A coffee milkshake

“Does McDonald’s serve coffee-flavored milkshakes?”

My father-in-law Mike loves Jamocha milkshakes from Arby’s. Deanna and I found that we can really make his day swinging in for a visit with him while helping him drink it. Mike is in the last terminal stage of Parkinson’s disease, and sipping on this coffee-flavored treat while visiting with his family is one of the few things he is still able to enjoy. We love his excitement when we bring it out for him. 

Unfortunately, our key supply of his treasured drink has been disrupted. Arby’s has been under renovation in his neighborhood, so we had to search for alternatives. Sonic’s menu didn’t list anything, and Deanna mentioned that Starbucks doesn’t do ice cream products. Remembering that McDonald’s does milkshakes, we struck out to see if they could whip something up.

“Do you have coffee-flavored shakes?” I asked the guy in the drive-thru. “No.” was the reply.

Darn, where should we try next… “Hey wait, what is that McCafe section of the menu? What is a Caramel Frappe’? Is that like a coffee milkshake?”… Silence for a few seconds…

“Yeah, I guess it’s made with coffee and blended ice and cream.” — “We’ll try it!”

Mike ended up loving it because, for all practical purposes, it was indeed a coffee-flavored milkshake. Haha! I laughed it off but then started thinking how often this type of mistake happens. We see the world from a certain perspective and miss a chance to serve a customer by being too quick to say, “No, we don’t do that.” In reality, we’re just using different vocabulary. 

I then began thinking about how in software development and business consulting, we make the same mistake. Our customer partners are trying to describe what they need the best they can with their vocabulary. It’s up to us to take a leap and help bridge the language gap. “Yes, we do indeed serve coffee-flavored milkshakes…”