Business Storytelling For Dummies
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Everyone has stories of situations where they’re an in-person or online customer of a business. They’re also often in situations where others are our customers, whether they’re internal or external to the organization. And everyone talks about these situations. So it’s in your best interest to figure out which are the very best to have in your hip pocket.

Some of the easiest and best customer stories are those about people you work with, day in and day out. How they solved a customer’s problem, went the extra mile, overcame an obstacle to meet a customer need, and the like. One would think these stories would be easy to collect — but they aren’t.

Often people say, in response to being asked to document what they did for an internal recognition award, “Oh, I was just doing my job.” That’s why it’s so important to share the entire story about what you observed they did and not just heap praise on them. Doing that gives the story legs.

Customer stories can be used to showcase a best practice, for training, and to redesign a document or process.

What about your customers? Customers are most likely to talk about what other customers and prospects really want to know. In her blog article “How to Help Your Customers Help You by Sharing their Stories,” Manya Chylinki shares how Deana Goldasich, CEO of Well Planned Web, turned a single customer interview with stories into 38 pieces of content.

Customer experience stories can infuse the day-to-day work of your employees with meaning and purpose, because they can more easily see the difference their work makes in the lives of others. These stories can promote performance, perseverance, and passion. They also create a more intimate connection with the customer, beyond just an intellectual understanding.

Plus, depending on the story, they can be used to educate both staff and customers on how best to use your products and services.

Interviewing customers and prospects and evoking their stories will gain you rich material to guide product development and service delivery — and help you more closely connect with your prospects as you carry out marketing and advertising activities.

These stories also provide insight into the psychology, unmet needs, and underlying values of these individuals, if you take the time to ferret them out. Knowing what story your customers live can help you build a long-lasting, profitable relationship with them.

Here’s a dilemma: Listening to customer stories can require extra effort because your brain is operating on several levels. You’re not only hearing the story, you’re trying to comprehend, analyze, evaluate, and remember that content. Something else to watch out for is the instinct, in sharing a customer’s story, to make yourself or your company the hero, when the real hero is the customer.

Your challenge is to maintain the correct point of view. You may think the thing — the product you’re selling — is the star. You may think the process you use is the star. But that would be like making a movie about the Batmobile instead of Batman.

The goal is to have the story be about the people who are using your product or service. And they will love you for it. Customers share when it’s about them, not when it’s about you.

Every story has a villain, and every story has a person you cheer for. Your customers stories need to embody both hope and empowerment that others can solve the same challenges they had by working with you.

Here’s the synopsis of a story from Southwest Airlines that demonstrates this:

A man was en route from L.A. to Denver to see his [young] grandson for the last time. The boy was being taken off life support. . . . The man’s wife called Southwest to arrange the flight and explained the emergency. Unfortunately, the man was held up by traffic and long lines at LAX. . . .
He finally made it, 12 minutes after the plane was to leave. . . . The pilot waiting for him said, “They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”

Memorable customer experience stories aren’t always positive, success stories. They can also identify issues and gaps in your organization. To start capturing those, here are a few ideas:

  • From employees: Tell me about a time when a customer used our product or service and had a huge win. Or a situation where a customer used our product or service and saved the day in their company. Or a situation where a customer used our product or service and was able to overcome a significant obstacle.

  • From customers: Tell me about a time when you used our product or service and had a huge win. Or a situation where you used our product or service and saved the day in your company. Or a situation where you used our product or service and were able to overcome a significant obstacle.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Karen Dietz, PhD, is a 25-year veteran in business storytelling consulting, training, and leadership, and organizational development. Lori L. Silverman offers business storytelling training, keynotes, and consulting. For 26 years, she's advised enterprises on strategic planning and organizational change.

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