The Power of Visual Cues

When you drop by McDonalds you will notice how quickly they serve customers. They have an automated ordering process. As soon as an order is placed, the kitchen has the order appear on a TV set that displays them in sequence. First in first out.

Quality service or product quality is pegged on consistency. If we only provide a great service every now and then, it is not really quality service. Consistent service quality is the result of many things. The people we hire, the training we provide, the quality of our management team and the process they follow.

When I was younger, I found processes to be limiting. They were boring and constraining. As I went up the corporate ladder, I started appreciating their value. This is specially more for companies that design processes to shorten the time it takes to service customers and reduce mistakes.

Processes, on it’s own, cannot survive the rigors of new employees and day to day work without the corresponding templates or visual cues.

Visual cues are powerful ways of triggering an action. For instance, an inbox and outbox on top of an employees table are visual cues. They visually tell the employees how much work they have done and how much are still pending.

Back to visual cues, I noticed this in McDonalds yesterday. I ordered a few things and the cashier thought that I was dining in. Before the food came, she placed the ketchup packs on a tray with a paper lining.

She was not sure if she asked me if I was dining in. The cashier asked me, with a little embarrassment, if I was dining in. With a smile, I told her that I ordered for take away.

Almost automatically, she removed the paper lining on top of the serving tray. I thought that it was odd. As I observed the other cashiers. I noticed the pattern. Dine in orders had paper linings on the tray. Take out orders do not have paper linings on the tray.

This way, nobody can ever make a mistake of mixing the preparation of the two types of orders. They have consistency in the way they prepare both types of orders because of visual cues.

Visual cues. How often do you use it at work or in your personal life?