Every time I stand in front of a group of people to give a talk, I’m overcome with three distinct thoughts: 1) They have no idea what I’m about to say. 2) Find the person in the room who loves your talk the most. 3) And find the person who hates it.
The first statement is a reminder that if I stumble, no one will know the difference. It level sets my approach for the rest of the talk. The last two statements provide me with a barometer of how well the information is being received. At its core, am I telling the right story?
It turns out that our brains are addicted to storytelling. A few weeks ago, Harvard Business Review published an article about a group of researchers who wondered if they could “hack” the oxytocin system in our brains to facilitate engagement. Oxytocin is a neurochemical that is produced when we are “trusted or shown kindness”, which in turn motivates engagement and cooperation. It is a key component to the human experience because it increases empathy. Specifically, it enhances our ability to experience others’ emotions and predict how they might react in a given situation.
Paul J. Zak and team found that great storytelling can facilitate the production of oxytocin, thus increasing empathy and enhancing engagement.
So why is this important to brands?
A few weeks ago, I stood in front of a group of general managers from a global hotel group to talk to them about Customer Centricity, Digital Strategy, and Customer Experience. The optimization of these three disciplines is rooted firmly in the art of storytelling. How do I, as the owner of a hotel’s story, convey a message—consistently across mediums—that facilities engagement, trust, and loyalty?
The short answer: Tell a great story.
The longer answer is a fundamental understanding of the shift from traditional linear customer journeys to a world of more complicated, holistic journeys that facilitate an even value exchange between brand and consumer. This is being driven by an evolution of customer preferences, wherein consumers expect experiences that remove friction, eliminate anxiety, and increase their quality of life. The introduction of seamless experiences is ushering in an era of the confident consumer wherein 70% of U.S. consumers expect a self-service option throughout the entirety of their journey.
You are no longer competing against brands in your category/vertical or even companies adjacent to your industry.
You are now competing against your customer’s last, best experience.
And if you do not provide a great customer experience, laced with a trustworthy story that is personal, transparent, real-time, and contextual, you will fall into a category of irrelevance. Eighty-seven percent of Fortune 500 firms that existed between 1955 and 2011 are gone.
Customer preferences are eating businesses.
And by proxy, entire industries.
My colleague, Sharon Carter, has produced a wonderful post on the bridging of physical and digital experiences in travel and hospitality, through the lens of user experience. Check out that post here to get a more granular understanding of how to optimize your story, across mediums, to build trust, loyalty, and engagement.