Enhance the experience of customer care calls with storytelling

By applying storytelling techniques to customer service calls, you can make these interactions enjoyable, memorable and compelling

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Adam Muspratt
12/27/2019

We all know how the story of customer service calls tend to start.

The customer calls a brand, once they manage to reach a staff member they tell the representative the issue at hand to hear the reply: ‘sorry to hear that, can I have your customer reference number?’, and the customer begrudgingly finds it.

The general system for customer service calls is littered with emotional and narrative disconnects, says Zach Franzen, product marketing manager at IFS.   The impression is given that there is a ticking clock in the background, and in many cases the customer is an inconvenience to the service representative.

Instead of leveraging the humanness of this touch point to build brand rapport, customer agent scripts have largely stayed the same over the last decade and often induce unpleasant, mechanical experiences for customers, says Franzen.

Storytelling methodologies can eliminate friction points in customer service calls and make the interaction more engaging for both parties on the phone. Here we look at how storytelling methods in customer care scripts can transform these calls into experiences that lock in brand loyalty.

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Storytelling in customer service calls

As is the case with a narrative, a conflict blocks the protagonist from achieving their goal. At the moment, the conflict is typically both the product issue and the customer service agent, but the agent should exist to help the protagonist – the customer.

The basic elements of storytelling are as follows:  

  • Act one: Set up
  • Act two: Conflict
  • Act three: Resolution

Characters

  • Protagonist: The customer
  • Guide: The customer service representative
  • Conflict: The issue with the product or service

A customer uses a product or service until there is a disruption of normalcy, which entices the customer to face the conflict by calling a customer service representative.

Customer service agents have to take the role of a supporting character (guide). Let the customer know they are not alone and engage them in a dialogue. Agents can show empathy by showing there is a shared understanding of the problem and the inconvenience. In these moments the agent has an opportunity to establish that the conflict is a separate entity to themselves. They can demonstrate they are there to support the customer by actively removing effort from the interaction for the customer. For instance, in Act one – the set up - rather than asking the customer to locate their reference number the agent should use identifiers, the number the customer is using and security questions, to streamline the interaction and reduce disruption.

When agents fail to demonstrate they are the guide, they automatically present themselves and the company as part of the conflict, another obstacle for the customer to overcome. 

At the end of the third act, similar to how a narrative usually comes to a close with a poignant and reflective phrase, the agent should recap the progress of the call. This helps the customer visualize the progress made and reflect on the experience.

Similar to the joy incurred by many post-credits scenes in films, innovative brands could benefit from providing novelty elements that leave the customer with the best memory possible. It has been shown in recent research that the most memorable part of an experience for customers is the very end. For instance, have the agent acknowledge the relief of having the problem sorted and then play a short trumpet fanfare to celebrate the protagonist and guide working together to defeat the problem.

Will narrative shape the future of customer service calls?

The narrative based approach is interesting, because it is not technology-centric, rather, it focuses on improving the skills of customer service agents. In addition, the application of techniques designed to make experiences memorable is ripe for application in CX, where experiences can sometimes feel like a chore.

Questions remain about the narrative approach, such as how the narrative dynamic will interact with technologies such as chatbots, how they can be used as a narrative tool and a conduit for empathy, and how customers and agents alike will react to the implementation of this approach.

If these problems can be solved, a narrative approach presents an exciting approach to take the mechanical-ness out customer service calls and make the customer feel like the protagonist of their own story. 

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