Useful Immediacy

I just read an article about Twitter that used the phrase “useful immediacy.” (Ironically, a new microwave–the granddaddy of useful immediacy–is being installed in my kitchen as I type.)

Everything around us, from microwaves up through Twitter, is training consumers to expect useful immediacy. What a powerful phrase, and what a great insight into what consumers demand today.

It’s not just immediacy. Some things don’t need to be immediate, but when consumers need it, they need it, and the restaurateurs that give it to them will win their business. That’s why the double drive-thru was invented, and perhaps it’s the underlying reason why even Panera Bread and Panda Express are taking it up a notch.

♦ Panera Bread just opened the company’s first drive-thru in Colorado. It’s in a renovated Hilton Garden Inn. I’ve always believed that the only thing missing from Panera was someone to bring it to my car on a rainy or snowy day, but that’s probably the cabin fever talking.

♦ Similarly, Panda Express is focused on useful immediacy with their test of Order Panda, a new mobile and online ordering service in 100 stores in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego. A GoMobo partnership allows Panda customers to order and pay from their mobile phone/computer, scheduling a pickup time at their favorite Panda Express.

♦ In this increasingly time-crunched, convenience-obsessed world, consumers have come to expect us to respond to their time constraints. And it’s getting worse all the time.

♦ I just heard Bill Nye the Science Guy interviewed regarding the earthquake in Chile. Did you know that because of the earthquake, the earth is spinning just a little faster? That means that a day is just a little shorter. That’s all we need…less time. (Granted, it’s just a fraction of a micro-second, but in this time-crunched world we live in, every little bit counts.)

Even an occasion like a leisurely, romantic dinner, which may appear the exception to this rule, requires a sense of service urgency at certain points. One of the No. 1 pet peeves full-service guests express when you drill down on moments of truth is having to wait to pay…it drives guests crazy. Servers often think that by that time, their work is done. The guest, on the other hand, is finished with a great experience and just wants to wrap it up, not wait around with nothing left to say. Finding these moments is critical to winning the “useful immediacy” game.

Several years ago, Michael Hammer, author of The Agenda: What Every Business Must Do to Dominate the Decade, introduced the phrase “easy to do business with.” One of my clients at the time asked me to help them capitalize on their opportunities to create great service improvements. Useful immediacy is part of being easy to do business with, and smart operators like Panera Bread and Panda Express are harnessing this strategy to dominate the decade by asking, “How easy are we to do business with?” (Maybe Dunkin’ Donuts is even working on being able to download doughnuts…wouldn’t that change the game?) Anyway…

Until next time, let me know your thoughts.