There’s an old advertising slogan that has stood the test of time over many decades. You probably know it well. Minute Rice: Ready in 5 Minutes. It’s a slogan that was far ahead of its time (with apologies to Jiffy Pop popcorn). It was developed in an era where the microwave was nowhere to be found, and porridge was a popular breakfast meal.

So what does Minute Rice and Ready in 5 Minutes have to do with communications? It’s simple: it stresses the urgency for which many of us want results. Sure, we might be able to get a pizza in 30 minutes or less, or an express lunch in 15 minutes, but heck, five minutes is even better. In the world of instant, pre-cooked rice, Minute Rice has set a lasting standard (when was the last time you recall a competitor pitching a rival rice that’s ready in three minutes?).

Minute Rice and its iconic slogan came to mind recently when I was seeking to hire a lawyer to complete some work. It began with simply opening the Yellow Pages and calling three local service providers, all easily reached within a short 10-kilometre drive.

The first service provider was easily reached on the telephone, however, I was stopped at the virtual front door by a gatekeeper who didn’t know the answers to my questions, wouldn’t transfer my call to the professional who was available, but would happily schedule an appointment for me to meet with the professional. Immediately, my mind started thinking ka-ching. I could practically hear the meter start runnning. The firm certainly had it wound and ready to go. I told the gatekeeper I’d like to think more about it before commiting.

I called a second professional service provider. A gatekeeper once again didn’t know any details to my question (which is odd, because it must be a fairly common business-related inquiry). I was told the firm’s lawyer would call me back. Forty-eight hours later, there was still no call.

The third legal firm was vastly different from the previous two. Predictably, I first reached a gatekeeper. But the approach was entirely different. I was told the firm’s lawyer was in a meeting but would call me right back to answer my questions. Huh? Call me right back? A lawyer? Indeed, about five minutes later he called me. He answered my questions. And guess what, he earned my business because he personally communicated to me as quickly as possible. I told him I was impressed by his rapid communication..

The connection here to Minute Rice is this: We live in a want-it-now society. Call that good or bad, or whatever you like. But it’s here. Some of us refuse to line up in a restaurant waiting to be seated. Some of us hang up the phone if we’re left in voicemail oblivion for longer than three minutes.

In a world where customers can move beyond you and your business at fibre-optic speed, the lawyer who called me back has obviously adapted to today’s reality. He’s also broken away from the usual practice in the legal profession where questions are rarely answered for free. It was a welcomed response — and it ended what was becoming a frustrating attempt to get information.

I remember my earlier days in another industry that consistently fell short addressing inquiries from customers. Days would go by with no followup telephone calls. Customers would call back wondering why they had received no response. Customers were lost. Lots of them. There was no system in place to monitor and correct these ineffiencies. So the problem kept festering.

Imagine if that industry had adapted the Minute Rice – Ready in 5 Minutes strategy into its communications with customers?

Nobody’s implying that you need to respond within five minutes every time. But a mindset should be established that leads you toward achieving consistently better communication timelines with potential customers.

It’s time to toss out the anchovies that taint your communication efforts with customers, and instead gather the ingredients you need for a successful customer communication recipe.

Minute Rice got it right many many years ago. And it’s still working today.

Here’s to better communication, and a quick meal of rice pilaf tonight!