Successful organizations fill their organization with the voice of the customer. Corporate Storytelling must begin with really getting to know what your customer thinks of your organization and its products/services. The obvious approach is to ask. Asking alone does not provide the complete answer. Listening to your customers’ stories is the single most important use of stories. Never ignore their stories and just explain them away. With the growth of social media, the stories become smaller in length but more frequent in occurrence. Social media channels have become a major tool for providing and measuring customer service. Personal communications, even via a phone call are still key methods for listening to customer stories.
Independent of the source of customer stories, when you listen to your customer stories, the key question to ask is what are they really telling about your quality and service. The real definition of quality is the customer’s definition. Make sure you are collecting from your customers’ stories:
- What is the customer telling you in their story about the quality of your product/service?
- What is the customer telling you about the quality of the service you are providing?
Peg Neuhauser in her book “Corporate Legends and Lore” addresses questions to ask about your organization’s customer stories:
- Do you tell large number of positive stories about your customers?
- Do you listen and respond to your customers’ stories?
- How many stories can you remember telling or hearing in the past month in your organization that starred the customer?
- Of the customer stories you remember, were the customers cast in positive light or a negative, pain-in –the –neck role?
- How many times in the past month have you personally listened to customer’s story about the product or service that person received from your organization?
- If you did listen to any customer stories, what did you do with the information? Did you ignore it, explain it away, or try to change something in response to their story?
- What methods does your organization use on a regular basis to gather customer stories?
- What does the organization routinely do with the information that they learn from these customer stories?
- Can you list the recent new information that you have learned about your organization’s quality in the areas of product quality and service quality
- What have you done about what you have learned in both of these areas?
- How well do you use stories in your mini-negotiation conversations that you have at work? There are two ways to use stories in a negotiation conversion:
- Tell stories to explain your need and to persuade
- Listen to the other person’s stories to learn what to offer for a balanced negotiation.
- If your organization is in a successful phase at this point in time, how high is the arrogance factor running right now? Are you still listening to the customer stories and constantly changing and improving to respond to their needs? Or have you quit listening? If you have relaxed into your success, worry. Your customers will be moving on without you soon.
The key to incorporating your customer’s voice into your organization is that everyone, including senior management and/or founder must gauge every action against customer’s needs and expectations. You need to get to know your customers better than they know themselves, and that you measure everything constantly against the expectations and needs of the customers.
Too often companies that don’t successfully sell their product or deliver great service fail to realize that it isn’t their product or their service that is holding them back. Rather it is their determined nature to focus on the product and service itself, rather than what is truly important.
What is truly important is the ability for the customer to connect to you and your business. Letting them tell the their stories gives you the ammunition you need to make the sale and to deliver better customer experience because you truly understand what they want.