I took the picture above at a Potbelly’s this morning. If you aren’t familiar, Potbelly’s is a casual (read, fast-food) sandwich chain. I pass this sign at least once every workday, as the shop is my first stop after getting off the train every morning. I’ve seen this sign before, and I’ve even read it a few times. But I’ve always wanted to tell other people what I like about it. So, here goes…
The sign reads as follows:
Fresh Great ingredients, prepared in a shop, made the way you want.
FAST 8 minutes the the line, max.
Friendly Hang out, leave happy.
So, let’s look at this with an eye for what we want out of our organizations.
Fresh. Our ingredients are the technologies we use to create our product(s), the way we use those technologies, the tools that help us use those technologies, and the processes that we force ourselves to follow to provide the product(s) to our customers.
FAST. It’s probably self-explanatory, but I’ll do it anyway. Potbelly’s comes right out and specifies just how fast you will get through their line. More to the point of our product development, they are declaring just how long (maximum) you will have to wait for your product. The whole thing. Not just the bread and meat. Not individual ingredients. The whole thing.
Friendly. Stay here and eat our food. We provide music, sometimes live music, and a friendly atmosphere for you to have an enjoyable meal.
Do you expect this promise from all restaurants you visit? Seriously. From all of them? The last time you went to a major fast food chain restaurant (store, as headquarters often refers to them - because they have products for sale, and customers buy them), did you expect to receive a meal made of all fresh ingredients, quickly, and in a friendly atmosphere? Or did you expect a warmed over, highly efficiently manufactured, version of a meal, served by a human being receiving minimum wage (and sporting the attitude to reflect it), only after being corralled in an area to the side of the money collecting pit?
Now, put yourself in your own customers’ shoes. Do they expect an impersonal experience, a warmed over version of a product that satisfies, without delighting, on a schedule that is not of their own choosing. Or are you offering a personal and inclusive experience in delivering a delightful product at a time when it is most beneficial to them?
It’s not a dream state. It CAN happen with products like the one your are building. It CAN happen with businesses/companies as big/small as yours. It CAN be done. And if you don’t do it, someone else will.
I know all of the employees at the Potbelly’s. None by name, and only one of them knows my name. But, we know each other, and they know what I want coming in the door. I get a personalized experience, because I’m a customer that has chosen. I’ve chosen to frequent the restaurant because of their Promise. Does that seem paradoxical? It should.
This paradox is common. But there needs to be an initiator. From both sides the initiator could be identified differently. I decided, one day, to visit Potbelly’s - to me, I’m the initiator. From Potbelly’s point of view - “Look, there’s a customer! Let’s implement our Promise!” - they are the initiator, because of their Promise. Either way, as long as the Promise is upheld, the relationship gets better with every delivery.
Common conversations with Potbelly’s employees, while I’m waiting for my breakfast, are relationship building conversations. We talk about our weekend, the weather, work, relationships, etc. What does this do for Potbelly’s? It gets them more invested in their customers’ satisfaction with the experience of patronizing their establishment. What does this do for the customer? It says to me that they are more interested in me as a person, than in the money I will soon give them.
Can you say you have the same relationship with your customers? Why not? What’s your Promise?