How to Use Storytelling in Business: An Example
I went to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. An unfamiliar man came through the waiting room door and called my name. He introduced himself as Ben, my new dental Hygienist. My first thought was, “He is the third Hygienist I’ve seen in this office in three visits. I hope nothing is wrong.”
Ben showed me to my chair. As soon as I sat down he told me that the previous Hygienist moved to Africa because her husband joined the Peace Corps. Ben added that he had no plans of joining the Peace Corps, or moving, and so I could expect that he’d be my Hygienist for a long time into the future. He then proceeded to very comfortably clean my teeth and he explained everything he was doing. I ended up feeling confident about seeing him at my next visit.
Dissecting What Happened
When I walked in and saw the new Hygienist, I began to question. That led me to make up a story about how something was wrong in the office that was driving employees away. Ben’s explanation was simple. The information he shared wasn’t epic. However, just giving some back story about where the last Hygienist had gone cleared up any negative thoughts about why the she left in the first place.
What’s more, Ben talked about his intentions for the future. By doing so he created a positive story in my imagination about my next cleaning. Instead of thinking about what had happened (the old Hygienist left) I ended up thinking about the future (returning to the office for another cleaning).
This was a good use of storytelling in business. I doubt Ben considered his actions “storytelling” but I’m sure he was aware of the need to tell his clients about the changes in the office and why they happened.
How Do You Know When and Where to Tell a Story?
In the case above it is most probable that Ben had been questioned about the former Hygienist so many times that he just began answering the question before people asked. When people are invested in something they will ask questions about it. When you hear the same inquires over and over, that’s how you know you need to tell a story. If your story can convey a positive answer to those questions then you can build trust, especially if you appear to anticipate the question as Ben did. Leave too many questions unanswered and people will make up their own stories, which you cannot control! Being transparent and sharing information in the form of a story is a good thing because it affords you the opportunity to author the tales to your customers tell.