Customer story – from once upon a time to happily ever after

Oscar Wilde wasn’t short of an opinion or two, but when it comes to the topic of customer service, I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that his aren’t the firmest of principles on which to build a business.

According to Wilde, consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. That may be so in the world of playwrights and poets, but when it comes to the equally romantic task of managing a brand’s reputation, I’m going to champion the brands that, according to Wilde’s logic, avoid diluting the customer experience through letting their imaginations run wild.

When it comes to good customer service, consistency is key. Organisations often fail to deliver a consistent customer experience because they consider customer interactions as unrelated events, instead of separate parts to the same story. The problem with this approach is that the customer’s experience is often disjointed, with each conversation requiring a fresh introduction. This is down to the fact that there is no intelligence available on each customer from which to personalise and enrich interactions as and when they happen. This, of course, is in most cases entirely avoidable.

The solution can be found in adopting a more holistic approach, perhaps akin to thinking about the customer’s relationship with the brand as a story, with a beginning, middle and – eventually but hopefully not too soon – an end. A good story will set up the premise well in the first few pages or chapters. Here the customer’s experience of the brand should be positive, but also a promise of what’s to come. If first impressions leave a lot to be desired, people will rightly cut their losses and move on. Impress them from the very beginning, however, and there’s every chance that you’ve got their attention for the long haul.

An important element of storytelling is being able to “set up” events and actions to improve the dynamic of the story as it unfolds. This is an important lesson in terms of customer engagement – develop the ability to understand the customer so foresight can become part of the relationship, engendering loyalty and improving expectations and the ability to meet and surpass them.

Good, seasoned authors know their audience, understand what they want from a story and subsequently play to these strengths. Businesses should do the same. We have the ability to gather customer data and, crucially, the tools to convert this into valuable insight. Such information should provide the basis for any future interactions.

Another tried and tested literary device is to lock in the reader by creating an emotional bond between them and the story’s key characters. In a brand/customer relationship, that emotional tie is no less important. It is absolutely vital that businesses remember each customer and understand their individual requirements. They need to listen to them and engage with them on a personal basis. These approaches are absolutely fundamental to effective customer service for any modern brand, but they are only achievable if agents are empowered with the right tools and insight to tailor each conversation to the specific needs of the individual.

The aim for all brands is to keep telling each customer story for as long as possible. Inevitably, for some individuals the tale will at some point come to an end, but there is always the potential to create that lasting impression. The secret is to make each story unique, to appeal to the individual customer and keep them interested and engaged, especially as their own story changes.

 

 

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