Your bond with the customer should be built on emotion, not information. Remember: Win the heart, and the mind will follow! The mind will always create logic to justify what the heart has already decided.
Too often, though, contractors think marketing is first and foremost a logical argument—but that is rarely the case.
According to Jonathan Haidt, professor the NYU Stern School of Business, “The human mind is best suited to be a story processor, not a logic processor… Everyone loves a good story. Every culture bathes its children in stories. The purpose of these stories is to engage and educate the emotions.” Haidt has been recognized by both Foreign Policy Magazine and Prospect Magazine as one of the world’s top thinkers, and his three TED Talks have a combined view count of over three million. In his webinar, “How to Thrive in the COVID & Post-COVID World,” Dr. Haidt shared a few questions with his audience and asked them to consider them with a folktale.
He utilized a folktale in his explanation because he knows that facts are more easily understood and remembered when they are in the form of a story. Don’t just take his word for it; many of the world’s top neuroscientists agree.
This is great news for you! If you have been branding rather than reaching for your customers’ wallets, your prospects and customers will remember your story. When their “zero moment of truth,” as Google puts it, arrives—when the customer is consciously in the market for your product or service—they will likely choose a company whose story resonates with them. The customer who hasn’t chosen in their heart will likely look for more information. While online information matters, a great story can still win the day. Be ready to provide comfort and support, maintaining humility while doing so.
Your company’s Story, Culture and Experience merge to create a more fascinating, attractive company – not just for owners, but for employees and customers as well. We tend to think of stories as being in the past, but your company’s story should contain the past, present, and future. If you think of story as a mirror, that reflection contains not just your company’s origin (its past), but its values (present), and its vision (future).
Story needs to include more than just where you’ve been for your employees to invest in what’s next. Yes, origins are important, but what lessons were pulled forward from the past, and why? This wisdom should be included in your Vision Statement, which explains why the company exists and what you’re trying to accomplish. Your Mission Statement is about actions; what are you doing to achieve your goal?
Culture starts with your team buying into the Story. Do they share the same values and agree with the vision? But culture is more than that: it’s an inside job you can’t farm out to a vendor. Don’t forget that expectation guides your customers’ experience with your company. What have they heard? What do they expect? Will you fall short, meet their expectations, or will your team delight them?
As you can see, the linchpin here lies in your company’s Culture. It’s up to your team to reflect your brand’s Story in order to deliver a delightful customer experience. Culture is not about how much money you spend on your employees to feed them, entertain them, or coddle them. The notion that all you must do is offer your employees free food, a foosball table in the warehouse, or a keg in the kitchen is a holdover myth from start-ups long since gone bust. No, the Culture we’re talking about is more about shared beliefs, values, practices, traditions, celebrations, stories, legends, and language. How do you create a culture that will source, attract, sustain, develop, and inspire people – not just to stay, but to pick up the torch and carry it for your company?
Culture needs to be shaped intentionally. Allow any garden to grow and mature organically to “see where it takes you,” and you’ll end up having a lot of weeds to pull. Those “weeds” are the behaviors that don’t contribute toward your company’s greater success. As much as we would love to have a neat little checklist, Culture is about human behaviors, good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable. It’s not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing because it shifts every time someone is hired or someone leaves. It fluctuates when business is good and when times are tough. That’s why you need that Vision Statement that says, “This is who we are and why we’re doing this” and the Mission Statement with the more tactical, “these are the actions we always take to achieve that.” When you set your culture in terms of beneficial behaviors, those who buy into that vision will stay. Those that can’t, well, you don’t want them around anyway. Rather than hiring solely based on performance or skill set, you’ll be hiring men and women likely to share your values.
Finally, lead by example. Your company culture relies on your behavior and attitude. Ultimately, creating a great workplace is about more than just perks. It’s about reminding your team of their importance as the busy hands, pumping hearts, and buzzing brains of this living organism you call a company. The words “I appreciate you,” and the actions that demonstrate that gratitude, are currency. They buy the kind of lasting loyalty you can’t get playing foosball.
Our brains are constantly taking in information, making sense of the world through gained experience. Ideas on how to gauge that experience can affect our expectation, in either a positive or negative way. Reality is shaped indirectly at first, then confirmed by the experiences we have.
A prime example of this is the “placebo effect”. Sugar pills cannot reduce pain nor cure disease, but because of the expectation for the result, placebo patients often feel better, thanks to the brain’s release of endorphins. The very process of taking the pill changes the perception of the result, because expectation guides experience.
In presenting a TEDx Talk some years ago, this author told his audience of an experiment in which hotel housekeepers are told that they’ll be part of a fitness study. They were all weighed, and their body fat measured. Then they were divided into two groups. One group was told that the valuable work they were doing was exercise. They weren’t told to work harder or to do anything differently. The other group wasn’t told anything at all. After eight weeks, the group that was told they were exercising actually slimmed down. They lost weight! They enjoyed the benefits of the exercise that they were told they were doing. The other group experienced no such change. In the case of the housekeepers who had the mental image implanted that they were exercising, their experience was guided by their expectation of beneficial results.
That’s powerful stuff. And it’s possible for your company culture to set up that better expectation and experience for your customers, through preparation. And preparation takes practice, so your team’s interactions with your customers rise from unconscious habit to more conscious routine, to thoughtful ritual.
(An interesting behind-the-scenes fact: When that TEDx Talk was presented, the slide presentation didn’t work. The only slide shown to the audience was from the previous presenter: a black and white image of a chain-link fence. But because so much thought and effort were put into the presentation, the images were simply supporting material. Confident delivery through preparation made all the difference. When you view the presentation on YouTube, the slides you see were inserted by the organization’s staff after the fact.)
Part of what separates habit and routine from ritual is purpose. If your employees and technicians understand why doing or saying something a certain way is important, that action or response is elevated, thanks to thought and effort.
Kevin Comerford of Service Champions calls it “Run the Play”, and explains the term this way:
“When we say “Run the Play” at Service Champions, we are referring to following the process when you are in the home. If it’s a salesperson, there is a very distinct order and agenda to follow when running the call. If it’s a service technician, the Relationship Building Guide (RBG) must be followed on every call. When you find yourself struggling, ask yourself: Did you come to work with the right mindset? Did you Run the Play?”
The right mindset for any team is a literal game-changer. If you give your team the autonomy to right a wrong, to go beyond, and make someone’s day, there are no ordinary service calls. Each and every call has the potential to be an extraordinary experience for your customer. But it’s the Story – the advertising – that sets up that imagined expectation in the customer’s mind long before the technician reaches the door.
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