4 principles of customer insights storytelling

4 storytelling principles for reporting customer insights

People hear statistics, but they feel stories. Storytelling creates understanding. Understanding should be the core of any Insights team.

In practice:
After analyzing customer feedback, it's obvious customers expect a seamless experience accessing online support services. When reporting that dataset, why not emphasise this issue more. Find key quotes from both promoters and detractors then insert each onto every slide. A good mix of promoter and detractor quotes helps frame the problem.

Trying to understand large volumes of customer feedback? Leverage feedback intelligence software to identify these key quotes at-scale. When technology does the heavy lifting, large volumes of feedback aren't as intimidating. This will give you the space to report not only that one issue but expand out to how it connects to the bigger picture.

"The higher you go in an organization, the less leaders feel like they have the time to devote to thinking strategically about the big picture. This is a mistake. Executives cannot afford to work the same way that they did when they were at a lower level because their scope, responsibilities, and expectations have completely changed." (LSA Global)

By supporting decision makers to think big, you're helping them understand the impact on other departments.

Why are storytelling principles so important?

Global demand for Customer Experience platforms is expected to reach $14.45 Bn by 2025 (Globe News Wire). As Customer Insights seek to understand CX behavior drivers at a scale, they need to find ways to make these insights understood by those who actually make the decisions.

Mastering the four principles of storytelling brings emotion to the forefront of your next customer feedback analysis and ensures decision-makers truly understand what drives the best possible customer experience outcome.

What are the 4 storytelling principles?

Storytelling helps humanize your customer, instead of trying to quantify and reduce their experience down to a number. It also contributes to making your research more memorable. A study by Stanford professor Chip Heath – author of Made to Stick – found that “63% could remember stories, but only 5% could remember a single statistic.”

Here are four storytelling principles to lift your next insights report:

1. Structure your story as a narrative

Keeping your audience engaged throughout an entire presentation can be challenging. A strong narrative is the most effective way to increase understanding.

You can shape a story in many different ways. The easiest way will be familiar to you. It’s the foundation of many children’s stories which have been told through generations - the beginning, middle, and end format.

The beginning of your story focuses on the challenge or issue that needs urgent attention. This involves describing the setting of this issue and presenting it as a struggle for your entire organization.

The middle the story gives context to the current customer journey as it relates to that issue. Where are customers coming from and what's driving their behavior. Executives love big picture thinking so don't short change them by rushing this part. One way you could add value is to find context rich customer quotes from both promoter and detractor buckets related to that particular issue.

Finally, the end of your story answers the question - "what do we do about it?" Actionable insights empower decision makers actually do their job. As the Insights function continues to mature, Insights teams will increasingly be called upon to give recommendations.

Here’s an example of what this might look like:

  1. The challenge: A bank’s customers are leaving for competitors. Market share is declining and investors are getting nervous. Feedback analysis has revealed this behavior is driven by the recent transition away from a traditional (costly) call centre hotline to an automated support bot on the website.

  2. The struggle: The experience with the chatbot is seamless but that's not actually what customers want. They want to speak to a human and connect on that level. For them, banking is personal. Chatbots are efficient but they are switching to competitors offering a memorable customer experience. Detractor quotes are also used in presentation slides to put a human voice to the problem.

  3. The promised land: What can we actually do about this issue? The answer is always found in your customer feedback. There are a few actionable next steps executives can undertake. CX must determine if customers want a memorable experience across every touchpoint or just this one. Revisit the ROI of having a phone hotline and factor in the cost of lost customers.

Regardless of how you report Insights (PowerPoint, dashboard link, word doc, visual graphic etc.), find a memorable story that creates a sense of urgency and need to take action.

2. Understand your audience

Sometimes, the people making the decision are not your actual audience. If you want your story to have a lasting impact, focus on who your true audience actually is. For an audience to deeply understand insights, they need to care.

Your audience could be any mix of the following;

  • CEO

  • Executives (C-Suite)

  • Department leaders (Operations, Support, Sales, Marketing, Product)

  • Frontline (those staff who work on the frontline and understand your story at a tactical level)

  • All staff (everyone in your organization is also an important consideration, especially as companies embrace enterprise wide communication)

  • Stakeholders (investors/board etc.)

Examples of how they might care about your story:

  • CEO: "Is our understanding of ROI wrong?"

  • Executives: "What specifically is it that customer loathe about the chatbot, perhaps we don't need to bring back the call centre if we can fix what's wrong with the chatbot"

  • Department leaders: "How does this impact my department?"

  • Frontline: "What about the customers who love the chatbot, should we find a balance that keeps everyone happy so my life is easier?"

  • All staff: "Will this change actually bring back lost customers?"

  • Stakeholders: "How does this impact margin if we reinstate a cost-center?"

3. Your customers are your protagonists.

If your insights story were a Hollywood movie, your customer would be James Bond. When deciding how to frame your story so that it has an impact, remember to keep your customers at the front and center.

What do your customers think, hear, feel, or say? Giving voice to every customer is not only the right thing to do, it makes smart commercial sense. Executives remember NPS scores but without context they'll always struggle to make sense of the 'why'. Following the journey of one 'typical' customer who wanted a memorable experience is how you would focus on telling that story.

4. Build your story on emotion

Feelings are the catalyst for action and storytelling is the ideal instrument to move your audience’s emotions. In practice, using emotion means that your story needs to spark something. It can be curiosity, happiness, disappointment, or any other feeling that can encourage decision-makers to move in a certain direction. If you collect customer feedback at-scale then it shouldn't be too hard to find the right customer to showcase when telling stories. Your selection criteria should always be to filter out the emotionless feedback responses and highlight the emotive ones.

Emotionless: "Bring back the hotline it just isn't the same anymore."

Emotive: "WHERE DID THE HOTLINE GO?! :( Calling the hotline was the BEST. I loved speaking with Garry, Jan and Peter (in fact the whole team were amazing), they always understood my problem and made me feel less like a number and more like a human being. They were an island of happiness."

The power of a good story

Executives respond to stories the same ways as anyone else. It matters less the delivery mechanism for reporting insights. Your goal should always be to increase understanding of the problem. The way to do that is to identify a story that resonates with your specific audience and structure it as a narrative. Identify your true audience, leverage real customers and focus on emotive responses so their voices are remembered the most.

Everyone loves a good story.

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