising, public relations, sales promotion, or personal selling. In contrast, the communication in the postmodernism perspective has received attention from a great number of communication studies (Brown, 1993). Postmodernism focuses on integrating marketing communication (IMC). Combining communication instruments leads to the effectiveness of communication strategies (Proctor & Kitchen, 2002). Apart from the IMC strategy, today most organizations prefer to increasingly execute

communication strategy called the corporate social responsibility (CSR). The CSR refers to the idea that an organization has an obligation to contribute to the solution of society’s problems through establishing projects or campaigns (Mowen & Minor, 1998). Chang (2009) found that the organization with more social responsibilities will obtain more customer satisfaction and better corporate image. The extensive communication enquiry about above issues is pursued by formulating the following research questions: RQ1: What are the communication strategies used by McDonald’s restaurants to provide information to their customers? RQ2: How does McDonald’s director use communication strategies to build trustful relationship with their customers? RQ3: What information-seeking strategies are used by customers in a McDonald’s restaurant to reduce their uncertainty? RESEARCH METHODOLOGY In this study, qualitative methods, both in-depth interviews and focus groups, were conducted. This

study used in-depth interview with the McDonald’s director in the Communication and Public Relation Department of McThai Company to explore the communication strategies that McDonald’s uses to provide information and build trustful relationship with its customers. Moreover, this study conducted in-depth interviews and focus groups with McDonald’s customers to examine the informationseeking strategies that customers employ to reduce their uncertainty in McDonald’s products or services. Data Collection Methods The first participant, the director of McDonald’s, was approached through the Communications and Public Relations Department of McThai Company which is responsible for creating communication strategies with McDonald’s customers. For the customer participants, the researcher purposefully approached them in front of the McDonald’s restaurants. The interviews process was ranged in length from 45 to 120 minutes. 5 Identifying Participants The participants in this

study can be categorized into two groups: McDonald’s director and McDonald’s Thai customers. McDonald’s Communication and Public Relation Department’s director has the direct authority and responsibility to determine communication strategies. For McDonald’s Thai customers, this study conducted twelve in-depth interviews with six males and six females, and set up two focus groups: six persons in each group. The participants were aged between 20 and 59 years old Also, they must have personal experiences visiting McDonald’s restaurants, purchasing the products, or using their services for at least six months. Data Analysis Methods The procedure of data analysis in each method started with transcribing the interview tape. Then, the data was examined and re-examined several times to connect with the ideas and gain more details. Primarily, particular codes were produced and identified from the interview data. To continue the process, the overlapped codes were merged into one

category. These emerging categories were elaborately analyzed and compared Again, the overlapped categories were collapsed into one theme. The new theme was extracted to explain and answer research questions. This study ensured theoretical saturation because after having finished each method the additional participants were recruited to examine new themes emerged from the data until the experiences and information from new participants did not reflect any new information. Finally, the formulated research questions were answered. Validation This study employed a thick description technique for verification of qualitative findings. A thick description refers to a more detailed explanation about participants’ experiences. This study analyzed and interpreted the data with elaborate and extensive quotations rather than employing surface narration (Lindlof & Taylor, 2002). RESULTS After interviewing all participants, the findings revealed that customers encountered the uncertainty

during their relationship with McDonald’s. However, McDonald’s made efforts to execute effective communication strategies to provide information and build a trustful relationship to its customers. At the same time, McDonald’s customers tended to employ information-seeking strategies to diminish their uncertainty and maintain the relationship with McDonald’s. Communication Strategies to Provide Information IMC and Above the Line and Below the Line Strategies The findings from in-depth interview with the Communications & PR Director of McThai Company concerning communication strategies that McDonald’s executed to provide information to the customers revealed that McDonald’s focused on executing integrating marketing communication (IMC) by using various communication channels to communicate with the target. McDonald’s implemented both above the line and below the line communication to provide information to its customers. As the McDonald’s director narrated as

follows: McDonald’s emphasizes the IMC Communication both above the line and below the line. The responsible agents are categorized into two divisions. First, the Marketing Division is the principle sector to communicate with customers using the IMC communication device. Second is the PR Communication Division Normally, the PR Division is the supportive center whereas marketing division will work on marketing. 6 In the crisis situation, the communication strategies that McDonald’s focused would be changed. As the director reflected this matter: Nevertheless, during the critical crisis, the role of PR Division will not only back up, but also take a lead in some partsthe role of Marketing Division will be reduced. The communicative strategy during crisis should be the PR communicative instrument because it is more reliable and trustworthy. Communication Strategies to Build Trustful Relationship McDonald’s director viewed that building a trustful relationship was the

significant issue for operating successful business. The company could communicate with its customers through products, services, or images that customers perceived. Consequently, McDonald’s systematically executed various communication strategies to build a trustful relationship with its customers. These strategies include QSC&V strategy, supplier strategy, and community strategy. QSC&V Strategy The first strategy was the QSC&V which were Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value. McDonald’s determined the QSC&V as a philosophy or main policy to operate its business. Throughout the time, McDonald’s restaurant attempted to communicate and manage these four aspects effectively to make customers felt trustworthy with its products and services. Consider this following statement from the Communications & PR Director: In order to create a trustful relationship with McDonald’s customers, McDonald’s has used the QSC&V as the philosophy for business

operation. The QSC&V refers to Quality, Service, Cleanliness and ValueThese four aspects are maintained and translated in a form of questionnaires so that the restaurant can check these aspects every day. The director further explained: “In terms of service, mystery shoppers will notice whether the workers say welcome or smile cheerfully to the customers or not. They also check the cleanliness from the floor, a counter, and the restroom.” For the value aspect, the director articulated: McDonald has a value menu as another dimension that customers can trust. The value meals arranged here are called the EVM, Extra Value Mea, as to guarantee that every time you visit McDonald’s, you will receive value; value for money plus sitting in the comfortable environmentCustomers can comfortably sit and use WiFi service. Supplier Strategy The second was supplier strategy. The Communications & PR Director expressed that McDonald’s created customers’ trust from the foundation in

every dimension. McDonald’s paid attention to its suppliers who provided the food materials and equipments in order to ensure the quality and safety of the products. The director confirmed her thought by reflecting this story: The trust of supplier is the most important factor that can lead to the trust among customers. McDonald’s restaurant is not only concerned about food safety, but we also ignore any product from the suppliers who abuse child laborMcDonald’s will audit its suppliers in various aspects before doing business transaction. 7 Community Strategy The third was a community strategy. McDonald’s contributed helps and supports to community through Ronald McDonald’s House Charities Foundation. The main point that McDonald’s concentrated in this strategy was the engagement of McDonald’s managers and employees who have worked in that community. Also, the director explained that this strategy was another pattern of doing corporate social responsibility (CSR)

that would create permanent trustful relationship with the customers. As the director recounted the community strategies, she said: In terms of community, people usually think of giving scholarship, distribute blankets, or football that is only called cosmetic community. In fact, we did more special things than that. We believed that wherever McDonald’s restaurants are, there will be our communities. Information-Seeking Strategies to Reduce Customers’ Uncertainty Based on my observation, all customer participants had satisfaction in their relationships with McDonald’s. Although they had uncertainty regarding McDonald’s products or services, they could effectively employ information-seeking strategies to reduce their uncertainty. The results revealed that the participants differently employed information-seeking strategies to reduce their uncertainty. Twelve themes emerged to explain this issue. Discount Coupon Most participants reduce their uncertainty about McDonald’s

products’ prices by seeking for more information from the discount coupons. As one participant specifically recounted her experiences, “I receive McDonald’s discount coupons from the leaflet that McDonald’s usually distributes in front of my office building. These discount coupons can help me reduce the uncertainty in McDonald’s expensive price.” Communication Technology Also, most participants employed communication technologies to reduce their uncertainty about McDonald’s price, promotion, taste, and nutrition. There were various communication technologies that these participants employed such as McDonald’s website, other websites, Facebook, e-mail, Google search engine, and TV Commercial. As one participant said, “I see information of McDonald’s through Facebook. Sometimes McDonald’s requests customer’s comments about its products or services through Facebook or McDonald’s Twitter and McDonald’s will give the reward to the customers. These channels help

me reduce uncertainty about McDonald’s products.” Mass Media Mass media was a famous information-seeking strategy. Many participants employed mass media to reduce their uncertainty because it was the attractive media and could be thoroughly and immediately accessible to a large of group of customers. There were various types of mass media that participants executed including television programs, magazines, and newspapers. For example, one male participant described, “Sometimes I obtain information about McDonald’s price and promotion through television and newspapers. These channels can send the messages to me promptly I can reduce my uncertainty about the promotion.” Point of Purchase Materials All of the participants were more likely to seek McDonald’s information to reduce their uncertainty through various sources at the restaurant, both inside and in front of the restaurant such as a food counter, menu boards, billboard, posters, leaflets, and displays. It was easy and

