The Power of Shaping Your Customer’s Story

The Power of Shaping Your Customer’s Story

Telling your customer’s story transforms who you are together. That’s a big statement, and it’s warranted. Customer stories give you a true view of the impact of your products and services today. Importantly, stories provide the true health of your customer relationships.

Listen to this week’s episode of the Key Customer Growth Podcast to learn more about the power of shaping your customer story

So what is your customer’s story?

Author Patrick Rothfuss, said this about stories:

It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.

I like this quote as it highlights the two stories you want to extract from your customers. 

Story 1: The story in their head of their experience with your service or product.

Story 2: The story of your relationship with them, as to its value, impact and relevance.

The two are not the same thing.

If you don’t have clarity between these two stories, you’ll be building a relationship or seeking to understand the impact of your services on false assumptions.

Research by the company HelpScout, discovered that by exploring and telling their customers’ stories, they discovered new ways their customers were using and experiencing their products and services.

Companies that choose to explore their customers’ stories, experience at least four powerful benefits.

This is what will happen should you choose to explore your customers’ stories:

  1. Understand exactly what your customers value, or don’t, about your product.
  2. Get an immediate sense of the impact of your product or service to your customers.
  3. Discover what your customers really care about.
  4. Learn what new products and services your clients might need.

Ultimately, your customer story must make your customer the hero. Making space for conversation for your customer’s stories needs to be an integral part of your customer engagement, and the central piece to drive loyalty.

I asked for examples of powerful customer stories from my customers, and this one from Mandy C stood out. Here’s what she said:

I was working the front desk at a membership-based massage studio. The corporate office released new client intake forms that we were required to use. In order to fit more information on one page, they shrank the font to size 10. In the first week several clients made comments about how the font was too small and they didn’t bring their glasses or readers. 

I went to the store and bought a bulk pack of different strength readers and a small vase. I put the vase with readers on the desk with easy access for the customers. Every time I presented the paperwork to a new customer I would offer the readers as an option. We jumped from 11% completing the forms to 47%, just by changing the font type based on what customers had shared with us and readers. This has helped us to generate more customer conversations and more people coming back.

Mandy’s customer story, business or role may not be yours but it doesn’t matter. My decision to choose her example was due to its simplicity and the power behind really listening to your customer’s story or feedback.

Sometimes your customer’s story may seem insignificant, yet hidden within could be the opportunity to significantly improved results.

Stories make us all pay closer attention to what matters. Start paying attention to the stories unfolding in your organisation, and figure out how to help the best ones spread. Because people have a lot to say, and if we’re smart, we’ll start listening.

~ HelpScout

It’s critical to know the two stories customers experience, share and think about. But how do we influence their Story 1 and Story 2?

I want to share with you five effective strategies you can begin today to activate your customer’s story about your products, services and relationships.


STRATEGY ONE:
Pay attention to what your customer isn’t saying

It makes sense that we respond to what we experience. But our own biases can often be based on what we want to see, rather than the reality of what is actually happening. We have to be careful that we aren’t mistaking customer courtesy for customer commitment in our interactions.

I love looking at the history of business and especially of customer service. 

Clarence Crane customer story

In the hot summer of 1913, Clarence Crane, a chocolate candy manufacturer, was facing a dilemma; when he shipped his chocolates to candy shops across the US they melted into gooey blobs. To avoid dealing with the “mess,” his customers deferred their orders until cooler weather. In order to retain his customers, Mr Crane needed to find a substitute for the melted chocolates. He experimented with hard candy which wouldn’t melt during shipment. Using a machine designed for making medicine pills, Crane produced small, circular candies with a hole in the middle. The birth of “LifeSavers!”

Crane was experiencing Story 1 with his customers. They were not getting a good experience. 

It wasn’t until Crane noticed the behaviour of his customers, and followed up to understand what was happening with the product, that he knew the melting of the chocolate was a serious problem.

Customers who liked the chocolate deferred their orders, but business was falling.

By paying attention to what his customers weren’t saying, observing their behaviour and adjusting to the problem quickly, not only was he able to make connections with his customers but also create a brand new product that would become a household name for more than a hundred years.

