Fast Food

I have stopped eating at most fast food restaurants. Occasionally, once or twice a year I will in a moment of pure gluttony or desperation pick up some fast food, but otherwise? No.

(I recognize it is a bit of a privilege to be able to make this decision, and for that I am thankful.)

It is also a decision based on my values. Most simply it has to do with eating healthy. Equally importantly, it is out of frustration with the service. These poor people are working for a mega-corp for sub par wages in a job with little to no positive long term outlook.

And with their employer having no interest in their long term success. They have no interest in the joy of their customer. They are looking to make it through their shift, go home, and hopefully have made enough money to make it till the next time they get paid.

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I have been there and I totally get why they are that way. And likewise, I do not want to support the mega corp they work for. I want to support places that are genuinely interested in their most important customer...

Their employees.

For instance, when I worked at Starbucks (granted it has been a while) they seemed genuinely interested in my success and profitability beyond my time at Starbucks. Between stock options, retirement, healthcare, free pound of coffee every week, a generous discount on everything else, and a well outlined career path and transferring within the company to a place I might like to work longterm. They had enough opportunities for me to feel valued and likewise value my customer.

Because the company was so interested in taking care of me, I was very invested in taking care of my most important customer, the actual customer on the other side of the counter ordering drinks, pastries, and hot food. I was thrilled to take care of them because my company was thrilled to take care of me and it was a pleasure to work at Starbucks for years.

Who are you supporting? How are you giving your subordinates, friends, family, or direct customer relations more than an a transactional relationship? How are you adding value to other people’s lives? How are you engaging others for their benefit first?

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Serendipity

Making progress in life has plenty of serendipity in it.

It is hard to ignore the fact that MySpace was on the decline when Facebook was in the midst of their pseudo grassroots rollout to colleges. Hard to ignore Apple’s immense success following the release of the iPhone when the market was struggling to figure out what a smartphone was going to be and Apple released the simplest solution to the problem.

The rest of the time, you are left to make success on your own. Waiting for markets to be right means you might never go to market. Whereas finding the right first customer will always make a sale.

There are few guarantees in finding the right customer. You have to pick your customers and sell to them. Over and over again you sell to them. There will be many customers not buying before your first customer buys. Some of them will not be ready. Others will not understand. And yet, some will still just be afraid.

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But after your first customer buys, you will sell to your second customer some time later.

Then your third a little less time later.

Never will you have your third customer without your first two.

Likewise, your fourth is not without your third.

Your continuing to sell is what will lead to the right moment. You continued to be who you are until you found your right customer.

Who is your right customer? What does it look like for you to sell the way you are not the way you think you should be? How can you try more often to spread the word about your work?

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Customers

Your customers, the people you look in the hairy eyeball and meet their needs. They are your best advocates. These people know the quality of your work. They know your focus and attention to what matters. They know when they see you you will deliver to them exactly what they have come to expect from you.

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These customers know you and trust you. They are glad to see you and glad to have you be their person, worker, and friend.

Right?

Who are your customers (whether internal or external)? Who do you serve well? Who do you not serve well? How can you serve your customers better? What do you need to do to give your customers the best experience possible?

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FOIL

When I learned algebra, I was taught First Outside Inside Last as the order of operations. Today, when I type a formula into Google or a calculator, it then follows the rules to calculate the correct answer.

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Meanwhile, when I hand the same formula to a human, they will usually follow the rules as best they can. Fortunately for us both, I do not need very complicated formulas. Then again sometimes I will put the wrong formula together to try and find the information I need. Other times, I will be looking for the wrong information altogether. I will have the right answer to the wrong question.

Meanwhile, when working with people, they are not nearly as predictable and analogue as the calculator. Every interaction I have with a calculator has a limited number of reactions. Other people are not nearly as simple. Every interaction and micro-interaction has several reactions per person, and in some cases, there are several potential reactions based on the time of day, week, month, season, or year.

The calculator was designed with the same limitations. The designer of the calculator knew that various people would try and interact with it in different ways. They knew that some people would follow the rules and other people would type “01134” into it, turn it upside down, and show their friends that they made the calculator say “hEll0.”