convenient for customers to search for more information from 8 these sources to reduce their uncertainty about price and promotion. As the first participant described, “Frequently, I receive McDonald’s information from the food counter. I often see billboard installation in front of the restaurant Also, I read the product posters so that I can diminish my uncertainty about price and promotion through these sources.” Direct Asking Direct asking was the effective strategy to seek for more information to reduce customers’ uncertainty. Individuals could directly disclose their expectations, feelings, or doubts towards another partner through interrogation when they want to decrease the degrees of uncertainty. As one participant commented, “If I have doubts about McDonald’s products, I will talk with McDonald’s managers or employees so I can reduce my uncertainty.” Direct Observation When participant entered into the field, McDonald’s restaurant, they could observe

other customer’s behaviors to gain more information. In this study, the results showed that customers employed a direct observation strategy when they had uncertainty about facilities (dropping food tray in the bin) at McDonald’s. As one participant recounted: I have uncertainty why McDonald’s wants customers to drop their food trays in the trash bin after finishing their meals. I feel uncomfortable to do that I prefer to observe other customers’ behaviors to gain more information about this issue. Previous Experience When customers insufficiently sought for information from external sources, internal sources (past experience) could give them more information in order to reduce their uncertainty. As the female teen participant said, “If my experiences say these menus are tasty, I tend to order those menus.” Similarly, the first participant in the second group said: My previous experiences provide information about the amount of McDonald’s food that I should consume. I

can mange my money and calories that I will get When I can control my money and calories, my uncertainty about price and nutrition can be declined. Third-Party Discussion Third-party discussion is another strategy for seeking information from the personal sources such as family, relatives, friends, colleagues, or neighbors. Information from the third party discussion can help participants decrease the levels of uncertainty. The participants pointed that personal channels were more reliable and accessible than the impersonal sources: mass media or print media. As the third participant in the first focus group mentioned about this strategy: Normally, I tend to visit McDonald’s restaurant with my friends or my colleagues. I have never come alone. So, I always share the ideas about my uncertainty with other people who come with me. Although my uncertainty still exists after discussing with other people, I can definitely reduce the levels of uncertainty. Word-of-Mouth Communication The

participants were more likely to seek for information through word-of-mouth communication when they visited McDonald’s restaurant with other people. For example, one male adult participant who had uncertainty in McDonald’s nutrition searched information from his daughter. He said: “My daughter usually advices me to 9 try the new menu or healthy menu, so I gain nutrition information, which helps me decrease uncertainty.” Cross Culture One participant revealed that he sought for information to reduce his uncertainty through analyzing the cross culture. This participant had uncertainty about McDonald’s facilities, why McDonald’s wants customers to drop the food tray in the bin by themselves. He explained that the original idea of McDonald’s restaurant came from the Western culture, so McDonald’s had some incompatible ideas with the Thai culture that lead to uncertainty. He said: I try to understand that McDonald’s comes from the Western culture, so McDonald’s may

have some different ideas from the Thai culture. The Western culture prefers to do everything by individualI have a chance to learn cultural difference from McDonald’s. It makes me understand other social contexts and reduces uncertainty about dropping the food tray in the bin. Competitive Brands Some participants sought information by comparing McDonald’s with other competitive brands such as KFC, Burger King, Chester Grill, and Starbucks Coffee. They viewed that McDonald’s has provided more advantages on many aspects than other competitive brands. As one participant said, “McDonald’s has a good image with the international reputation when comparing with other quick service restaurants I have uncertainty about McDonald’s price. I search information from other fast food products; McDonald’s serves many good dishes more than others do.” Perceived Reward All participants in this study still keep the interaction with McDonald’s even though they have uncertainty

regarding McDonald’s products or services. The degrees of uncertainty that they encountered would be diminished when reminding the benefits that McDonald’s has offered to customers. These participants like McDonald’s in many constructs: atmosphere, location, cleanliness, and speed. For example, the fourth participant in the second focus group expressed his opinions: For me, I cannot refuse that McDonald’s provides many advantages such as speed, location, and various menus. I evaluate that these advantages are much more important for me than the issue about price that I have uncertainty. Thus, I prefer to keep the relationship with McDonald’s. DISCUSSION This study specifically focused on analyzing three important issues in order to answer the research questions. The first research question is associated with the principal communication strategies that McDonald’s executed to provide information to its customers. The results revealed that the Integrated Marketing

