The Stories We Inspire
January 27, 2017
I’m a fan of story telling. Stories not only transmit knowledge but also that feeling we had when we learned something. This is not just me, our break rooms are filled with stories in which we share our experiences and feelings with each other.
When I first started as a consultant about 20 years ago, I was strongly inspired and influenced by several of my older colleagues and I learned a lot about life as a consultant from their stories about clients and installations that they had worked with. Some of the stories almost became legends about the heroics of some veteran consultant saving the day when the system crashed or who spent an obscene amount of money on a dinner with a client. Legends that lived long after the person had left the company. I’m sure that many of these stories had been improved, patched and polished over time. Even if the legends themselves weren’t there to correct the improved truths, the tales were based on the feelings that the people who were present had experienced. After almost two decades in the business I’m pretty sure there are break room stories that involve me and the projects that I’ve been a part of. They’re probably based on true events but I can imagine that they also contain some exaggerations and half truths today. The direction that the stories have taken will depend on the feeling that I left with the people who were there and even if I’m not directly responsible for the tale, I am responsible for giving inspiration and reason for it. I can only hope that I’ve left most people around me with a positive feeling.
I have a story of my own that I’ve told so many times by now over a cup of coffee or a beer. It’s a story about me being pleasantly surprised by the customer service at Nespresso. It all started with the not so pleasant realization when we learned that the milk frother that I had bought for my wife six months earlier and that had been collecting dust ever since was broken when she decided to use it one late Sunday evening. Frustration was building up inside me while I was mentally working through if there would be a receipt somewhere and if we had some kind of a warranty. At 11PM Sunday evening I decided to give the Nespresso customer service a call, mostly to find out their opening hours since I was convinced that I would be met by an answering machine. Oh, the surprise when a human being answered and asked me about my reason for calling. I explained the deal with the broken milk frother and began to prepare myself for a “sorry sir but there’s nothing we can do without a receipt”. But instead the girl on the other end just asked me if the adress I had provide at the time of the purchase was still valid? I managed to stutter an affirmative answer to the question and she immediately told me to sort the old one as electronic scrap and expect a new one being delivered to my home within a couple of days. No questions and no questioning, just an attitude that to this day keeps me selling Nespresso better through my storytelling than any of their expensive commercials. My story might have been polished a bit over the years though to make my point even more explicit.
Today I realised that I will expand my story from now on with a counter story since all good tales come with both a hero and a villain.
When I after two miserable years with Viasat as my cable and broadband provider finally had come to an end of their 24 month contract period and was beginning to see the light where I could sign with a new provider. Two years lined with lies and misleads from Victor the sales person, countless calls to an unsympathetic “customer service” and long discussions with their door-to-door salespeople that would pop up as regularly as the flu. Today was the day when it would finally end. After waiting on the phone for half an hour I was quite fed up with being disappointed by this company to the bitter end. When I finally got to speak with a person he tells me that I have six more months on my contract. I just gave him a short no, I do not have another six months on my contract. He excuses himself for a minute and then comes back to tell me that I have another three months left on my contract. Despite me telling him about how Victor the salesman had completely forgotten to tell me about any contract period at all and how all my discussions with “customer service” since then had been about a 24 month contract he still insisted on holding me to a 27 month contract. These additional 3 months might seem like a petty thing in this two year long disappointing journey but I had just had enough. I went to the Viasat Facebook page and gave them a piece of my mind. After just a couple of minutes I got a reply with a small hint of sympathy. Could this be some last minute damage control? Could it be that they had finally come to their senses? But no, they could of course sympathize with my feelings and regret the poor communication but everything seemed to be ok in the system.
That’s when I decided to make this story a part of the story I tell every time a discussion enters the topic of customer service. The story about how Nespresso delivers a first class customer service experience while Viasat can’t do even the slightest damage control in two years. I will share this story countless more times in the future, long after I’ve paid for these petty three months that they forced on an already disgruntled customer.
If you hear me tell this story sometime in the future, it might sound a bit different. The girl at Nespresso will probably have come a bit closer to canonization and the horns on Viasat will have grown a bit longer. Not because they necessarily have become any worse but because the feeling they left me with and the story they inspired will become more crisp by it.
We all inspire each others stories and we will all be remembered by the feelings we left behind.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou