The Magic of “Fast” Food

Greetings.  Who would have ever imagined that one of the world’s most renowned and “high-end” hotel companies would decide to offer its guests fast food?  Not fast food like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, or Taco Bell, but “fast” food nonetheless.  Well that is exactly what the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts are doing in all ninety of their properties around the world.  Offering their guests special locally-inspired room service menus with food they can have in a mere fifteen minutes…which is super-fast by luxury standards.

And here are a few examples of meals that guests can order and have delivered in only fifteen minutes…all of which sound slightly more appetizing than a Big Mac, a Whopper, a Crunch Wrap Burrito, or a bucket of slightly-crispy and slightly-greasy wings:

At the Four Seasons Maldives resort, guests can quickly enjoy chilled shrimp with Marie Rose sauce, Arabian spinach pastries, and handmade chocolate truffles.

At the Four Seasons in Bali, guests can hastily taste curried prawns.

At the Four Seasons in Hong Kong, guests can rapidly dive into a bowl of wonton noodle soup with fresh greens or burrata cheese and heirloom tomatoes on a freshly-baked baguette.

At the Four Seasons in Budapest, guests can speed to a wonderful bowl of traditional Hungarian goulash along with their favorite beverage.

And, as an encore, they are also offering fifteen-minute “to go” menus for those guests heading out to town or the airport.

It turns out that “fast” matters to a lot of people.  And not just to adults on the go at their local drive-through, or twelve-year-olds craving calories after a basketball game.  It turns out that fewer and fewer people have the time to wait for food, service, or even a new web page to open.  We are, sadly one might suggest, increasingly driven by the need for speed.  And all of the companies that understand this and are willing to offer faster alternatives are more likely to win.  Or more likely to be viewed as responsive by their customers.

So here’s your challenge.  Take a lesson from the new world of fast food and try to imagine those areas of your business in which speed really matters.  The answers might surprise and delight you and those you have the privilege to serve.

Four Seasons

We win in business and in life by being fast when it matters.  And by taking the right page from the same fast food restaurants we love to criticize.

Cheers and have a great weekend!

Innovative Products That Matter

Greetings.  In the past week an Israeli entrepreneur named Izhar Gafni has been getting a lot of attention for an invention that could quite literally move the world forward.  His cardboard bicycle, build from 95% recycled cardboard (and other recycled materials) and costing $9 to build, could suddenly make transportation affordable for hundreds of millions of low-income people around the world.  At a mere $20 each, this bicycle offers a "game-changing" solution to the challenge of mobility in many places.  

An experienced designer of automated production processes, Gafni believed in the potential value of unusual and under-appreciated materials.  He became excited about the potential of cardboard–a material made out of wood pulp and invented in China more than 600 years ago–and spent four years working to "cancel out the corrugated cardboard's weak structural points."  Then he figured out how to form and finish the cardboard into a working and durable bicycle that could be produced and assembled anywhere.  This meant that a business would not have to rely on finding places with the cheapest labor.  Instead, these bicycles could be built anywhere creating a whole new production model.  And they have the added benefits of being environmentally-friendly and requiring little or no maintenance. Initial plans also include creating a motorized "urban bike," a smaller model for children and even low-cost wheelchairs using this new technology.

The cardboard bicycle project is a powerful reminder of how great creativity and determination can be used to build products that make a compelling difference in the world.  Which begs the question, what do you and your company know that could be applied to rethinking an important global challenge?  And what would happen if all of us took the time to use our best ideas and expertise in ways that could make the world a better, safer, healthier and more mobile place. 

Cardboard-Bicycle

We win in business and in life when we apply new and better thinking to problems that really matter.  And when we see great possibilities in the ideas and materials that other people throw away.

Cheers!

What’s in a Tag Line?

Greetings.  I'm in the process of buying my car off of its lease with U.S. Bank–a large banking company based in the beautiful city of Minneapolis with more than 62,500 employees.  And, according to a recent letter I received from the bank, they are standing by waiting to serve me.  In fact, the bank's new tag line is "All of us serving you" which is very exciting because I've never had so many people in my corner–especially total strangers.  But back to buying the car…

In order to make this transaction, I needed to send U.S. Bank a certified check for the remaining amount that I owed, also known as the "residual," plus a modest additional fee to compensate them for the fact that I was getting a really good deal on the car.  It turns out that the car was worth roughly six thousand dollars more than its residual value and I can only imagine that the bank would have preferred to pocket the money for itself.

Given that I was eager to purchase the car and possibly use this new equity to lease another car, I quickly completed all the necessary paperwork and sent it overnight along with the check.  And given that the bank seemed to be in no particular hurry to process my transaction, I included a prepaid overnight envelope so they could return the title along with a wonderful letter extolling my virtues as the new owner and a fine upstanding member of the community and testifying that I had, in fact, paid for the car in full.  Surely this act of great kindness, goodwill and helpfulness would speed up their response.  After all, they only needed to take the car's title out of its appropriate file and place it in the prepaid envelope that I had provided along with the wonderful signed form letter extolling my virtues.

