"Oh, how could they have killed him off!” exclaimed a friend at a recent dinner party. Eyes wide, she referenced a particular plot twist in her beloved Downton Abbey, the wildly successful “crunchy gravel” BBC television series. Overhearing the subject of favorite television dramas, other friends rushed over to make their own eager recommendations, which ranged from House of Cards to Game of Thrones. I left that evening with half a dozen television recommendations and a reminder of how greatly certain stories matter to certain people.
How greatly a story resonates with a particular audience or customer base is partly a function of how it is told. A good story conveys a message or piece of information in a way that gives it life and vitality, or at least fits it within a compelling context. Earlier this year, I was part of a team that made successful use of a visual aide to help recommend customer experience enhancements for a client. This photographic slide show of a potential ideal-state customer journey both made our recommendations more tangible and emphasized the underlying point: the individual recommendations were part of a necessary comprehensive communication strategy rather than a series of individual tactics. By turning our vision for the future-state customer journey into a “story” that the client could understand and appreciate, it helped drive sponsorship among the relevant stakeholders and support for the investments and operational changes to come.
Choosing a story format or vehicle that speaks to one’s customers requires — as for all other potential elements of a good story — an understanding of one’s audience. A successfully told story responds to customers’ needs, preferences, and values. The story a company tells is, of course, something larger than even a consistent, segment-appropriate marketing program. The company-customer relationship, built continuously over time, is itself the story; it is the compilation of each individual touch and interaction, from the prospecting phase through renewal or repurchase. Successfully telling this kind of story translates into a deeper, more lasting customer relationship with a company and its products or services, as well as greater receptivity to its brand or marketing message.
As such, my friends’ intense brand advocacy for their favorite television series was also a reminder to me of the role of CRM — its value stems from the importance of telling a genuinely relevant, customer-resonant story — and the magnitude of this task. By leveraging the intersection of big data, technology, and analytics, companies can form a nuanced and detailed understanding of their individual customers, then craft and implement the relevant strategies and programs. The result is a healthy company-customer “story.” CRM, then, enables companies to do something truly critical: tell a story that matters.