It seems every second business article is about storytelling these days. But which stories boost customer loyalty? And how do you go about collecting and developing those stories?
Customer loyalty is built through positive experiences —one customer experience at a time. Your customer’s experience can be direct, such as a physical interaction with your products and staff or indirect through the stories they hear, read and see. Every time your customers hear a story about your business they’re having an indirect experience that affects their perception of you.
Experience through story can create loyalty and liking for your brand before any direct experience of your products, services and people.
Two story-types, your company story and your values stories are so important for customer loyalty that you must take special efforts to prepare and deploy them.
If you think about the companies you admire and like, you probably know stories about them. Why not create similar stories for your company and your customers? Just make sure you tell them as a sequence of related events and not as list of facts. It’s the story’s unpredictable sequence that holds your audience’s attention and makes your story memorable.
When you look at your competitor’s website do you read the same claims and assertions you make about your own company? That’s what most companies do and to your buyer you look the same as your competitors. But your company’s story it is 100% unique. There’s no other company like yours so why not tell its story? How did your company start and who was involved? How did you succeed? What was the turning point? Were there false starts and failures? Most companies fail completely and go out of business, so how and why did your company succeed? The ups and downs of your company story are interesting and unique and it’s a story that binds your customer to you. The company story creates liking and positions your company as an authority.
A lot of companies think they can just mandate corporate values through mission and values statements. That is completely misguided. The CEO or the leadership team think up some motherhood values statements and post them on the walls. Those don’t persuade. They may even communicate the opposite sentiment if actions do not match the words. Its stories of people (especially leaders) who live the corporate values that are truly eloquent.
Computer manufacturer, Hewlett-Packard (HP) is a storied company in the IT sector. HP people were famous for their values of proactivity and accountability. Their code of conduct was called the ‘HP Way’.[i]Their corporate tagline: ‘We trust our people.’
The history of that tagline goes all the way back to the company’s foundation in 1939, when it was a test equipment manufacturer. Every HP employee knows the story[ii]of how co-founder Bill Hewlett came in to work on a weekend and found the equipment storeroom locked. He smashed the door to pieces with a fire axe and left a note on the smashed door, insisting it never be locked again because HP trusts its people.
The story that shows how a leader behaves is worth more than any number of corporate values statements. Employees and customers are influenced by what leaders do, not by what they say or write. It’s not an overstatement to say that the HP story helped create one of the greatest companies of the 20th century, which in turn spawned the technology powerhouse of Silicon Valley. Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs got his first job at HP
The hospitality industry is awash with values stories. I call them ‘lost wallet’ stories, like when a hotel guest left their passport or wallet in the hotel and the hotel clerk drove across town or to the airport to return it without asking for anything in return. These stories highlight the values of honesty and service.
You can collect your own values stories by thinking about the values that are most important to you and your customers and then seeking our exemplary and surprising examples of when those values were displayed.
Company Story Library
As you collect and tell purposeful stories, you’ll soon appreciate how powerful they are. And you’ll want to store them so every employee knows the stories and can tell them. The best tool for that is a company video story library. Capture one to two minute stories on video with a smartphone, upload them to a shared intranet page and get you staff practising them.
With a story library your entire company will be creating new story experiences for a growing, loyal fan base.
Mike Adams is a business storytelling specialist and author of Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell.