A few days ago I was on my way to a conference and it was about lunch time so I thought to myself, “Self, you should stop at [PARTICULAR FAST FOOD RESTAURANT], because you are in a hurry and they are fast!”, to which I replied “SHUT UP I DO WHAT I WANT!” because I’m a conflicted artist type.
But it seemed like a good idea, so I went to [PARTICULAR FAST FOOD RESTAURANT] and I ordered quite possibly the most generic, stereotypical kind of thing you might get at such a place, thinking this would help keep the old industrial-grade wheels greased with delicious cheeseburger juice and ensure a speedy exchange.
(I’m not going to name [PARTICULAR FAST FOOD RESTAURANT] because it’s unimportant, but I will refer to the event in shorthand as a McFail.)
Long story short: DID NOT GO AS PLANNED.
Somehow I ended up having to pull forward into the little Parking Space of Shame usually reserved for people who have ordered something so complex and unusual that the manager has to call up HQ to get permission just to prepare it. And after waiting a little over 10 minutes, I finally got my order (which included an upgrade to medium fries since I had waited so long), and based on appearances, my theory is that the Emergency Burger Assembly Protocol goes something like:
- Pin hamburger buns to regulation safety wall, insides facing Burger Assembly Technician.
- Apply meat patties and cheese with Emergency Burger Assembly 12-Gauge.
- Hose with ketchup.
- With two hands, grasp and fling pickles and onion bits.
- Using [PARTICULAR FAST FOOD RESTAURANT]-branded paper, scoop and roll ingredients together.
- Present to customer with all haste.
Also, the fries were cold.
None of us anticipate a McFail, of course. I specifically chose [PFFR] because I believed they’d keep their promise to get me my food fast. But for whatever reason, they couldn’t deliver on that promise in this particular instance. Somewhere a mistake was made, or an accident occurred. A miscommunication, or a technical glitch, or maybe the ketchup hose was clogged. No big deal, really. These things happen.
But when a McFail occurs (and they will), if you want to Make It Right, you can’t do so by attempting to deliver on the same promise you just broke.
You didn’t get me my food quickly. The time for hurrying with my order has now passed. If you want to Make Things Right, you’re going to have to deliver something extra special that I wasn’t expecting.
(The fry upgrade was a fine attempt, but they weren’t fresh out of the fryer hot hot hot and I’d ordered the SMALL on purpose because I didn’t want to eat FIVE POUNDS OF POTATOES, so they just gave me a lot of something I didn’t want and made me feel even less important.)
Whether you’re a small business, a MULTIBAZILLION DOLLAR corporation, or an individual artist, your marketing sells a promise to The Masses. “Our carpets feel great on your feet!”, “Our cheeseburgers are the greasiest!”, “My artwork makes you feel bad about yourself!”
But when you fail to deliver on that promise and you want to recover, you have to switch focus from What Works For The Masses to How I Can Cater To This Individual.
You can’t make up for not being fast by trying to be faster. After a McFail, you have to slow down and do something remarkable.