After you get over your initial surprise that these people actually do exist, there is something very cool about watching someone who has never been in a Starbucks before, come in to one for the very first time.
It is easy to pick them out, for they are the only ones who walk in front of the overhead menu board, step back a few paces to take the whole thing in, and actually begin to read it.
Everyone else who is already in line waiting, or who might be seated at a nearby table, looks at them and smiles to themselves knowingly. It’s that smile of understanding, of recognition, and in remembrance of their own first time.
Next, this insider’s smugness slowly but surely replaces those looks of understanding and recognition on the faces of all the bystanders. They love the thought that they are now veterans and in the know, and that their own rite of passage is over. They feel they’ve paid their dues and have arrived, and it’s a feeling they like way more than that first-timer’s memory.
It is very rare to see anyone help the newcomer with a suggestion. On the contrary, sometimes you actually see the ranks close, and the line gets tighter, so the newcomer can be left with no doubt where that line begins and ends. People actually start to anticipate that funny moment the newcomer will approach the barista and order, saying they want “the medium size I guess” instead of the grande.
Starbucks is but one example. If you are a road warrior, think about those airlines you now frequent and those you don’t, and how class distinction is taken to a whole new level with premier lines and those for “everyone else.” There’s a whole slew of businesses where being the veteran with the insider’s advantage is definitely part of the reason you continue to patronize them. In fact, to not be part of a frequent-something club is considered to be downright foolhardy consumer behavior.
However if you are a business owner, leader, or manager, what I propose to you is this: Capitalizing on making the first-timer’s experience your competitive advantage, because it is as good as it can possibly be, is where you might be missing the boat for both kinds of business potential.
To continue with the Starbucks example, imagine if the barista doing their turn at wiping down tables were focused on those newcomers first, and the dirty tables second. Imagine if they walked up to that newcomer and asked if they needed some help making a choice, and offered to explain some of the coffee lingo. Imagine how the bystanders would now feel, seeing that newcomer get a level of service they don’t recall they’d received their first time. Imagine everyone craning their necks to hear about offerings they’ve never tried because they had on veteran’s blinders, and they now realize that there’s a lot of things offered at Starbucks that they’ve never bothered to try because they’ve just been too comfortable, and they’ve been too accepting of the level of service they no longer get now that they have been trained so well by the coffeehouse’s so-called “insider’s advantage.”
Interesting to imagine all that, isn’t it?
Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is also the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership.
Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: A Reinvention Revolution; 3 Sacred Cows to Start With.