Communications (IMC), including above the line and below the line, were strategies that McDonald’s employed. McDonald’s attempted to use different communication instruments such as advertising media through a short movie on TV, radio broadcast, coupons, sales promotions, newspapers, and other activities through public relations, depending on situation, product, market, and target. The previous research indicated that the IMC becomes more prevalent within all types of business. Most organizations increasingly use mass media in combination with other communication channels to bring effective communication strategies into the marketing 10 contexts (Pelsmacker, Geuens, & Bergh, 2005). Various definitions of IMC have been developed, for example, Caywood, Schultz, and Wang (1991) indicated that IMC is a concept of marketing communication planning that focuses on integrating and evaluating a variety of communication disciplines such as general advertising, direct responses, sales

promotion, and public relations. These disciplines are integrated to provide clear and consistent information to the customers. The concept of IMC is related to above the line and below the line communications. Smith and Taylor (2004) studied marketing communication. They claimed that above the line (ATL) is a communication tool using traditional media or mass media, television, radio, print advertising, newspaper, magazine, and banner advertising, to contact with the customers. On the other hand, below the line (BTL) is a communication tool employing specific channels such as direct mail, e-mail, sales promotion, point of purchase, public relations, and special events to activate and promote products or services at that time towards the customers. Below the line communications are more directly accessible towards customers than above the line, so they are more influential on customers’ awareness, attitudes, and behavior. Furthermore, the resulted showed that McDonald’s tended to

analyze its products, customers, market, and situations before using its communication tools. This result appears plausible and consonant with the idea of marketing in postmodernism; competitive businesses are high, the marketing situations are complicated, and customers’ demands are diverse. Thus, it is necessary that the capacities of communication strategies should be enhanced in order to communicate effectively with the customers. The second research question is related to communication strategies that McDonald’s implemented to build trustful relationship with its customers. The results from this research revealed three strategies that McDonald’s executed to build trustful relationship: QSC&V strategy; supplier strategy, and community strategy. McDonald’s strongly believed that offering product quality will create trustful relationship with the customers. Prior theoretical and empirical research on trust and product quality supports this idea as Anderson and Sullivan

(1993) identified a positive effect of product quality on customers’ satisfaction, trust, loyalty, and future purchase intentions. In terms of service, McDonald’s tried to serve quality to the customers in order to build a trustful relationship. Johnson and Winchell (1988) proposed that service quality means the total attributes or abilities of product or service that respond to the needs of customers. Also, service quality has been referred to a service that can suit and fulfill customers’ needs or expectations (Lewis & Mitchell, 1990). The finding in this study is consistent with the previous research; it demonstrated that the high quality service can create customers’ satisfaction and customers’ trust in order to bring customer loyalty (Morgan & Hunt, 1994). In terms of value, the research results revealed that McDonald’s provided EVM, Extra Value Meal, to help customers obtain the value for money. Moreover, the value that McDonald’s provided included

comfortable ambience, restaurant cleanliness, and good facilities. McDonald’s served these things to generate trustful relationship with the customers. This finding is congruent with the previous research (Zeithaml, 1988) Typically, the value means the appropriate relation between the benefits and the costs. In consumer goods, the meaning of benefits is broad and does not restrict to only economic saving such as discount or special pricing or treatment. The benefits can be referred to product quality, product features, and convenient environment that customers will obtain from the company. 11 The results also revealed that McDonald’s executed supplier strategy to build trustful relationship with the customers. When customers had uncertainty about food safety, McDonald’s set up the third-party to discuss and share correct information among McDonald’s, suppliers, and customers. According to the previous studies, when customers encounter with uncertainty, the supplier has a

