Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Are you using stories within your company?

I ran a Speakeasy session at a hotel in Manchester last night and a young man greeted me as I was setting up. He was very helpful and asked me what we were doing in the session. I explained how Speakeasy was essentially a storytelling workshop and I asked him what his most memorable customer service experience was at the hotel.

He explained he'd been duty manager one morning and a man came into reception very distressed. "Someone's stolen my car!" he exclaimed. And not just any car, a nice BMW!

The duty manager sat the man down, got him a cup of tea and asked him what had happened. He listened intently while the man off-loaded his frustrations and implored the manager to call the police. "Don't worry," said the young man. "Leave this with me."

Leaving the man to calm down, the manager ambled into the car park to check the 'scene of the crime'. The car park was packed and he wandered over to where the man said he'd left his BMW. There was no sign of the car, but what WAS visible was a large white van. The manager walked around the van, looking for broken glass, but was surprised to find....the BMW hidden behind the van.

It turned out the man had parked his car when the car park was empty, but while in the gym the place had filled up and the van had obscured the car. The man had obviously panicked.

Needless to say the car's owner was ever so slightly relieved (and a little embarrassed) but for me it showed the duty manager in a very positive light. He'd listened to the distress of the owner, helped the man calm down, bought a little time and essentially 'read' the situation well. It would have been easy to call the cops immediately as a knee jerk reaction.

The point of sharing this is that such a story demonstrates an employee's capabilities, his values and those of his employer. It's FAR more effective than any mission statement or claim to be 'No.1 for customer service'. A well told story with a point leaves it to the audience to decide what your qualities and values are - they're not being asked to take your word for it. And of course if you're looking for a Unique Selling Point a story IS truly unique because you're in it - and no one else!

So I'd encourage all companies to develop a story culture, sharing, capturing, learning from stories such as this. They create a priceless 'vault' from which you can draw.

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