‘Most grandfathers are storytellers. Roger Perdue was a master storyteller. His spinning a yarn after suppertime always mesmerized my younger sister, brother, and me. Now, I have heard my share of “Once upon a times,” but his scary stories were terrifying; his funny stories were hilarious; and his “there’s a lesson in here” stories were memorable for years.
I have thought a lot about what made my granddaddy’s stories work so well. They all had a pattern and practice. His stories adhered to solid storytelling principles of the three C’s—create a clear context, present a relatable challenge, and resolve the tension with a climax that creates insight. But there was more to his stories; much more.
Since the pinnacle of customer loyalty is the telling of a story (“You’re not going to believe what happened to me”), there are valuable lessons from his storytelling prowess that can provide guidance on how to make customers’ experiences worthy material for a captivating story that customers cannot wait to share with others.
Granddaddy used enchanting theatrics
He was a master of sound effects and multiple voices. His pauses slowed the pace of his story allowing unknowing minds to keep up. He made funny faces which he encouraged us to mimic. Charm was his secret sauce—concocted with authenticity, surprise, and emotional connection. When the hero of the story was stalking his antagonist, his voice dropped almost to a whisper. His added spice to the content of his stories made all his listeners lean forward.
Great customer experiences are forgotten if they are merely functionally efficient. We remember the super friendly check-out clerk who teases us, compliments us, or recognizes us long after we have forgotten the flawless self-service checkout with its hunt for barcodes. The two outcomes might be identical—purchasing merchandise—but the experiences can be the basis of a story or simply a dis-remembered chore. Magnetism trumps mechanical; personalized is more powerful than prescriptive. How can you influence your customers to feel instructed, entertained or inspired?
Granddaddy used graphic details
Great stories are decorated. Story details are like the painter’s palette, they color the experiences, making them sparkly and animated. When the setting for a story involved a tree, granddaddy would point to a nearby tree and tell us, “about the size of that one over there.” He generously used metaphors that grounded his stories in our everyday world. Starting where we were, he invited us to join him on a make-believe excursion to new worlds and surprising adventures. And his descriptions, features, and delicious examples pulled us deep into his story as he acted as both host and caretaker on the imaginary journey we shared.
Great customer experiences come from attention to details. It involves monitoring the dangers of incongruence and the subtle intrusion of asymmetry. A message like, “your call is very important” followed by a long wait, for example, creates emotional dissonance. As customers, we need crystal clear communications about what to expect and neighbor-like explanations of experiences that deviate from what we anticipate. Great customer experiences position the server as a caring guardian of our ultimate needs, not some indifferent robot only focusing on its part of a customer’s journey. How can you major in the minors, highlighting the features noticed only by your customer’s subconscious?
Granddaddy used powerful inclusion
I have watched videos of some of the best storytellers on the planet. Listeners are not merely members of their audience but are participants in the unfolding of their tale. Granddaddy would stop along the storyline and ask, “What do you think he did next?” or “Who do you think was waiting in bushes?” As our investment in his story grew, our ownership of the saga increased. His story became our story and it often promoted post-story discussion. “Granddaddy, what would have happened if she had…” or “Why did the little boy cry?” The payoff of a great story is the listeners’ desire to keep it going in their minds. We would repeat his stories to our friends at school. For the storyteller who loves to tell stories, it is like repeat business!
Great customer experiences are participative and collaborative. Customers feels more like partners than consumers. Smart organizations invite customers to join in with the design and delivery of service. They remain ever vigilant for “give me a hand” opportunities knowing people care when they share. Solicitation of real-time feedback and improvement suggestions are second nature. Customers are eager to help co-create the experiences they receive if they are treated with respect, care and are truly valued. For customer-centric organizations, transparency is their native tongue, authenticity their perpetual default. How can you enfold your customers into a collaborative relationship, not just a one-way provider-to-receiver transaction?
Everyone loves stories. They love to tell stories; they love to hear stories. A great story can make a campfire worth lighting, a party worth attending, and a reunion worth holding. It can evoke tears and laughter. A good story can touch something familiar in us and yet show us something new about our lives. Author Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
The pinnacle of customer loyalty is not a “would you recommend to family member or a friend,” it is the telling of a compelling story. The elements of superior grandfather-like storytelling can provide guidance on ways to make your customers’ experiences magnetic sagas that become the heart of their long-term fidelity.’
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