On the Other Hand, Maybe Don’t be Like Taco Bell

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a lesson I learned from Taco Bell. Following their lead, I encouraged readers to give lots of extra sauce, more than they might think people need, whenever serving other people. The extra sauce was a metaphor for added value. Most people will happily deliver on expectations; distinguish yourself and heighten your own satisfaction by OVERdelivering.

On the other hand, there’s something else I’ve learned from my (too frequent) visits to Taco Bell:

Don’t call something SUPREME just because you put some sour cream on it.

Okay, sure, they also add tomatoes. Still, this seems surprisingly in contrast with the generous sauce packets policy.

Yes, Taco Supreme IS different from the regular taco. Yes, it IS more delicious. And yes, the price difference really isn’t that much. But ‘supreme’?

Supreme should be SUPREME! None better! The Ultimate! Does adding just a couple of ingredients really qualify? In this case, The Bell is demonstrating the problem with overpromising.

When you present your work to others, it’s best to be honest. With yourself as well as your audience. Misrepresentation will inevitably only lead to disappointment.

Being honest with yourself might be more challenging than accurately laying things out for other people. Pride, hubris, and plain excitement can make us overestimate our accomplishments. If you put tons of effort into a project you rightly want to make sure it’s recognized as having value. It’s important, however, to be careful not to overvalue what you’ve done.

Carefully consider your offerings before you describe, publicize, promote, or market them. Analyze yourself and your work as objectively as possible. If you have trouble with that, get help and opinions from people you trust.

Telling the world, in essence, a result was the best you could do — “it’s supreme!” — can lower expectations of your future work. It can make you appear dishonest, arrogant, or unrealistic.

Honesty does mean taking credit when you DO create something extraordinary. By no means play down or minimize your work when it is far and above the average. If it IS supreme, let the world know! If you’ve been careful to not cry wolf (or taco), they’ll believe you.

 

What I Don’t Know About Lasers and Prisms

Focus and prioritization appear to be hot topics in popular media right now. Isn’t it interesting how we still need reminders about subjects long accepted as principles of success?

The knowledge that multitasking is contrary to effectiveness is no secret, yet many people continue to operate as if they are somehow the exception to the rule. Kind of like how we all know overly processed fatty foods aren’t the healthiest choice, but we rationalize our fast food purchases as being an exception to our supposedly wiser normal eating behaviors. All three times we do it during the week.

As Brendon Burchard says, “common sense is not common practice.”

Attempted multitasking and being busy for the sake of being active as opposed to working exclusively toward a defined goal might cast illusions of productivity, but, as illusions, they aren’t real. Like oasis mirages in the desert, they won’t end up helping you survive, no matter how good they might look.

Thinking of illusions and seeing things, consider this: lasers and prisms both manipulate energy (light), but the way in which they do so is dramatically different. So are the results. Practically opposite.

This is such an obvious metaphor I’m certain thousands of coaches and instructors have utilized it. It’s a good one, though, and worthwhile. And since it seems we could use reminders,  lets’s go over it again.

A laser amplifies light by focusing it tightly. It creates a highly focused, direct, powerful beam with awesome capabilities. A prism, on the other hand, refracts light. It bends and spreads the light’s wavelengths, creating a spectrum of color. It’s pretty to look at; it can make an interesting display that captures attention because of all the different colors. Each color, though, has only part of the energy the beam of light entering the prism has.

ingress-vs-egress

We all have the ability and the choice to likewise use our personal energy. When we want to accomplish something, we can either concentrate our effort — focus — to be powerful like a laser beam, or we can spread our internal resources broadly… and create the opposite effect.

We didn’t get to play with lasers when I was in grade school (what a shame), but we did have magnifying glasses. Same idea on a simpler scale. We’ve all used a magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight and burn something, right? That doesn’t happen when the same sunlight goes through a prism. You won’t be setting any fires with your energy spread out.

When you have a goal, you’re likely to accomplish it quicker, with greater impact, by tightening your focus. Move toward that one goal directly. The shortest distance between two points is, after all, a straight line.

We’re all faced with having multiple goals, though, aren’t we?

Probably not. Not as many important ones — the “needle movers,” as Christine Comaford-Lynch calls them — anyway.

You might have many interests, you might have several good ideas you’d like to pursue, but trying to address them all at the same time can lead to frustration. Which of those ideas are going to make the greatest impact? On you, your mission, or the world? Whatever the scope of your endeavors, analyzing your options to direct your energy toward one at a time is likely to increase your effectiveness and personal satisfaction.

A multitude of great thought leaders have addressed the necessity to prioritize and narrow focus. Recently, Greg McKeown coined the term Essentialism for the discipline of “making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution.” Identify and eliminate the trivial for the sake of doing what’s vital.

