Take yourself back to the last business presentation you attended. You were probably seated in a vaguely uncomfortable chair, basking in the unfailingly unflattering fluorescent light. Someone was speaking in front of the room, explaining the graphs and tables that danced across the screen. Be honest, though: how much do you remember from this data? Let’s face it, probably not a lot.
No reason to feel ashamed, as scientific research shows that our brains retain information much more effectively when it’s delivered in story form, rather than dry stats. And you can easily understand why, even if you don’t hold a PhD. in psychology. Good stories are emotionally evocative, allowing audience members to see themselves in whatever world is being painted through words or visuals. Good stories build emotional investment through classic plot developments like conflict and resolution. And good stories offer an organizational structure for us to store and recall information even in our society of content overload.
It’s no surprise that narratives have become a powerful tool for any company looking to connect better with their client base. Here are four effective ways you can use customer storytelling to amp up your own business.
Once upon a time: introduce yourself
Yes, perhaps due to your company’s size, geographical reasons or the fact that you only sell online, you won’t actually be able to meet every one of your customers in person. However, your goal is to make each one of them at least feel like they have met you. How can you achieve this?
Storytelling will do wonders for bringing your business out from behind the screen. By giving clients a glimpse into your roots as a company, or into the individual stories of your team members, you suddenly introduce them to a relatable face. Put this suggestion into practice by giving your website’s ‘About Us’ section the time it deserves. Set the scene of where and how your business was born, and share why each employee felt motivated to join the company and do the work they do. You can bring this personalized touch into the biography and posts for each social media channel where your business holds a digital presence. Maintaining an active digital presence is essential for maximizing your brand’s reach and offering multiple ways for clients to connect with you.
Another strategy for making customers feel like old friends is implementing outstanding customer support systems, such as launching a multi-channel ticketing system. Having a framework like this will help keep you on track with all of the incoming messages coming your way, ensuring you respond in a timely manner. Responding quickly and with personal attention to their questions will show your clients that you care about them. The end result? You’ve just earned yourself some happy users.
Character development: show that you’re the hero
Getting this one right requires doing your research on your business’ target audience. But once you have a good grasp of their needs and lifestyle preferences, you can anticipate what dilemmas or moments they might be experiencing that your particular service or product can step in to remedy. Besides being a basic principle of successful product branding, this is also prime material for a story.
Why? Because this problem sets you up for the juicy essential of every compelling narrative: a moment of conflict. A working professional comes home at night exhausted and must choose between getting up on a ladder to clean out the overflowing gutters, or the comfort of the couch and a relaxing evening. Or what about a college student rushing to leave for the class in the morning who just can’t seem to find a match between a plastic container and its lid (we’ve all been there…)?
Yes, these are not big screen-worthy dramas. Yet they each contain stressful situations that many of us find relatable to our own lives. It’s that combination of suspense (What will each character do? Who will they turn to?) and emotional identification that draws potential customers in and keeps them wanting to learn more about how things turned out - because, suddenly, it matters for them, too. This becomes your golden opportunity to introduce your landscaping business, or your elegant to-go container organizational system. Maybe you’re not fighting super villains here, but you still get to show how your business - as the story’s protagonist - ends up saving the day. Sorry, we mean, customer.
Plot line: share your customers’ stories
This is the ‘After’ version of the previous section. Once a customer has identified with your prototypical client enough to become one themselves, you’ll want to proudly display the story of their engagement with your product or service. Why? Because, last year, 85% of shoppers reported trusting online reviews as much as they would a recommendation from someone they know. The bottom line: testimonials have a powerful impact.
These real-life illustrations serve as walking advertisements for your business by bringing the value of whatever you’re offering into people’s everyday lives. Seeing how the ‘average person’ is cozying up with their new hand-knitted blanket, or glowing post-kickboxing workout, is another way to help potential customers visualize where they could be and what they could look like if they simply clicked ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Register Today.’ One way to integrate these examples into your website is through a ‘Testimonial’ section on your website. Another option is sharing user-generated social media content, like how we at Wix showcase some of our most talented community members in our ‘Meet our users’ series.
Testimonials also model to potential customers that you genuinely care about your community of users. This is a another extension of the relatability principle of storytelling. A website that is well-stocked with snapshots into users’ lives, describing how your product provided a solution for them, communicates a very strong message: if you also enter into our community, we’ll be here to listen to you, too. In this way, these testimonial stories serve a double purpose. In addition to lending a big helping hand to your marketing efforts, they also communicate the value your brand places on its consumers and their user experience.
Epilogue: happily ever after customers
In addition to their outward-facing role of hyping up your brand, stories can be useful internal teaching tools for your team. Collecting anecdotes of exemplary instances of customer support to share and discuss with your colleagues can be an instructive way of strengthening the climate in your workplace. Some places to find these stories include emails from satisfied customers praising an employee for how they handled a particular request, and monitoring the actionable insights you can glean from your help-desk software. You can then present each example in the classic story format. Set up the dilemma, explore the potential outcomes, and explain what was outstanding about the one chosen in the end. Not only will each of these stories offer everyone on your team tangible points for growth, taking the time to gather and share these stories emphasizes that you and your business really, truly care about how customers are treated. Setting this value as a clear priority will trickle into how your team members do their work - and your customers will feel the difference.
The story doesn’t have to end here! Transform your business into a customer support superpower by launching your help desk software today!