major role to communicate and explain the technical and sensitive information to the customers to prevent the unsatisfactory relationships. All of these enhanced the atmosphere of customers’ trust (Langfield-Smith & Greenwood, 1998). The final strategy that McDonald’s executed to create a trustful relationship with the customers was community strategy, contributing helps and supports to community through Ronald McDonald’s House Charities Foundation. The principle of community strategy was related to the corporate social responsibility (CSR). This strategy is reasonably supported by Mowen and Minor (1998). They indicated that customers tend to trust the companies which promote CSR because these companies seem to have moral behavior. It seems reasonable to argue that McDonald’s built a trustful relationship with its customers by providing quality and standard products, beneficial services, and good images. Definitely, McDonald’s has attempted to create a variety of

measures, both products and services, to adapt its business to Thai culture. Since McDonald’s has understanding in identities, demands, and expectations of Thai customers and use Thai customers as commercial models, McDonald’s can adapt its business into Thai locality harmoniously. This idea can be confirmed from products, items in McDonald’s menus, and services that McDonald’s provides. McDonald’s always launches menus that are suitable for and popular among Thai customers. Actually, Thai people are more likely to take rice as main cause and favor to eat spicy dishes. As a result, McDonald’s offers spicy menus or provides rice as main raw material such as Sticky Rice Burger with grilled pork, spicy salad, spicy salad with fried chicken, spicy fried chicken, chicken satay burger, Thai basil chicken burger, and rice porridge as breakfast. These menus are applied from the famous and unique Thai dishes so they receive good feedback from Thai customers and others who fascinate

with Thai food. Moreover, McDonald’s provides dessert menus that are made from famous Thai fruits such as coconut jelly and Lychee pie. These two menus do not only promote Thai fruits, but they can also help Thai agriculturalists gain more income. In the service aspect, McDonald’s tries to provide services that match with Thai characteristics and lifestyles. Thai customers are living in a high-context culture where harmony is valued (Hall, 1976). They are more likely to spend their time with family and friends, so they want to find comfortable places to support their activities such as discussing, reading, surfing internet, making appointments, and doing homework. McDonald’s restaurants provide services that can fulfill Thai customers’ requirements. When customers enter to McDonald’s, quick service restaurants in Thailand, the customers will meet the relaxing and comfortable atmosphere from a big soft sofa, fashionable decoration, and convenient facilities that McDonald’s

arranges for customers. Thus, McDonald’s quick service restaurants in Thailand are not only places for having meals, but Thai customers can spend long time in these places for relaxation and enjoyment with their activities and groups. Another issue indicating that McDonald’s makes efforts to adapt into Thai local area is McDonald’s Mascot, Ronald McDonald. Generally, people are familiar with Ronald McDonald’s sitting down on a bench in front of the McDonald’s restaurants. Differently, Ronald McDonald’s in Thailand expresses the Thai unique and famous gesture called 12 “Wai” at the door of McDonald’s restaurant to greet Thai customers. These explanations appear plausible that McDonald’s attempts to understand the cultural difference. After McDonald’s has been expanding in the Thai society, McDonald’s uses the localization strategies in order to adjust and create their services and products to be more appropriate with lifestyles, identities, and culture of the

Thai customers in order to increase a better relationship with Thai customers. For the third research question, the participants confirmed that these twelve strategies could help them receive more information about McDonald’s products or services leading to reduction of uncertainty. The studies of information acquisition have previously been discussed in the discipline of marketing communication. When uncertainty arises, customers prefer to seek more information from many sources such as direct observations, previous experiences, and other information searches to reduce uncertainty about products and services (Howard and Sheth, 1969). Furthermore, when formal information sources are insufficient, customers prefer to use personal channels. According to Perry and Hamm (1969), the higher the level of uncertainty is, the higher the application of personal channels will be. Similarly, Lutz and Reilly (1973) revealed that word-of-mouth is a significant and powerful strategy for seeking

information rather than acquiring information from impersonal sources or mass media. Conversely, when the levels of uncertainty are low or moderate, customers tend to employ direct observations to acquire product or service information (Lutz and Reilly, 1973). Besides, Beales, Mazis, and Staelin (1981) categorized the attribute of information seeking into two types: internal-seeking information and external-seeking information. Internal- seeking information concentrates on seeking information from memory or previous experiences, without information from any outside sources. On the other hand, external- seeking information is relevant to the acquisition of information from outside sources, including mass media (print advertisements, televisions or radio advertisements, magazine articles), salespeople, point-of purchase displays, or personal acquaintances. Recommendations for Future Studies In order to expand the communication enquiry, future research may want to explore communication

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