Consider your work. What keeps you busy, and what actually matters? Are they the same? Even close?

You’ve probably heard of the Pareto Principle, also called the 80/20 rule. It’s generally acknowledged that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. Read the other way around, 80% of what most of us are doing is ineffective, inessential, or, at best, not immediately bearing fruit.

Do you really want to spend the greatest percentage of your living and working hours NOT moving toward goals?

What’s the fix? Self-awareness. Analysis. Clear goal setting and defined actionable steps. Review the tasks ahead of you, the things on your to-do list. Are they important and necessary? Will they propel you in a positive direction? If they meet that criteria, prioritize them by recognizing which are MOST likely to have the GREATEST impact on helping you achieve your goals. Then get to work, and dedicate your best energy toward completing them without distraction.

It’s not always an easy exercise, but it always — ALWAYS — pays off.

By the way, do you know what the term in physics is for the process in which lasers create laser beams? Coherence. So by contrast a prismatic display not only lacks focus, it’s… incoherent.

Really helps to make the point, right?

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What I Don’t Know About Being Like the Bell

Ashley and I made a late night stop at the Taco Bell drive-through, as one does after going to see Duran Duran and Chic in concert. Or any concert.

Always looking to turn every experience into a learning one, the quick trip to Taco Bell got me thinking:

In your interactions with people, especially when you are in service to them, be like Taco Bell. Give them more sauce than you think they’ll need.

I don’t know if it’s true for every area, but around here, if you say you want sauce Taco Bell gives you a whole bunch of it. We always have more than we need, and that’s with me sometimes using two or even three on an individual taco. We keep what we don’t use right away and pretty much always have some packets in the fridge. It’s not often, but I have used some on other food at home.

When someone comes to you for something, I suggest you give them more than they ask for. More attention. More time. More effort. Surprise them with your willingness to casually provide more help than they might expect. Don’t limit your output to the bare basics of what you believe will satisfy them. Give a little extra.

I see this applying especially to business, but definitely not only.

This is something highly successful people do. Extremely successful businesses as well.

A customer interaction in which the consumer needs a product or service and is provided exactly what they ask for is perfectly satisfactory. But is it memorable? Does it inspire the customer to tell others, to keep the business top of mind, or to even return?

Consistent good service can lead to customer loyalty, certainly. Might exceeding expectations do better at creating fans?

It’s been said before (and was even repeated just yesterday at my workplace) that successful businesses don’t sell products or services, they sell experiences. I submit that an abundant sauce experience is better than a one-packet experience.

Considering Taco Bell’s policy of generous condiment delivery, I can’t help comparing it to the experience at other fast food drive-throughs. Most don’t even ask, as they do at Taco Bell, whether you would like condiments. There’s no offer, so the responsibility lands on the customer to ask, beg, or demand some. Then when they are given, it’s in the most minimal amounts.

Having operated a cafe that was awarded “Most Profitable” in the company (twice!), I certainly understand gross margin, and I get why places might keep tight controls on their goods. I also understand customer experience, though. Small measures of goodwill — and, conversely, the smallest bits of stinginess — can swell to create huge, often unexpected impact. “Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” can work in positive fashion as well as negative.

The extra you give could be anything. A token, a bonus item; extra effort to go above and beyond; reassurance and affirmation. Being especially generous with your gratitude can be the greatest thing you can give.

Sure, not everyone keeps the extra, leftover sauce packets. Some people will discard the excess. But that’s for them to decide. If you freely give what you have to offer in abundance to everyone, what does it hurt you? You will be rewarded anyway. Trust me.

 

A Punk Rock Lesson for Extraordinary Customer Service

I’m working on a series of articles on things business people can learn from punk rock. This wasn’t the one I planned on publishing first, but something happened last night which illustrates the point too well to pass up.

As I was preparing to leave work, I saw a missed call and voicemail on my phone. Didn’t recognize the number, but checked the voicemail quickly in case it was something important. It kind of was. It was the fraud prevention department from my credit union with some questions about some check card charges.

I was in a hurry to get home because the Flash was crossing over on Supergirl. Oh, yeah, and to see my beautiful fiancee, who wasn’t feeling well. So I put off calling the credit union back until later.

I stopped by a favorite restaurant of ours to pick up dinner. I knew it would be quicker than cooking something up at home, plus Ashley was excited about getting a yummy dinner from there. I put in the order, tried to pay with my check card, and — yeppers — it was declined. I apologized to the cashier, mentioned I’d had a notice from my credit union about some fraudulent activity on my account, and told him I needed to make a quick call.

