What Story Are You Telling Your Customers Today?


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Story-300Over the years I have learnt that telling stories is a very powerful way articulating something complex and moreover getting people to understand your point of view. Our regular readers know that we believe a Customer Experience is not just about price or the product, it’s about how a Customer feels. The challenge has always been how do we explain that to hard nose business people and then get employees to become more engaged and change what they do.

Over the years I have discovered you do this by telling stories and I now know why it’s so powerful. Stories change the chemistry in your brain. Watch this video. Be warned, it is very sad and it will cause you to feel upset, but remember it is only a story.

This 5-minute video by Paul Zak, “The Future of Storytelling”, explains it in a great way.

Every business has a story. Whether you have told anyone your story or not, it’s there. I would say that telling your story to your customers is the best way to connect with them in a meaningful way.


There are a few points about this video that I think are important to talk about a little more.

  • Stories evoke emotions that create a physical response. Zak points out in the video, the physical response of the participants in his study to the tragic story of Ben and his father solicited two responses: Distress and Empathy. These two emotions produced two different chemicals in the participants’ brain. Feeling distress triggered Cortisol, which helps you pay attention to something. Feeling empathy triggered Oxytocin, which helps a person feel more connected to other people.
  • When people felt emotions like these, they were more likely to give money to charity.  Zak and his colleagues found that when participants were given an opportunity after watching the video to donate to a charity that helps sick kids, more people gave money to the charity. They found that those that felt more also gave more. Their conclusion was that emotions change people’s behavior by changing their brain chemistry.
  • Stories have a role in connecting us as social creatures. Stories can help us connect to one another, to care about one another, even if we have never met them before. But they must evoke emotions to do so, otherwise you lost your audience completely.

All of these points and the neurochemistry associated with them make it very clear to me that we all need to be telling our stories to our employees & customers. We all want to connect to our employees and customers and build a relationship with them in order to foster and environment of customer retention and customer loyalty. Stories are the way to do that.

I have written about stories before. In my post last year called, “Why Your Business Should Be Telling Stories,” I talked about the power of a great story. Stories are so much more powerful to get your point across, even in business. If you need proof, ask yourself this:

Can you tell me anything about the last three spreadsheets you saw?

Okay, now can you tell me anything about the last three movies/TV shows/books/or podcasts you saw or heard?

There are probably a select few of you that can remember the spreadsheet, so aside from you lot, I would guess that most of the rest of us could answer the second question much more quickly and in more detail than the first. That’s because stories are an excellent way to deliver a message. They grab our emotions, connect us to the characters in the story, and make an impression in our brains that stay there. And according to Zak, some of these stories might change our brain chemistry, effectively changing our behavior.

I use stories all the time to explain to people about the Customer Experience. My slide shows for keynote speeches are full of pictures that help me tell the story of customer experience to my audience. We use stories at the end of designing a new customer experience to explain to people what the new experience looks like and why it’s important. I have had clients say that the stories we share from past client experiences are one of the things that makes them feel more comfortable making the kinds of changes we suggest, even when these changes feel strange and unfamiliar to them.

I don’t usually quote children’s books. Honestly, it’s just not a genre that I spend much time with now that my children are grown. But I did happen across a beautiful exchange between a mouse and a jailor, Gregory, that is so appropriate here, that I am ready to quote my first. It’s from The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo:

“Why would you save me?”

Despereaux asked. “Have you saved any of the other mice?”

“Never,” said Gregory. “Not one.”

“Why would you save me, then?”

“Because you, mouse, can tell Gregory a story. Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.”

And because Despereaux wanted very much to live, he said, “Once upon a time…”

“Yes,” said Gregory happily. He raised his hand higher and then higher still until Despereaux’s whiskers brushed against his leathery, timeworn ear. “Go on mouse,” said Gregory. “Tell Gregory a story.”

And it was in this way that Despereaux became the only mouse sent to the dungeon whom the rats did not reduce to a pile of bones and a piece of red thread.

It was in this way the Despereaux was saved.”

Customers send us to the dungeon sometimes. Frankly, sometimes we deserve it. Maybe our stories can change our status in our customer’s and employees minds. The stories we tell our customers or employees about our business, our purpose, what we are trying to accomplish and why are what can save us from dark world are critical.

What story are you telling your customers today? Is it evoking the emotions you need for your customers to build lasting feelings of loyalty to your brand? Whose story changed your mind and heart about an issue?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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