Breaking the Rules of Customer Engagement
Ahhhh… Rick Lewis… Entertainer, Comedian, and Insightful Teacher. It’s always a bit challenging for us to describe what Rick does and how deeply he impacts our franchise audiences.
He calls himself a “Professional Misbehaver” but don’t let the title fool you. Though playful, fun, funny, entertaining and engaging, Rick delivers a deep and meaningful message that’s sure to stick.
Breaking the Rules of Customer Engagement
by Professional Misbehaver Rick Lewis
I’ve presented to all sorts of audiences in hundreds of industries. Over and over I ask, “What business are you in?” Depending upon the industry, I get different answers, but the one real answer is usually overlooked. No matter what any organization does or provides, it’s in the people business. Clarity about this is the launching pad for any successful company and the sure downfall of any business that is confused about this ultimate purpose.
Products and services never sell—only stories do. The job of every employee in every organization is to help tell a compelling story that gets a customer leaning forward and walking into a relationship with the company and its offering before the customer even realizes they’ve committed to it.
I recently bought a small bag of cherry tomatoes. One of the first things that drew my attention on the label was this heading: “Some tomatoes have all the luck. They get to grow up in a perfect world.” Beneath this heading, the supplier elaborates on the ideal growing conditions and lack of chemicals that are used in the production of its crop, which they “shower with tender loving care.” Suddenly, you’re no longer buying a tomato. You’re purchasing an experience that you either had as a child, or that you wished you’d had, or that you want today for your own children. It’s an excellent example of a company that understands what business they’re in.
I just took my Honda in for servicing. A poster on the wall shows the front end of a Honda vehicle along with the heading, “Don’t open your hood to strangers.” Once again, you’re no longer buying car maintenance; you’re buying a sense of belonging and reconnecting to the parental care that kept you safe in your childhood home.
People are storytellers. That’s what we do. The fundamental law of successful brand management is based on one understanding: if you’re not engaging the customer with a compelling story, they’re going to make up one of their own.
The lead-in for my keynote presentations involves dressing up identically to the serving staff at the hotel or venue and pretending to be a server who becomes increasingly eccentric and odd over the course of the meal. He appears very sincere but grows ever more inept as the courses roll out. By the end of the meal there are as many ideas about who I am, how I got my job (and how I’m keeping it), as there are individuals in the room. The reactions span a full range; from those who want me immediately removed and disciplined to those who want to take me home and give me a safe place to stay where I won’t hurt myself. The purpose of this bumbling waiter routine is to give my audiences an actual experience of how we humans tend to tell ourselves stories.
When I show up on stage after the meal looking as though I’m about to apologize—but instead turn out to be their headline act, launching into a full-scale physical comedy show—the guests realize they’ve been had. While they’re laughing they also get the point: in the absence of the intentional management of impression and perception, people will make up stories of their own.
Everything we do in our organizations are an opportunity for stor
y management. Here’s the rub: most organizations turn to over delivery, to great service as the answer to customer engagement and satisfaction. Exceeding expectations is the implied or sometimes openly stated mission of the organization. The problem is that “exceeding expectations” itself is now expected by consumers in the ordinary course of business. This defines the challenge inherent in creating customer delight and the difficulty of delighting a customer who expects it. The leverage here is to train in
the art of storytelling, humor, surprise, and even theatre, creating access to a context of engagement that is nonlinear and produces delight by delivering a surprising value over and above the expected service. Surprise value in the current marketplace always involves creating an experience, eliciting emotion, awakening feeling, and engaging human relationship. Faster, cheaper, bigger, problem-freer, etc., do not carry the same power as a compelling human story. Today, great service is only for the purpose of keeping you in business long enough to differentiate yourself with a great story.
Here’s my story: I dream of a world filled with people who love what they do. After presenting to thousands of people over the past 30 years, I’ve been able to map what prevents that love from occurring for the vast majority of people in most jobs.
It’s hidden rules in our culture that we collectively and unconsciously obey, but do not talk about.
The way to reconnect to the joy and passion that is inherently available within human enterprise is through what I call “Intelligent Misbehavior,” strategic and intentional rule breaking. Intelligent Misbehavior is what I’m dedicated to demonstrating, communicating, and inspiring others to act upon in their lives.
If you want your franchise event to be successful, there are three things you are absolutely responsible for:
- Managing the experience your franchise audience has and reinforcing what makes your franchise culture unique.
- Providing your franchisees with memorable ideas they are compelled to talk about – with each other and with their front-line staff when they get back home.
- Having a conversation about the self-imposed limitations and hidden rules that are present in each of us as individuals which hold us back from achieving our full potential.
There’s only one reason to bring people together for a meeting, and that is to deepen the texture of the story that defines your organization in the marketplace. If your team members don’t walk away with a clearer and more inspired connection to exactly what that is, then it doesn’t qualify as a special event.
Rick is a delight in every way. He’ll surprise your team. He’ll engage them. He’ll make them laugh. He’ll get them on their feet and participating. And most important of all, he’ll challenge their thinking and open them up to a fresh perspective on what’s holding them back from success.
Whether using Rick as the primary keynote or as a ‘surprise’ session on the second day of their events, our franchise clients rave about the effect that Rick has on their team.
Let us know if you’d like to explore Rick’s delightful and extraordinary approach to authentic engagement.
I promise. You will not be disappointed.
P.S. Here are a couple of recent testimonials on Rick’s session…
“Rick Lewis is an absolute ‘15’ out of ‘10’. The fact that he really takes his audience off-guard and then delivers a truly powerful message made the lessons stick. I was personally struck by how Rick’s act demonstrated for all of us the importance of not taking situations at face value and taking the time to dig down a little deeper and find the root of what’s causing the behavior. I can’t just use one word to describe Rick’s session – I have to use two and they are “HONEST” and “REAL”. Rick enters your life in a way you don’t expect and you’re suddenly confronted with these powerful principals by an authentically real and honest person. I think this puts Rick in and extraordinary position to make his point. A powerful experience for anyone in any franchise organization.”
— Brian Vaughn, CEO of Nearly Famous, Burger King Multi-Unit Franchisee & Vice Chairman of the Burger King National Franchisee Association
“Rick Lewis took our association leaders on a fabulously entertaining journey. His connection with the group was authentic, real and meaningful which was evidenced by that fact that no one wanted to leave the room when the evening was over! The combination of surprise, engaging entertainment and a valuable message was outstanding. I’d highly recommend Rick to any franchise group looking for something extraordinary and meaningful at the same time.”
— Kristi Keith, VP Marketing Communications, National Association Management Group on Rick’s session for the Coalition of Franchisee Associations annual meeting