Key thoughts:

How are you monitoring your customer behaviour?

Is the story your customers tell, congruent with their behaviour to you, their responsiveness and results?

It may be time to get curious and ask more questions, then you too just might find your “LifeSavers” product or service.


STRATEGY TWO:
Create space for meaningful, high-value conversations

The customer story isn’t an exercise for understanding how great you are. It’s about your customers’ fears, desires, goals and outcomes, and how they relate to their experience with you, and of your services.

The conversations we have daily, weekly or bi-weekly with our customers are opportunities for more meaningful and higher-value conversations.

The rise of multi-digital channels, conversational interfaces, AI, chatbots and the like have made conversations at scale attractive. Including the ability to analyse customer conversations like the billions of messages across platforms like Facebook every year.

We fool ourselves if we believe that this will completely replace the connections needed for real human to human conversations.

EXAMPLE

For many years, I’ve followed in awe companies like Zappos who seem to almost always get the customer experience right. Not because they have better systems, better talent or resources.

It’s because they’ve designed a culture that honours the two customer stories. They truly understand the power of conversations with customers.

Their stated mission is to be “a service company that happens to sell shoes. And handbags. And more…”

They have some of the most recorded and published customer case studies with great feedback. The quote below sums up all they aspire their customers to experience.

review of zappos

No company is perfect but that’s not the goal. The goal is to be consistent

Every time we’re in front of our customers we’re in the ideal position to reinforce, reshape, reignite and release something new in our customer relationships. 

KEY THOUGHT: 

Emotion drives attention, and attention influences your customer Story 2 which is your value, impact and relevance to them.

What is your customer conversation philosophy that shapes how you and your company approaches each customer interaction? 

How are you discovering what your customers truly care about?

Take the space to consider what you really want your customers to think, feel, say and do as a direct result of your interactions.


STRATEGY THREE:
Get feedback from the customers you don’t see

For every product and service your customer is using today, there are people in your customer’s business talking about it by saying positive things, complaining or not really thinking about it all. This is just the reality.

Being more aware of what is happening with your products and services in your customer’s business gives you the ability to influence change and build advocates.

Many organisations miss the fact that powerful customer stories have context. It involves the experiences and opinions of multiple people interacting together using your products and services.

We get too caught up with the buyer, that we miss the other stakeholders involved.

EXAMPLE

Observational customer research, or today what we call VOC (Voice of Customer), isn’t new, but it is still novel in the sense that it isn’t done very often or very well in many organisations.

We use terms like end-user research and focus groups, but we miss a more fundamental insight. The power of the customers we don’t see.

While many retail and technology companies get this, many other industries don’t. We need to hear from the real people who use our products and services. That is the customer behind the customer, behind the customer who in many cases will be the real end-user.

Walmart customer story

I heard a story once about Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. He would literally change clothes walked out of his office and head to a local diner. There he’d buy locals a piece of pie and a coffee, then ask them questions. He beat the naysayers who said you couldn’t build big stores in small towns. He went straight to the end-user. In fact the real user of the products he was selling. He now mandates every manager to spend four days every week working on the shop floor.

By connecting and inviting users, plus potential users, of your product or service to speak openly about their challenges, the story becomes part of a much more compelling. It creates a dynamic picture of the impact of your relationship with others.

If you’re in a B2B business here are four steps you can take to gain feedback from the customers you don’t see:

Step One: Ask your customer if they’d be open to you asking a few select questions to their product or service end-users.

Step Two: Schedule those calls, or better yet face-to-fact meetings, with pre-prepared questions to gain insights to help you better navigate your customer’s business. You can then understand their true story of interacting with your company.

Step Three: Document and share your findings with the customer. Ideally, create a product use map as a visual representation of where the biggest opportunities and challenges might be. It will highlight where they get the most from or prevent them from getting the least out of your product or service.

Step Four: Work with your customer to solve any issues you’ve discovered. Customers tend to buy more from those who help them create the solutions they want, rather than those who just present them with solutions.

KEY THOUGHT:

The natural result of this process is you and your customer’s get better.


