This guest article is brought to you by Kindra Hall, who is keynoting the 2018 Customer Service Revolution. Kindra is an internationally recognized storytelling keynote speaker. A former vice president of sales for a multi-million dollar enterprise, she now teaches others how to build better relationships, become better leaders and increase revenue by maximizing their untold stories. Kindra has her Master’s Degree, is a national champion storyteller, a published author, 2014 Storytelling World Award recipient and is behind the scenes managing stories for best-selling authors, CEOs and thought leaders. Kindra lives with her husband, young son and daughter. And while she’ll never win a bake sale–she’s a welcomed guest-reader in her kids’ kindergarten and preschool classes.
It was Thursday, September 7, 2017 and the people of Florida were bracing themselves as Hurricane Irma barreled toward the coast. A local news station was on site at an Orlando big-brand retail store as people rushed to claim essential supplies.
There, luck was on the side of Ramon Santiago, who was able to snag one of the cherished few generators left in the store. As he made his way to check out, Mr. Santiago saw a woman crying. The woman, Pam Brekke, had been hoping to purchase a generator for her father, in order to power his oxygen. She was next in line, but it was too late. The store was out of generators and Pam was out of options. Seeing her tears, Ramon insisted she take the one he’d been about to purchase. Pam was overwhelmed with gratitude.
Later that afternoon, when another generator became available, a store manager thought of Santiago’s kindness and, in the ultimate fairy-tale ending, provided Santiago with a generator free of charge.
The picture of Brekke and Santiago embracing in the middle of the store quickly gained steam online, illustrating the power of kindness in the middle of disaster and for a few moments, was a bright spot in an otherwise stormy week.
*Related – Kindra Hall is keynoting the 2018 Customer Service Revolution
Front line stories like these are happening everyday in your establishments. They aren’t about generators of course, but they are stories of good people doing good things for other people; employees going out of their way to help a customer or a coworker, or a random act of kindness between two customers is witnessed by a manager and rewarded. Companies don’t have to wait for a hurricane or a news camera crew to put these stories to use. Even small stories can be big, lasting moments for a company if cultivated and used correctly.
Find the stories.
Had a news crew not been there that day, we likely would never have heard about Mr. Santiago and the store manager’s decision to give him a free generator. The company would have missed out on a huge PR opportunity. Subsequently, thousands of employees across the country would have missed that feeling of pride in working for a company that does the right thing.
Gathering front line, human-interest stories in a timely fashion can be challenging, but it is key. Companies of all sizes should set up a system that allows front line teams to tell these stories when they see them in action. Start weekly meetings with front line stories. Create an email address where supervisors can send stories in. Secondarily, identify a place to hold these stories, such as a system-wide file, so they can be accessed again. Whatever system works best for your business, it should make it convenient for employees to share stories quickly and efficiently.
Work from the inside, out.
Whether you’re putting it out on social media or telling it in employee trainings, the clear message of the story should be, This is who we are, this is what we do. This starts by telling stories within the walls of your company. Tell the top executives, all the way down to the 17-year-old cashier. In this way, your values will radiate from the core of your company. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. When your employees are talking about the great things their co-workers are doing, consumers will hear it, too.
Tell stories without any hope of return.
Your first inclination might be to use a human-interest story to sell products or boost your company’s image. Though a story certainly has the ability to do that, it should not be your first objective. Tell these stories with the primary goal of authentically sharing and illustrating what matters to the company and to connect on a human level with customers, employees, and other stakeholders.
Leveraging the power of these human-interest stories is possible if approached from a humble place. The company isn’t the hero, the people are. For example, if you decide to tell the story in a video, the video should not be about the company. The company shouldn’t even be mentioned until the end: no flashy company signs, no corporate talking heads, and employees shouldn’t wear clothing with the company logo. Instead, the video should focus on the unfolding events, the people involved, and their emotions. The company is simply a fortunate bystander, happy to have good people working for and doing business with them.
So what was the power of the generator story? Am I more likely to shop there rather than other supply stores? Maybe. Maybe not. What I will remember is that bright spot in the midst of a sad and scary news cycle.
Today’s newsfeeds line tomorrow’s hamster cages—but they don’t have to. Companies that seek out front line stories and relentlessly tell them can create a lasting legacy to weather any storm.