Preface: This is a freshened-up reprint of a short article I had initially published for Lifehack.org back in May of 2006. I have just returned from a trip, and a couple of my travel experiences brought it back to mind for me; one was at Café Rio, and another at The Boiling Crab. Its subject matter connects to three of our MWA Key Concepts for me; see if we agree after your reading, and before you see my category choices in the post footer.
After you get over your initial surprise that these people actually do exist still, 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 see 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. If their learning curve is sluggish or steep, impatience sets in; if others help now, there is an uncomfortable edge to it.
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:
Not capitalizing on making the first-timer’s experience your competitive advantage, because that experience is as good as it can possibly be, is where you might be missing the boat for both kinds of business potential: First-timer and Insider.
Every business person will tell you how critical first impressions are, yet they don’t concentrate on fostering those impressions, relentlessly addressing them in their training and service standards. In restaurants, we’ve all been asked, “Have you been here before?” but most times we get the feeling our server wants to know of our answer for their ease rather than ours: They aren’t being Mea Ho‘okipa, they’re cutting to the chase.
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?
Now think of your own place of business, and how Sense of Place is created there, and felt there. How can you make it better for everyone, customer and workplace partner alike?
Mea Ho‘okipa as service provider
I have been taught that if you were called Mea Ho‘okipa in old Hawai‘i, it was a compliment of the highest possible order. It meant that the person who accorded you that recognition felt that you embodied a nature of absolute unselfishness. With the compliment they were also saying “Mahalo” (thank you), appreciative of the hospitality you extended to them with complete and unconditional Aloha (the outpouring of your spirit). In acknowledging you as Mea Ho‘okipa they were actually saying, “Your arms of Aloha have embraced me; I accept your graciousness, and I am exceptionally thankful for the outpouring of your generous spirit.” Fewer words said, much more meaning expressed.
The Mea Ho‘okipa were those who always seemed to radiate well-being, with an inner peace and joy that came from the total satisfaction they received from their acts of giving. They were those who truly gave of themselves freely, and gave often, never trading favors or silently hoping for anything in return. Their own pleasure and satisfaction came from the act of giving itself. Giving was their inner source of joy and contentment.
Now wouldn’t that be a compliment you’d like to receive from someone, especially from your customer? Isn’t that a feeling you’d want to experience? I wrote down this quote from a Successories poster I had seen once, for I’d immediately thought to myself, they’re referring to Ho‘okipa;
“Never underestimate the power of giving.
It shines like a beacon throughout humanity.
It cuts through the oceans that divide us and brightens the lives of all it touches.
One of life’s greatest laws is that you cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening your own as well.”
This “brightening of your own [path] as well” is the abundance of Aloha we’ve already talked about. It is the Aloha we want to give.
— From Managing with Aloha, Chapter 6. Do you have a copy of your own yet?
Archive Aloha with related reading:
- Tear Down Your Walls
- What can a Humble Wave do for you?
- The Visibility Guarantee: Your Values
- Start with two words: “with Aloha”
- Managing: Be a Big Fan of the Small Win
For more reading paths, go to New Here? or click on the tags found in the footer.