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Letting Customers Tell Their Own Stories Can Pay Off for Brands

Regular people want to be heard. Let them tell their stories and they will be credible and convincing about a good product in a way that even money can’t buy.

Authenticity is valuable commodity. That’s why reality TV shows are so popular, even if they often aren’t nearly as “real” as the name implies. These shows hold the promise of presenting the honest, imperfect textures of humans’ daily lives, with their highs and lows on full display, something from which we can gain entertainment and learning.
Real life customer testimonials hold  a great deal of weight with potential customers (witness the tremendous popularity and success of Yelp!). But how much more fascinating and fulfilling would people find real life customer stories, whether they directly pertain to use of the product or are just about some other peripheral episodes or interests in their lives? True customer stories are highly engaging, and engagement is pure gold to those marketing a brand.
Letting customers – potential or current – essentially talk to each other in a positive-minded, somewhat curated way does more than just create a relationship between the consumer and the company. It creates a community out of all customers, connected through the company like spokes to a wheel.

Enthusiastic customer stories a win

Rosetta Stone, the preeminent maker of language learning software, has a prominent section on its website called Rosetta Stories containing a series of photo slides, each one featuring a Rosetta Stone user’s success story summarized with text. Click on a slide and a smoothly produced video unfolds, a home-movie of sorts narrated by the subject explaining their background and the wonderful life opportunity afforded by quick, affordable and highly effective language mastery. Whether it’s Delaine from Yonkers, NY learning Hindi for a culturally immersive experience in India or Nuno from Portugal, who took a job in Stockholm and accepted a challenge from his new co-workers to become fluent in Swedish in 180 days, these true stories make you want to immediately learn a new language.

Put the horror stories to bed

Letting an aggravated customer blow off steam with a “horror story,” if handled correctly, can lend a brand credibility.
Lowe’s hardware superstores have taken the concept of social media messages from customers and formalized it into a web page space called Rant or Rave. The postings are overwhelmingly rants, and Lowe’s customer reps do their best to answer in a thorough and helpful way.
It’s a type of well known reverse psychology that openly sharing criticism aimed at oneself or one’s business can come off as a show of strength and confidence and also help to inoculate from ultimately worse chatter.
Issues range from getting a “4-pronged pigtail” on a clothes dryer when a 3-pronged was needed to a failure to honor an Army veteran’s 10% discount card to a customer waiting for 6 months on a backordered interior door. Often times, colorful anecdotal details are included. Store replies acknowledge the bad service, apologize for it and let the customer know that their specific store has been contacted and they will receive a follow up from management within 24 hours. You can sense the slight lessening of ranters’ anger just because they’ve had the chance to publicly tell their stories. One ranter ended their missive with the very telling: “Thanks for listening.”

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