STRATEGY FOUR:
Always seek to differentiate, fulfil and connect

equation of customer loyalty - power of shaping your customer's story

I’m fascinated with customer loyalty. Whereas I don’t believe it is complicated, I do believe it can be complex, particularly when working in a B2B environment with multiple stakeholders involved.

I came across a customer loyalty framework shared by writer Ben Hinson which resonated with me immediately. He encapsulates the observed qualities of what loyal customers experience wonderfully in a single formula.

Differentiation + fulfilled customer expectations + positive emotional connection = customer loyalty

Within his formula, are what I call the three growth drivers.

There is a lot to cover here, so let’s break down the core ideas behind each area:

  1. Differentiation: Why your customer chooses you first.
  2. Fulfilled customer expectations: The promise you keep consistently.
  3. Positive emotional connection: The intentional care and personalised attention you provide.

Let me offer a helpful sobering warning that I give to any organisation. Loyalty isn’t a final event, nor a moment in time where we can tick a box to confirm “customer loyalty”.  

In fact, as soon as a customer buys we gain an immediate “emotional tie”. Their goals are now tied to the fulfilment of expectations of our product or service. In essence, we get a piece of their loyalty until proven untrustworthy, as we all begin with a measure of loyalty.

The challenge is turning that initial loyalty into real advocacy and raving fandom.

Whereas Hinson’s formula is fantastic as a framework, what we need is to include the underlying critical factor of consistency

EXAMPLE

A great example of an organisation who has done consistency well is Amazon. They have captured the mind, and wallet share, of the high-end buyer to the convenience shopper. Personally I’ve found myself paying a higher price for an item on Amazon as I trust them and their recommendations.

Today in the UK alone Amazon is used by almost 90% of the entire population.

Here’s their loyalty equation:

Differentiation Expectations Connection
Fast service Make shopping easier and more convenient  Instant service and personalised responses putting the customer first

KEY THOUGHT:

What does your loyalty equation look like today?


STRATEGY FIVE:
Create the moments you want your customer to talk about

Jan Carlzon was the former CEO of the organisation SAS (Scandinavian Airlines).

Scandinavian airlines customer story

The transformational story of this organisation is worth reading. I take the learnings I’m about to share with you from Jan’s book, that I’d highly recommend called Moments of Truth.

In the book, Jan talks about the power of creating moments for your own customers.

What do I mean by “creating moments”?

“Turning ordinary mundane interactions into moments remembered by the customer that deepens loyalty and permission to continue the relationship.”

The goal of becoming the adviser your customer never wants to leave is not that one individual becomes the focus. It is that the adviser becomes an extension and a representative of the entity they are connected to. In essence, the focus is on the whole organisation.

When you have an adviser who does this, you never have to worry if you lose a key employee or a key contact leaves.

Scandinavian Airlines had a clear customer philosophy that penetrated every area of its business. I summarise it asevery moment counts”.

Jan knew they had 10 million customers in contact with five SAS employees, with each connection lasting an average of 15 seconds each.

That equation equates to 50 million times a year, of 15 seconds at a time. These 50 million moments of truth, were the moments that ultimately determined if SAS would succeed or fail as a company. 

Jan’s intervention and injection of a new customer-focused lens in the late 1980s took SAS from a slump in sales to sales growing by 23%. They increased repeat customers and made an additional 80 million in profit within 12 months after suffering a loss in the prior year.

That is the power of creating moments!

KEY THOUGHT:

What are those moments for you? Those are the moments when we must prove to our customers that we are still their best alternative.


What now?

There is so much more that could be said on this subject. As such, I want to invite you into a further conversation around what it takes to truly create customer growth and relationship successes with your best customers today. 

If you want to know how to powerfully shape, tell and connect your customer stories for significant growth then get in touch or stay updated with me.

Remember for each interaction with your customer, you’re influencing two stories:

Story 1: The story in their head of their experience with your service or product.

Story 2: The story of your relationship with them, as to its value, impact and relevance.

Until we connect next, keep striving to become the adviser your customer never wants to leave.



Jermaine Edwards
Your Customer Growth Guide