He was nice about it, said he’d suspend the order, and I stepped away to call my money’s keepers. Turned out my check card number had been used in a restaurant in Russia that afternoon while I was at work, for a very large purchase.

The credit union representative was helpful, explained the steps they’d take to make things right for me. I wasn’t worried about it. I know I’m in good hands with my credit union. But I didn’t have cash on me, at least not enough to pay for dinner. I apologized to the cashier, filled him in briefly about the unfortunate status of my bank account, and let him know I wouldn’t be able to pay for the order. He was understanding, and hoped the rest of my night would be good.

Just as I was starting up the car, considering the dinner options at home, a girl from the restaurant zipped out, excitedly telling me to wait. “We want to give you the food, ” she said with a smile.

“Oh, no, you can’t do that,” I said.

“But it’s already made. It would just go to waste anyway.” She encouraged me further to go back in and get the meal I’d ordered.

As I went in, the manager and cashier were bagging up everything. I told them again they didn’t have to do that, but they insisted. I promised I’d be back as soon as I could to pay for the food, and thanked them a few times for doing such a nice thing.

So here’s the lesson, from experiences like that AND from punk rock:

Don’t let rules get in the way of having a good time.

Historically, that’s what punk is all about, right? Screw the rules, we’ll do it our way! Rebellion is a rock & roll thing, but punk took it up a few notches, rebelling against rock & roll even.

You can’t write a song that matters with only three chords; you can’t have a band with two bass players and no guitar;  you have to learn how to play your instruments really well before anyone will take you seriously; you can’t name your band Dead Kennedys… punk rockers proved all that — and more — wrong.

Dead Kennedys

Rebellion With Purpose

Not that you can be a total ass. Not totally. Not and still get positive results.

It’s important to know that sometimes breaking the rules can be exactly what prevents a good time. Don’t follow basic standards, and you might not get booked to play. Show up late, or flake out on a gig, and you won’t get booked again. And, of course, it’s hard to play for an audience if you’re in jail for breaking a serious, criminal rule.

When it comes to being true to your ideals, though, striking a different path can be the best decision. Especially when it comes to setting yourself apart from boring, conformist competition.

Doing something totally different can create excitement. It can create a movement, even.

minor threat

When straight edge took a stand against the accepted rules of excess for rock and punk, promoting individuality and healthy choices instead of drugs, it spawned a lifestyle that spread across the world.

Thinking of business, Starbucks also spread across the world by going against accepted notions of how much people would pay for coffee, and breaking the traditional rules that hand-crafted beverages couldn’t be quick service, too.

Punks went DIY out of necessity. While the music industry perpetuated a belief that it took thousands of dollars to record, press, and distribute music, punk rockers broke the rules, created their own record labels, and got their stuff out quickly and cheaply. Their music and messages were just as worthy — more so, many would say — as what the public was getting from the corporations. They needed to be heard, so they broke the rules, bypassed the traditional way of doing things, and made it happen.

Breaking rules just to be seen as a badass might get you attention, but if that’s the only reason for acting outside the norm, you’re just a novelty act.

Have a good reason to bend the rules on occasion, though, and you can make legend.

Rules Versus Results

Let’s face it, rules are important. They help ensure consistency and fairness. Dogmatically sticking to a rule just because it’s a rule can hold back progress, though. These days, it can even cause you harm. If you can’t exercise some flexibility, especially when dealing with people, you limit possibilities for positive outcomes.

When small businesses are compared to larger corporations, attentive and personalized customer service is almost always considered a strength of the smaller operations. Why? Because the decision makers are more directly involved with their customers. They’re also closer to their profits and goals.

The best reason to step outside the rules is to maximize results. Why are you in business, anyway? To get results, right? Whether the results you’re working toward are sales, revenue, market share, or productivity, allowing options outside the given rules can help you better realize them.

When an opportunity arises for a deviation in normal procedures, a good question to consider is whether sticking to the rule, in that instance, will move you toward your results, or away from them?

It’s not always easy to know, of course. Using the example of my experience at the restaurant last night, I can’t say what the decision process actually was for the manager to do what he did. Certainly, giving away food seems contrary to the goal of making money. I do know the results, though: strengthened customer loyalty, ensured repeat business, and a reputation as a business which goes beyond expectations.

Of course I also went back and paid for the food once I got cash, so the product and revenue loss was corrected. They’ve also got me sharing the story repeatedly, and using them as an example of outstanding business practices, so free word of mouth marketing — the most powerful kind, experts say — too.

Punk rock is about many things. Sometimes it’s about being a spectacle, standing out from the crowd. Being bold enough to act in ways no one expects, whether you’re a punk or a business, can make you spectacular.