A Little Bit Of Different

I generally avoid writing about the “big 4 of service” (I just made up that term in case you’ve never heard it before). You know the names: Disney, Southwest Airlines, Ritz Carlton, and Starbucks.

It’s not that I don’t like these companies. It’s just that everybody writes about them, and talks about them, and wishes they could be them. Truthfully, I get a little sick of hearing about them from every customer service consultant, writer, and speaker.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve experienced them all and they all live up to their legends. I NEVER get sick of experiencing them, just hearing about them. As a matter of fact, I’m sitting in a Starbucks right now as I write this. Yeah, that’s me in the corner. Hi, how are you?

I noticed at something at my Starbucks this morning that I think I’ve only subconsciously noticed before. It’s a little bit different. I haven’t been here for a week or so, and it’s just, well, a little bit different than the last time I was here.

What exactly did I notice? I don’t know what they call it, but I’m going to call it the “little bit of different.” You know, the different items they stock on their impulse purchase shelves. The different music they play over the sound system. The different products they promote in their window decals and in-store signage. It’s all a little bit different from the last time I was here.

Starbucks has created a magic formula here. They produce environments with amazing consistency. You always know what you’re going to get. You always know how it’s going to feel when you walk into a Starbucks. You always get the same quality of service.

And you always, whether you notice it or not, experience that little bit of different. Maybe you read a promotional sign while you wait for your barista to whip up your venti-double-expresso non-fat-vanilla-iced-chai-tea-latte-extra-hot. Maybe you pause to check out the cool new mugs on the way out the door. I swear I would collect Starbucks coffee mugs if it didn’t make me look like one of those crazy old ladies who collect little glass figurines. For now, I just admire them on my way out the door. I’ve seen some funky new photo mugs I like that my friend has anyway, so they can stay by the door, haha!

The little bit of different is the fairy dust sprinkled over the top of the consistent design, product, and service. It magically pulls you in and engages your senses. While the consistency satisfies our need for safety and belonging, the little bit of different piques our brain’s need for discovery and exploration. I would attempt to apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here, but I’m afraid too much theoretical thinking might induce a stroke.

I’ll just leave it at this: What can you do this week to create a little bit of different in your business? What can you freshen up? What new idea, information, or product can you introduce to your customers?

What could you do to create a little bit of different in your team this week? How about holding your next staff meeting outside under that tree in front of your building? Or writing a hand-written note of encouragement to each of your team members? Yes, an email note will work, too (but not nearly as good as a handwritten note).

By the way, this is not about differentiating yourself from your competition, although it certainly can help. It’s more about differentiating yourself from last week’s version of yourself. If you’re constantly pushing yourself to be a little different than you were yesterday, you’ll find yourself on a path of continuous experimentation and improvement. And that’s a very, very good thing.

Constantly introducing a little bit of different keeps your business feeling fresh and new — and keeps your team and customers more curious, engaged, and satisfied — whether you’re in a year-old startup or a hundred-year-old institution your grandfather started.

It doesn’t have to be dramatic or expensive. It just needs to be done on a regular basis. Keep yourself fresh. Introduce a little bit of different.

P.S. I know sticklers for the English language will cringe at my use of the word “different” instead of “difference.” Please accept my butchering of the English language as one of my attempts to introduce a “little bit of different.” 🙂


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