I need to also design my interactions to be good, better, and the best for most people, most of the time. So whether I have someone trying to run a complex formula using the ‘Manning Interface Guidelines’ or someone who is trying to type “hEll0” I still provide the best experience in the interactions and micro-interactions I have.

When I am initiating an interaction, I need to make sure I am designing the interaction to be the best for the person I am interacting with. Present them with a genuine and positive interaction to give them the best opportunity for the best and most positive reaction.

How are you when someone interacts with you? Do you react well when someone tries to type “hEll0?” Do you try to set up other people to have the most opportunity for a positive reaction? Do you go into interactions looking for good ways to improve the best for others before it is good for you?

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Role Switching

I am not one to dump carte blanche categorization of people as a way to understand the world; but, I did recently have a realization of types of people who are involved in a product. I see these three lenses of understanding myself and others as an opportunity to better understand how I can best work with other people. These roles are dynamic depending on the situation and in some regards, I think we all play one of these roles more often than the other two and any one of these roles can be a full time profession.

The first person I see is the Creator. They are the designer of the product. The person who makes it, has the idea, develops the idea. Maybe even brings the idea to market. The Creator’s goal is to get the product in the hands of someone to use it and love it and the Creator uses it and loves it and they want people to never stop using their product and they will do anything to make it better for the Customer.

The second person I see is the User of the product. The person who interacts with the product’s creation process or back end every day. They are not the Customer. They keep the product working. The systems the product relies on are used by the User every day. The User is the fuel to the system and the maintainer of the processes. The product continues because of the User and the systems they perpetuate. Maybe they are on the manufacturing team of an assembly line or the coding team of an an application. Usually, they have more contact with either the Designer and less contact with the Customer or more contact with the Customer and less contact with the Creator. The User’s goal is to have a fine tuned product and an equally fine tuned process to keep the product going.

Finally, there is the Customer. This is the person who is the perfect target market. They see the product, put their hard earned resources on the line in exchange for taking the product home. They are meant to be with the product and the product is meant for them. They usually have almost no contact with the Designer and they only have contact with the User at best. Truly, the Customer is the target for the product.

The breakdown comes in when the members of this arc forget their place. The Creator, for instance, generally should not be the one to fill in the role of the User. The Creator is meant to have an idea and share an idea with someone who can do it better than they can. They are meant to be the origin point and let the User do their job. The flaw of the Creator is their ideas about how the Customer will use the product. The Creator generally thinks the customer will use the product one way and, generally speaking, the Customer will actually use the in a vastly different manner all together.

The User cannot forget their role either. They cannot start to fill in for the Creator and filter the feedback from the Customer. They need to make sure to always keep the Customer’s best interest first. They too easily get lost in what works best for the User and not what works best for the Customer. When the User starts to get too carried away with designing for themselves, they start to do what is best for them and their needs and the Customer’s are lost in the fray. Ultimately, the Customer will leave the product because the User is so busy maximizing the product’s processes to meet their own needs and not the needs of the Customer.

Finally, The Customer should be the simplest; but too often, the Customer forgets their role and starts to try and act like the Creator and forgets they only have a piece of the picture. When the Customer forgets their role they start trying to tell the User what to do not knowing how their decisions actually alter the process and derail the overall picture the User is orchestrating on their behalf as the Creator is designing and innovating in their product.

Ultimately, we must have all three roles in order to bring a product to our customers. And the products will vary. Maybe you work for a university and your customers are the students, you are the User, and the Designer is the university’s leadership. Or perhaps you love going to a certain restaurant or buying from a certain tech vendor, thus making you the Customer. Your server is then your User, and the cook or owner/menu selector is the creator.

For me, I have begun to realize my role in all of this. I have started remembering my place, not to over extend into other people’s areas but instead encourage them to succeed at what they do well that I might be able to succeed at what I do well.

Which role do you identify most with? Which role do you overextend into the most often? What can you do to help the people you overextend into instead of suffocating them with your overextension?

Extended,

–JT