Published: June 14, 2021 | Comments
I recently read an article by one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, about story structure. The article talks about the importance of “story” as a way to connect with others. It occurred to me that the concepts could be useful to a new manager or supervisor in our contact center and customer experience space.
In the last decade, a lot has been written about customer journeys - and the importance of understanding the paths that our customers take to buy a product or service. The journey continues in their ability to receive help or support with the product after the purchase. In many ways, customer journey mapping is really about telling a story - the customer’s story. In essence, story drives success in many parts of our roles as contact center leaders.
Miller’s article opens with the question, “Why does story matter?” We know, at its core, customer journey mapping is about connecting the positive and negative points of interaction to understand where we are succeeding and where there are pain points. Understanding the story allows us to understand how we can make the story better.
We can also use this same story-telling method to help agents understand why their actions are so consequential in the customer’s story. By using stories, we can bring the agent into the “story” to help them understand the “why” as well as the “how.”
Donald Miller said it this way, “Telling a story often creates a ‘clicking experience’ in a person’s brain, allowing them to suddenly understand what someone else is trying to say. As such, those who can tell good stories will create faster, stronger connections with others.”
What if, instead of simply coaching a contact center agent on a metric or a new process in isolation, we attempted to add context by sharing it through the lens of a customer story? We all have them - both good and bad examples of customer interactions. With the right story structure, you can also put the customer’s perspective or feelings into the “why.”
In the article, Miller narrows down the structure of many stories into this simple path - “A character has a problem, then meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action. That action either results in a comedy or tragedy.” He uses Star Wars as an example: “Luke Skywalker wants to fight against the Evil Empire, but he also wants to know if he has what it takes to be a Jedi. He meets a guide named Yoda who gives him confidence, a plan, and training to go out and defeat the enemy. The comic or happy ending happens when Luke destroys the Death Star and preserves the Rebellion to fight another day.”
Using his path, it is pretty simple to turn any customer interaction into a story that can be used to teach a lesson. When we talk about the need to follow certain processes and talk about the reasons we might divert from a policy, using a customer story allows us to bring feeling and meaning into the policy. And when we tell stories, we allow the agents to understand how circumstances change policy, and teach them to be better listeners and better negotiators. Even more important, if we tell a story well, we allow others to think about their story - and how their story fits into the narrative.
Donald Miller says it this way, “You don’t realize a story is changing you until you look back.” If you coach and lead through effective use of stories, the people around you will remember the stories and, most importantly, remember the message you were trying to deliver.