The Role of Storytelling in Innovation, Part 4: Putting on a Production

If customers seek great experiences, how do you deliver?  You can’t just limit yourself to thinking about the physical product, the piece of software or the service you’re trying sell.  You have to consider the whole experience.  It’s more than commerce; it is an encounter with your company.  From your side that encounter can be like a telling a story or putting on a play.  You assist in the creation of an experience that will be the basis for their opinion about your company and your product.

We’ve talked about how you can use the idea of storytelling to better understand your audience and to make it easier for your team to create products and services that your customers will actually want.

(Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Now, let’s talk about how storytelling will help you connect to your customer.

In talking about products and services, we often focus solely on what the customer wants or needs.  But what we’re really trying to do is give them the tools to have the experience they’re seeking.  Our products and services are just a platform for them to make their lives better in some way.

If we think of it that way, then the distinction between the physical product or core service and the services that support them start to fall away.  For the customer it’s all just the experience.  They don’t care which department has responsibility for execution of the user interface versus hardware design.  They simply want them to work together to create a seamless and excellent experience.

If you think of the customer’s encounter with your products as part of an experience, then it becomes much easier to know what’s really important and what isn’t.  Does it make the experience better?  Is it necessary to create the experience?  If not, why are you doing it?

All the World’s a Stage

That’s not to say that only the things the customer sees and experiences are important.  Think of a play.  The audience only sees what happens on the stage.  That’s their experience.  They’re not thinking about the production team and the work that goes on behind the scenes.

The onstage part is easy to see: the obvious parts of the experience where you are in contact with the customer.  This is the part that everyone thinks of as the performance.  You see the actors on the stage.  But that’s not the whole story.

What about the scenery?  Didn’t they see a ticket agent?  Who got them to their seat?  What was happening while they were waiting for the play to start?

Often the experience starts well before the curtain goes up.  Similarly, the experience with a product starts well before a customer opens the box and starts to use it.

Think of the play.  Someone has to choose the script.  The cast is selected.  The production team will build scenery.  Marketing will promote the show and ticketing will make sure people are in the seats when the curtain goes up. Every detail is examined.  Responsibilities are assigned.

But what if catering forgets to feed the cast?  If they are hungry and cranky, the performance will suffer.  The audience will only know their experience. They may never know it was because the male lead was preoccupied by his empty stomach.

A product is a production, too.   Designers design it.  Engineers insure it does what it says it will.  Manufacturing makes sure it gets made.

Someone has to create packaging.   That requires some thought into where and how it will be sold.  Will the packaging need to be attractive on the shelf?  Will it need to fit into a particular sized space?

Other things might be harder to see.  What happens if something goes wrong?  Is the support team trained to deal with any problems you expect?

Launching a product is a lot like opening night.  There are a million things to consider that can all impact the audience.

Service, Please

What if you’re more service oriented?  Think about a restaurant.  You see the food.   You encounter the wait staff.  If the staff is good and the food is good, there’s a chance you might not notice much else.

Think of all the thought that goes into creating that experience.  Someone thought about the way the place is decorated.  Someone selected the produce that morning.  Someone decided how the staff would dress.

They’re focused on creating a great experience for their customers.  They’re creating a great story.

What is the experience your customers are seeking?  Can you tell the story of that experience?

How do people first hear about your service?  How does the first person they encounter answer the phone?  Do they have to work their way through an automated phone system? How are your email inquiries handled?

Have you tried contacting your own company to participate in the experience?  Your customers are every day.

Separation Anxiety

If you take on the perspective of the customer, the lines between product, service and support get very blurry.  The customer tends to form their opinion on the overall experience.

So if they have to wait too long for their food, what’s on their plate might never be good enough to overcome their annoyance.

But on the other hand, there are also times when stellar service can make a good product, great.

The pediatrician practice that sees my kids does something unique.  In the interview before they took our first child on as a patient, they stressed that we must be early to all appointments.

You see, they actually take all of their patients on time or early.  Our family sees a variety of doctors.  This practice is the only one I’ve ever dealt with that actually delivers on this promise consistently.

We have since moved to another part of town and can now choose from dozens of other practices.  But that one promise took them to a level I consider superhuman. Tying that level of respect of my family and our time to the rest of the patient experience made me a fanatic, not just a patient.

When you’re telling your story, isn’t that really what it’s all about? Creating an experience so memorable that it makes your customers fanatical about your products and services–even before they make their very first purchase?

2 thoughts on “The Role of Storytelling in Innovation, Part 4: Putting on a Production

  1. Pingback: The Role of Storytelling in Innovation: Part 3 « story of design

  2. Pingback: The Role of Storytelling in Innovation: Part 2 « story of design

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