The best communicators are storytellers. And the best storytellers recognize that the best stories have a beginning. A middle. And an end. There are exceptions, of course. Times when a great story is preceded by a preface or prologue. A brief history of how the story came to be. Or an epilogue. A window into what transpired after the story ended to satisfy the listener’s curiosity. Either way, everyone can agree that storytelling is both an art and a skill mixing elements of both to create powerful images and compelling emotion.
It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about life, business, or both. Success will generally depend on the quality of the stories you tell. That, and those drawn to your narrative.
We all have stories to tell. Just as we all have stories we are enthralled by. Stories we can see ourselves a part of. Narratives we are drawn to.
Most great marketers know this. Some are naturals and find countless ways to weave your personal experience into the stories they tell. Others work hard to achieve that same level of intimacy. Knowingly or unknowingly, they recognize that people are much more likely to react viscerally to and retain elements of a compelling story than they are to facts or data.
If you are a business owner, your personal story is an integral part of how and why your business came to be. Just as your business is an integral and important part of your personal journey. Either way, understanding the role a good story can play can’t be overstated.
When it comes to the story you have to tell within the context of your business, we are almost always talking about externally directed communication. The story you tell your clients and potential clients in person or through your advertising and marketing. But that isn’t the only dialogue that exists within the framework of a business. You learn very quickly that you have both internal and external customers and that sharing your message is clearly a priority with both.
In fact, it could be argued that clear and concise messaging is more important for your internal customers—your employees and team members—than it is for those you seek to serve. That it is critical for the members of your team to know and understand your story—the company’s story—and the important role they play in the overall success of the enterprise. Equally important, is the ability of those employees and team members to communicate upward with leadership and management.
Most of this might seem obvious. And it should. But unfortunately, that isn’t often the case. A reality that is made even more complex by the number of individuals of other cultures working within all industries. People who have arrived here from other parts of the world. Individuals whose first language may not be English. This is particularly true of the automotive service industry where entry-level access has traditionally been reserved for those most recently arrived here.
Start the Sentence With “I”
It is hard for a story to resonate for anyone when it must first be translated. It is just as hard for anyone who has come here from another country to share their stories for the same reason. That does not mitigate the need for clear and concise information, however. First, from the technician to the service counter. And then, from the service counter to the vehicle owner. This is even more essential when the quality and clarity of that information are likely to be interpreted by a third person if there is a problem. A representative of a governmental agency responsible for industry oversight.
I showed up late for the communication party failing to understand why achieving any of our company’s goals was so difficult until I realized the reason everyone wasn’t working together. I had failed to share my vision for the future with any of them. They had no idea what our goals and objectives were—And perhaps, more important—how those goals and objectives benefitted them. Once I recognized the critical need to communicate things began to change. But the change I was looking for had to start with me!
Once I recognized that I was able to build a framework for success that helped each of our team members understand exactly what was expected of them. One of the key elements in that success was the ability to communicate up and down the repair cycle. Another was the structure through which that communication would take place. To do that I borrowed ‘The Three C’s’ from the dealership environment and modified them to fit our specific needs. We integrated them into our everyday operations to help our technicians understand exactly why each vehicle they were confronted with had found its way to the shop.
Three C’s Plus One
The three C’s are easy enough to understand. The first C stands for Condition or Customer Concern. What brought the vehicle to the shop? The second C is for Cause. What is causing the problem? And finally, Cure, the third C. What will it take to remedy the Cause?
We added a Customer Request for those instances where the client requested a specific service. A mileage-based service or specific repair. And a fourth C for Confirmation. Did the cure work? Did it solve the problem?
These simple tweaks made a profound difference in the quality of the stories we had to tell our customers. Structurally they were sound. Simple. Understandable. Each incorporating a beginning, a middle, and an end. More than that, they communicated what was expected of the technician clearly and with a minimum of confusion—an explanation of what was wrong with the vehicle and what would be necessary to rectify it.
Whether communicating internally or externally, it helps to have a plan. An outline. Elements of the plot to keep the storyline moving forward. The Four C’s provide a valuable and effective tool that can help you accomplish that whether your team members are from around the corner or around the world.