I am not a product designer. I’m not even a designer. But I noticed something recently that made me think hard about the process of developing products and experiences.
My wife and I were eating at a burrito chain where one of the new Coca-Cola “Freestyle” drink machines was installed (1). I’m not a soda drinker, so I didn’t experience it for myself, but I could tell that other restaurant patrons were really enjoying the futuristic interface and the impossibly broad number of drink choices available from one machine. (I read later that the number of available drinks is over 100.)
My first thought was, “That invention made a giant step.” Again, I don’t use the machines often, but I think the traditional soda fountain has at best maybe 10 or 12 choices.
Increasing the number of available products by a multiple of 10 – in a machine that’s really not too much larger than the old version – is a pretty significant product.
Here’s the interesting thing, though: about halfway through my burrito, I noticed one of the employees pouring a giant pitcher of steaming water into the tray beneath the nozzle that sprayed carbonated syrup into people’s cups. I was interested enough in what he was doing to get up out of my seat and ask him, “why in the world are you pouring hot water into this new Coke machine?”
“Well, the ice gets backed up in the tray,” he said, “so I have to come melt it down with hot water so that people can keep using it and it doesn’t make a mess.”
I want to reiterate that I’m not a product designer. I also want to point out that I have no idea if this is a common issue in the Freestyle machines, or if the people who installed it made a mistake or messed up the drainage system. In short, I realize that this could be an edge case.
That being said, talking with the pitcher-toting employee reminded me of a really great lesson: the end user is not the only user.
I thought about how disappointing it would be to create a product that the manufacturer and end user love, but everyone in between hates.
Happy employees make happy customers, and if you can develop products that do both, everyone wins.
â€¢ (1) – You can read about the Ferrari-influenced Coca-Coal Freestyle machines here.