If you peer through the glass doors of an Apple outlet just before opening time, you’ll see the blue-uniformed employees huddled in the middle of the store in focused conversation. One of the topics will be the previous day’s net promoter scores, where employees have asked customers to rate the possibility, based on the service they’ve received, that they’ll recommend the store to their friends and families.
If an employee has scored a 10, which means ‘Most definitely’, the manager says to the group something like, ‘Yesterday Jen got a 10’. Everyone claps. The manager then says to Jen, ‘Why don’t you share what happened when that guy came in with the iPad mini’. After Jen has told the story, the manager praises her for her good work. The other employees have just vicariously experienced what it takes to give outstanding customer service.
At Apple stores, there are no inspirational posters or snappy sales-process acronyms. Instead, every day staff hear at least one story about what great customer service looks like. These stories are mini user manuals for sales success.
‘Wow’ stories for creating a customer service culture
The embedding of customer service using stories was pioneered in the hotel business. Ritz-Carlton led the way by asking its employees to submit stories of outstanding service. They call them ‘Wow’ stories. Every month the Ritz-Carlton HR team chooses one wow story to share with every team across the chain. The teams then discuss what it means, asking themselves questions like, ‘So what’s significant about this story?’ and ‘Have we seen anything like this in our area?’ and ‘Does it inspire us to do something similar?’ This more deeply embeds the lessons contained in the story.
The American hotel and casino tycoon Steve Wynn believes the systematic sharing of stories is the most important thing he has ever done in his business. At a conference in 2012, Wynn said of storytelling, ‘It changed my business. It changed my life’. In his establishments, employees find and share stories every day, simple anecdotes that capture everything from small courtesies to heroic efforts.
For example, one of Wynn’s housekeepers saw a guest drop a credit card as they entered their room, leaving it in the hallway as they shut their door. The housekeeper knocked on the guest’s door, told them what had happened and returned the card. Yes, it’s a tiny story, which sits at one end of the story spectrum. Here’s a story from the other end.
One afternoon an elderly couple arrived at Wynn’s Las Vegas hotel. As they got out of their car, the woman gasped and said to her husband, ‘Oh dear, I’ve left your medication on the hall table’. She was referring to some pills her husband needed to take the following morning. A bellhop overheard the conversation and asked the couple where they lived. They said their home was a 4-hour drive away. It turned out that the bellhop’s brother lived near the couple’s house and he was able to collect the medication from their housekeeper. The bellhop then made the 8-hour round trip to get the pills from his brother and deliver them to the couple’s room.
If you want to change the culture of your business, you need to change the stories being told in it. The process of finding and sharing stories to embed great customer service can also be used to embed your business values or your strategy. Whatever the focus – customer service, integrity, innovation, collaboration – your company should be teeming with stories on that topic. If not, your goal is nothing more than a wish.
This post was originally published in Modern Business magazine. You can view the original article here
Learn the business storytelling secrets Shawn shares with leaders around the world and now applied in Global 1000 companies. Find out more here
About Shawn Callahan
Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on: