Why Every Enterprise Should Hate In-N-Out Burger

Nearly everyone in the American Southwest has on one road trip or another, feasted at that quintessential fast-food burger joint, In-N-Out Burger.  Based in California, In-N-Out has been serving sodas, shakes, burgers and fries since 1948.  And that’s about all they sell from their red and yellow roadside restaurants.

What’s brilliant about In-N-Out is their simplicity.  Customers are greeted with a menu that’s essentially 4 products.  Simple variations to those products — like adding cheese or another beef patty or holding the onions — ensure that every customer receives exactly what he or she wants.  That personalization is what customers love about In-N-Out.

The real fun when dining at an In-N-Out Burger, however, is impressing your friends by ordering off the secret menu.  Unlisted, special variants on the food are secretly available to customers “in the know”.  You can order a Double-Double “animal style” with mustard, spread, and onions or get a cheeseburger “Protein style”, which wraps the meat and cheese with lettuce in lieu of a bun.  There are dozens of secret menu items, all sanctioned by the franchise and waiting for fans to discover.

The secret menu and associated “insider feeling” is what makes customers bring their friends to In-N-Out.  It’s what encourages customers to advocate on the behalf of the business.


The problem is that these In-N-Out customers are your employees on their lunch breaks.


Your employees just received this great experience — simple menu, personalization, friendly service, and empowerment — and then they return to work and have to navigate your antiquated request process and tools to order the products and services they need to do their jobs.

 If someone needs a new laptop, they have to walk down to IT.  When a manager brings in a new hire, she has paper forms to complete and fax into HR.  When an executive wants a new report, he has to log into a separate portal.  Parking permit requests, visitor badge requests, print jobs, and every other “secret” service they can request are in a dozen different places, with different processes, different approval chains, and different levels of visibility.

You just provided your employees a poor ordering experience, and compared to the levels of service they received at In-N-Out, you certainly do not get a Grade A Prime rating.  In the enterprise world, we think of ourselves as a higher grade than “burger flippers”, yet in all honestly we do not always deliver those results.

The question is, how can an enterprise adopt and offer the experience that people have come to expect and provide it to employees when they order, receive, and review our products and services?

The answer is to establish a Shared Services framework, publish a Service Request Catalog, have defined fulfillment processes, have insight and analytics on all requests, and be able to make decisions based on efficiency, demand, forecast, and satisfaction of the services we offer.

Shared Services Model

The Shared Services model and framework is a way to leverage the fulfillment centers of your organization and consolidate where services are provisioned.  The goal is to have definitive centers that handle particular fulfillment tasks and have a centralized ordering system for your employees to make their requests and orders.

The Shared Service model is an area where IT has been surprisingly ahead of the curve — centralized service desks and asset tracking have matured in IT organizations earlier than other areas.  Successful organizations are adopting that model for document printing centers, access control (locksmith) functions, visitor badging, parking regulation and what ever other services your business provides to it’s internal customers.

Service Request Catalog

Where is the menu of products and services that employees can request?  Do we have separate menus for IT, HR and Facilities?  Is the menu electronic and “click-able”?

Users want to see a list of what they can order and they want to see a list, not many lists.  Having a centralized Service Request Catalog published enables users to visit a portal and click, “buy” to initiate any procurement process.  There are standalone and enterprise tools to manage Service Request Catalogs and most of the time, it is the IT group that is responsible for the management and upkeep of the catalog.  That does not mean that IT is responsible for the fulfillment of each request!  Smart Service Request Catalogs — like the one available in a platform like ServiceNow — handle the routing of requests using graphical workflows to the appropriate teams or groups.  Tools like ServiceNow can also handle the approval chains needed for some requests and track and audit those checks.

Having a centralized, and at least semi-autonomized, Service Request Catalog is the first item on our grocery list to enable Shared Services.

Defined Fulfillment Processes

Do we have standard, repeatable processes for our common request?  Does every new hire follow the same on-boarding process?  Is that process documented?  Can we use one of our technical solutions to automate that process?

The process or workflow need to fulfill each request is tool agnostic.  It’s a process that needs to be designed, documented and then implemented in a tool.  The first step usually involves getting all stakeholders in room an white boarding a diagram of the process.  We identify the steps, parties involved, and appropriate timelines — or Operating Level Agreements — that each step should realistically take.

Fulfillment Process is an important exercise.  Consultant organizations (I’ve worked with great success with Cask LLC) can often accelerate this process and return defined deliverables at the end of an engagement with your organization.

If we don’t understand what each process is, we can never hope to automate it, and certainly can’t measure it.

Insight and Analytics on Requests

Do we even understand the volume of requests we’re receiving?  How long does it take to procure a new laptop?  How long should it take?  Do we hold ourselves to Operating Level Agreements (OLAs) to measure performance in fulfilling our requests?  What Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are important to us, and does everyone agree on those KPIs?

An executive-level goal of using the Shared Services model is having true reportable insight into how are services are being delivered.  This includes the Level of Effort we have to undertake for each service request.  For example, a California-based university recently discovered that it cost them 4x to reproduce a lost key than simply hiring an outside locksmith.  Having that data can help with outsourcing decisions.

Level of Effort includes money, but also time.  Customer requests do not all require the same duration, but what is “late”.  If we know from recorded metrics what the average fulfillment time is, the best, and the worst, we can use that to develop OLAs to keep us on pace.  You need to measure the efficiency if you ever want it to improve.

Continual Service Improvement

How often are our fulfillment processes reviewed?  Do we invite the appropriate stakeholders?  Are we always asking ourselves how to automate more of each process?

Having real metrics on your Shared Services will give you the definitions need to improve them and stakeholders should be invited to at least a semi-annual review.  Remove any obsolete services from the Catalog, validate the recently-added requests, and see what your users are actually ordering.

Continual Service Improvement is a discipline, not a process.  This is another area where external process consultants may be worth the cost and provide the “outside eyes” we sometimes miss.  CSI reviews and workshops, like those from Cask LLC, establish a formal setting and can insulate any hurt feelings.

Import to remember is the culture of CSI and ensuring that everyone involved is always asking how to improve. 

Customer Satisfaction

Do we send surveys to users post fulfillment?  Do we publish all the responses, or just the positive ones?  Do we ever follow-up on the negative feedback?  Have we ever mapped metrics of survey results over another metric like OLA Performance to see visual patterns.

Employees want to feel like they have, “a say”, and automated feedback surveys are a low-cost and effective way to accomplish this.  Platform tools like ServiceNow can even automate the surveys, track the responses and digest them into meaningful reports.

Mature organizations can take that a step further and use business intelligence tools to overlay survey results with another metric, like OLA performance.  We might discovery interesting trends, such as during a period where we repeatedly breached our OLAs, customer satisfaction improved.  Hiding in that data, is the truth that our OLAs are actually wrong.  Only detailed analysis will find that.

Implementing the Shared Service Model

If cost savings, internal customer experience, and efficiency are important to your enterprise, adopting a Shared Service model should be considered as a priority.  There are even standalone and platform apps to implement the framework in a fraction of the time and serve up a mobile-friendly Service Request Catalog.  Ultimately, the Shared Services model is our way to offer our enterprise a robust, “meaty” experience while saving “our buns” by maintaining lower costs.

Like the expedited drive-through experience at In-N-Out Burger, I think you’ll be surprised at the successful provisioning of services out, and the positive feedback coming back in.

Personally, I think I’m ready for that Double Double with cheese.