When Oedipus travelled to Thebes, the Sphinx posed the riddle to him: what walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three in the evening? The answer was a human being: a baby crawls on all fours, adults walk upright on two legs, and the third leg is that of a walking stick keeping us erect as we near the end. Just as the timings of the day signified progress to the Sphinx, it also underscores our own development: our third Comotion Meet Up has proven that our series is now off the floor and sprinting ahead into the morning.
I write of our most recent meet up in March, of an event that began with bemusement if not concern (have you ever been to a pub with no staff?) and was quickly elevated to one of my unsurpassed favourites. In the spirit of both speakers, I write this article as a story: firstly, because one speaker is a master story teller and does this for a living, and secondly, because the other has recently published a book you should all check out (‘If the Customer Wins Nobody Loses’ – available on Amazon).
Ann Booth-Clibborn batted first: aside from discovering she has a large knowledge of alternative investments, I saw first-hand a new frontier of thinking and a true vocation, the result of years of hard work. Ann comes from a media background (think producer at Channel 4, BBC, Discovery Channel, etc.). She has more recently launched her own initiative in the storycoach.london where she is interested in unlocking the natural storytelling skills in people so they can communicate what they are passionate about, and why. She asks many poignant questions: have you identified your audience? What is your story and how does it make your audience feel? How divorced is your perception of the detail from your audiences?
For Ann, storytelling is a primordial characteristic, something equally evident in a toddler as it is in an adult (which led me to my riddle). It is also something we are not doing effectively. She has demonstrated time and again that story telling is as important to a CFO and a COO as it is to a CEO or a CMO: the story a company tells its employees will have an impact on productivity – especially in this country where the national mood seems to be lacking in it. Ann asks, ‘Who is your stories main character?’ Typically, it’s us ourselves and Ann took no time in proving this: she made everyone break up in to pairs of two, tell each other a story and randomly picked people to announce what they discussed. The variety described was rich and spoke a lot to Ann’s underlying thesis. The power of her stories is that you can still make it about yourself, but Ann equips the audience with the story elements they need to engage with what you are telling them. It allows us to create pictures which are more memorable than facts.
Gerry Brown batted second: after making the important accentual distinction between the United States of America and its runaway province Canada, our favourite Canadian told us his story – and it’s one that spans his entire professional experience and covers organisations across all regions. Gerry begins with a naming and shaming of bad customer service across industry – think the extortionate mark-up charged by Currys/PC World, or the perennial delays on Southern Railways. He describes with great precision the feeling customers have at their experiences. His speech is full of anecdotes which allude to the breadth of knowledge he must have that is almost bursting to escape. His forays are not into just the private sector, but also at the state level looking at things such as distrust in government and international rankings. His view is that 4 pillars matter most to designing excellent CX – culture, communication, commitment and community. Creating CX isn’t a zero-sum game, and the fear of litigation – as real over here as in the United States – often forces firms to think of it in these terms. It’s a positive-sum game because, as the book is so aptly named, “when a customer wins no one loses”.
This story started with a riddle, at one point in our ancient history the most popular literary form: I will end with a more modern one: What can travel around the world while staying in a corner? The answer is not our speakers and meet up series, but that is our intention.