Configuring the perfect cola – innovation found in soda fountain machines

I’m not sure if you have seen or experienced Coca-Cola’s new freestyle fountain machine. If you are addicted to “sugar water” (in honor of Steve Job’s famous quote to former PepsiCo CEO) then you can skip the rest of this paragraph as you’ll have been through this a dozen times already. As you can see in the picture it doesn’t look like a regular fountain machine. It’s colorful and has a touch screen interface. But what is best is that it allows you to create your own flavors. You can choose your standard Coca-Cola beverages but then add a flavor like cherry, lime, raspberry, and so on. I have a secret love for cherry coke and so I create diet cherry coke or cherry coke zero. I also tried raspberry coke zero and then decided cough syrup with my lunch wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

So Coke essentially innovated by taking elements from other devices and merged that with new trends to create a new device. But most importantly they created an experience. In the constant cola wars this is something that has to be key for a company like Coke. I’ve heard constant discussions at the machine when a person walks up with a friend:

“What should I make?”

“Maybe I’ll try Sprite with Vanilla this time.”

“I had that last time so I’m going to try Coke Zero with Lime.”

All this turns an incredibly mundane task into something memorable. Ultimately that experience at that restaurant with that Coke product becomes more memorable and likely makes the business and Coke more successful (i.e. $$).

What also impressed me was seeing an employee change one of the beverages that ran out. They pulled up the water screen and touched several of the bubbles in the background in a certain order to bring up an admin console. They then walked over with a new cartridge of Diet Coke that looked exactly like a copier ink cartridge, moved it across the fountain door and the door opened. Next they popped out the old cartridge pushed in the new one and closed the door. They were done (and didn’t have any ink on their hands). I was amazed by the design and simplicity of administration. Coke borrowed concepts from lots of different common devices and made it simple. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” From a technology perspective Coke used a touch screen probably for a few reasons. Its fun to “touch” and it’s something that consumers are comfortable with today. Oh and it’s cool.

So now back to IT and Service Management. How can you create an enjoyable experience when interacting with IT, for example the Service Desk? How can you innovate and leverage existing elements to create a new device, service or experience for your end users? How can you create a service that gives the customer flexibility or choice?

 Photo courtesy of Rich Graves.

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Rich Graves

Rich Graves is a Senior Principal Product Manager at CA Technologies. Rich works on a team focused on strategy and innovation for the Service & Portfolio Management Customer Solutions Unit. During his eleven-plus years at CA, he has focused entirely on the Service Management and support market segments while serving in a variety of roles in the strategy, research and development and strategic business alliances organizations. Rich has an M.B.A. from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and a B.S. in Computer Science from Wake Forest University. Rich has a passion for gadgets and all things self-service and often tweets about it - @RichEGraves.

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