But it seems that my act of kindness was not to be rewarded, because a call to one of the bank's 62,500 employees to inquire about the status of my efforts yielded a simple response…

"It takes six business days from the time we process your check and paperwork to send you the title.  So we will be sending it in six business days.  And remember that a legal holiday (even if it isn't celebrated by everyone) does not count as one of the six business days."  (And remember that a legal holiday, even if it isn't celebrated by everyone, is always celebrated by banks.)

Now I'm wondering why it should take so long.  After all, U.S. Bank has probably done this same thing a few times before given that the bank was founded in 1863 and automobiles have been purchased or leased for over 100 hundred years.  And they probably have pretty good filing systems being that they are a bank.  And we know that they have more than 62,500 employees who are focused on me and all about customer service.  Surely one of them–who probably has my picture over their desk–could find my title, copy my letter of praise and wisk them off to me in the overnight envelope I provided in less than six days or a mere 216 hours if we are counting weekends and holidays.  And we might also imagine that their definition of customer service includes being timely and responsive in meeting the needs of customers.  In fact, their website states clearly that U.S. Bank can do everything "with a level of service no other bank can match."  Now that's impressive!  So I can only imagine how long it would take another bank to put my title and a form letter in a prepaid envelope!?!?  Especially a bank that didn't recently invest in the clever tag line "All of us serving you."

Which makes me wonder if it might have been wiser to invest in faster and better customer service rather than clever marketing slogans that don't really align with bank practices.

 

Us bank

 

We win in business and in life when we value other people's time more highly than our own.  And when it takes us a lot less than six days to do something relatively simple.

Cheers!

A Little Too Late

Greetings.  I seem to recall a country music song by Tanya Tucker from the early 1990's with the lyrics "It's a little too late to do the right thing now."  A song about a less than perfect relationship.  Which is, not too surprisingly, the topic of many country music songs.  And these words came to mind recently when we decided to finally change internet providers.  

Now I realize we could have had faster and cheaper service at almost any time, but our connectivity was alright and with way more pressing things on our plates and a sense of loyalty that I must have inherited from my parents, we slogged along for several years with our buddies at Earthlink–using their service, paying our bills on time and being modestly content if not inspired.

And for some odd reason I expected a giant "THANK YOU" from Earthlink when we finally called to cancel our service…

  • "Thank you for being a customer so long when we failed to offer you the most competitive product."
  • "Thank you for leaving us alone and never calling us with a problem."
  • "Thank you for tolerating the slow speed of our service, compared to our competitors, and not complaining even when we never called or emailed to offer you faster speed."
  • "Thank you for letting us charge you a relatively high price, compared to our competitors, and not complaining when we never called or emailed to offer you a better price."

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

But, to quote a classic Motown song by The Temptations, which reached the top of the Billboard charts back in 1971, "It was just my imagination, running away with me." 

In fact, when we made our fateful call, we were told that changing providers would be difficult and fraught with challenges…and that Earthlink would be glad to offer us a lower price, faster speed and several free months of service.  That they would do almost anything to improve a relationship that had gone bad.

Go figure?!?!

Which got me wondering how many companies and organizations take their customers for granted.  Offering them tolerable service at a relatively high price when they could treat them a whole lot better.  And hoping that they will continue to come along for the ride.  Until the customer finally realizes that "it's a little too late to do the right thing now."

So now we're stuck with another provider, faster service and a lower cost.  And it's not my imagination.

Tanya Tucker

We win in business and in life when we never ignore those we have the privilege to serve.  And when we always say thank you.

Cheers!

Competing With Yourself

Greetings.  Amid all of the excitement about the new iPhone 5, it is interesting to think about the creation of the original iPhone.  Launched in 2007, it became one of the most remarkably successful technology products in history–with each new version setting sales records that dazzle the imagination.  In fact, within an hour of taking orders, Apple announced that it had sold out its initial inventory of the iPhone 5.

But an even more fascinating story involves the logic behind creating this product.  A logic that was driven in large part by the desire to create an offering that would "kill" its equally impressive and successful iPod before any of Apple's competitors did.  Because it was clear to the team at Apple that someone was going to figure out how to combine a music and content player with a smartphone.     

To learn more, click here to read Farhad Manjoo's article which appeared earlier this week in Slate and was reprinted in Sunday's edition of the Washington Post. Then think about whether it is time to reinvent your offerings or even your entire business in a bold and compelling way–before someone else does.  Because that might be the only way to survive and prosper.

Iphone-5-release-date

We win in business and in life when we anticipate the need to change. And when we do it brilliantly before anyone else.

Cheers and have an inventive week ahead!