Customer Service is not enough. In fact, it is two steps behind.

I am a soap stealer.   There, I said it.  If I am going to pay $200 dollars for the hotel room, then I am taking the unopened soap.  That was until my wife revolted at my effort to corner the hotel soap market.  “Don””t bring home any more until you do something with those,” she said pointing to a box of beige and white wrapped packages.

As I was walking past the box I realized one my thievery victims knew that I would take their soap.  They planned on it.  They wanted me to think about my stay at their property every time I walked past that collection.  They purposely packaged their soap to move ahead of all the competition.  Just what did they do?  A little background first.

Customer Service for a hotel is a clean, warm room, with a bathroom with a few amenities.  Customer Experiences, that higher offering that is more and more expected, takes this to a higher level.  Special mattress toppers, concierge levels, mini-bars, specialty soaps, and even lavender pillow spritzers for a deep night sleep, barrage the traveler.  All this to one-up the competition.

Today, customer service, is the ante to get into the game.  But to stand out, business is taking the interaction to a new level.  The experience is becoming the expectation.  We expect the morning paper in the lobby.  We expect the exercise room.  We expect cable TV.  We are even expecting free WIFI (except those large hotel chains that do not see charging for WIFI, that lifeblood umbilical for the business traveler, as a way for sucking their customer””s wallets dry).

So what comes after customer experiences?  What will the future look like?

Business charisma.  Charisma is that special relationship past the customer experience.  It creates a personal relationship.  It is so powerful that we buy souvenirs to commemorate it.

Take for example the souvenir t-shirts at Rain Forest Café, Chipotle, Five Guy””s Hamburgers (ketchup and mustard stains optional and applied by the customer), Disney, and Harley-Davidson.  These identified businesses are defined as charismatic in recent research.  Their customers become champions, singing the praises of their charisma literally, with the clothes on their back.  Charisma in business means the customer does not see a substitute.

Richard Teerlink, the once CEO of Harley-Davidson was explaining this brand value when he shared that the government mistakenly thinks Harley sells motorcycles.

“What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride though small towns, and have people be afraid of him.”

Business charisma time travels with the customer.  The Harley-Davidson owner buys a time when things were a little more rebellious  and free.   That bag-of-French-fries at Five Guys invites you to a time when you were not worried about clogged arteries.

So how do organizations become charismatic?  One example can be found using “the 40””s”.

Robert O. Brinkerhoff of Western Michigan University has studied the impact of training and development.  He found that only 20% of the power of education occurs when the student is in front of the teacher.  His research shows that 40% of the impact occurs before and 40% after the education event.

What happens if the question Is asked, “How might we influence the customer before they interact with us and afterward?”  How could you extend your customer relationship beyond your current transaction?

Back to the box of soaps.  There in the middle of the white and beige wrapping were several boxes of soap that were package in jet black boxes.  They wanted their soap to stand out.  They knew the customer would steal the soap and so they positioned them to send a marketing message in the future.  The package had Mickey Mouse ears that reminded you to “come back . . . bring your loved ones.  Remember how much fun you had last time you did a Disney vacation?”

You don””t need to steal the soap.  But you will need to steal the ideas of charismatic businesses.

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