Building a Customer Service Culture Through Storytelling


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Her name was Vanessa L. and she had bright purple hair. She was a rock star. And so was her hair. It had spikes and was so cool, although I knew I wouldn’t rock hair like she did.

On this day in 2012 at a TEDx event, she was wowing the crowd with a story about what it means to earn loyalty through service. And customer service can be the center of some of your best stories. Service is the feedback mechanism for your brand story. How are you doing? Ask customer service for their stories. Building a customer service culture through storytelling is a powerful investment that pays many dividends.

Be Passionate

Vanessa works for Zappos, the Henderson, Nevada-based company that prides itself on some of the best customer service around. She was the Director of Customer Service, in fact. It was her job to dig deep into the best stories.

On this day, as her story explained, a lonely gentleman called tech support and asked lots of questions. Then it turned into a conversation. Hours later, he and the customer service rep from Zappos decided to take a break. Then, after a while, the caller called again. And the conversation continued. And most of that call had nothing to do with shoes. Yet, it has everything to do with the customer’s happiness and Zappos’ commitment to delivering WOW (a key company value).

Customer Service Culture Through Storytelling

Source: Zappos HQ

In fact this particular phone call set a record for the company for the longest non-continuous phone call – about 8 hours – excluding breaks.

Zappos is well-known for its culture, its rabid commitment to service and doesn’t judge call centers by getting off the phone quickly; instead, it judges success by happy customers. Even when a call takes a record 8 hours and meanders to all kinds of questions and topics – way beyond shoes.

Storytelling Reinforces a Customer Service Culture

Sounds crazy unless you’re Zappos and it illustrates the exact nature of what makes your company so different. What is your story? If customer service is your differentiation, are you living the big story? What’s your best customers service story illustrating your brand commitment? Are you telling it? Are customers telling it?

When a story crosses to the mainstream and people like me, not just big media, are telling you about it, your story has tremendous velocity and that becomes a big point of differentiation.

That’s the stuff of legends. And Zappos is that when it comes to loyal customers. And Vanessa, the customer service manager with purple hair and a big passion for exceptional customer service, was a funny, cool living example of that commitment to purpose.

That’s the velocity factor of storytelling, and stories with high-social proof that defy expectations have them. An hour-long call would likely have worked to make this customer happy. The beauty is that an 8-hour call blows all expectations out of the water.

Velocity and Earned Media: The Gift That Keeps Giving

The more stories are told and mined from customer service, the more you reinforce a positive culture of service through storytelling.

That was 5 years ago.

Zappo’s broke its own record a few years later with a call that lasted over 10 hours.

Customer Service Culture Through Storytelling

Image source: Zappos. Pictured here Zappos’ employee Steven Weinstein who set the record for a call that lasted over 10 hours with a break in between.

Of course it did. That’s how Zappo’s customer service rolls: besting its own record by living up to its big brand story of exceptional customer service and building a culture of customer service through storytelling.

And how much loyalty, goodwill, and publicity was generated from 10 hours? That is earned media that pays dividends that money can’t easily buy. For years.

That’s the power of a great customer service story and of customer service that keeps generating stories that live up to the brand’s commitment.

You don’t need a 10-hour call to do that.

Are you telling service stories that provide social proof? That’s what matters. Your customer service people are close to the customer. Talk to them, encourage greatness, invest in their success and ability to make customers happy and watch what happens.

The stories will come. Make sure you capture them and retell them. It’s the best way to know if you are living up to your big brand story.

What do you think?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kathy Klotz-Guest
For 20 years, Kathy has created successful products, marketing stories, and messaging for companies such as SGI, Gartner, Excite, Autodesk, and MediaMetrix. Kathy turns marketing "messages" into powerful human stories that get results. Her improvisation background helps marketing teams achieve better business outcomes. She is a founding fellow for the Society for New Communications Research, where she recently completed research on video storytelling. Kathy has an MLA from Stanford University, an MBA from UC Berkeley, and an MA in multimedia apps design.


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