What good ghost stories teach us about customer service

With Halloween approaching, lately I’ve been thinking about ghouls, goblins, and things that go bump in the night.

While carving a pumpkin over the weekend, my mind wandered to a memorable ghost story and the elements that made it special. As I recalled these ingredients, it occurred to me that some of the same principles apply to creating a memorable customer experience—without the goblins.

An effective ghost story creates a compelling atmosphere. Listeners are gradually removed from their comfortable surroundings into a dark and unfamiliar place where all of their senses will be engaged by the storyteller.

Likewise, atmosphere is critical to fulfilling customer experiences. That’s why the themed hotels along the Las Vegas Strip spare no expense in the design and furnishing of their hotels’ lobbies, casinos, and public space. This atmosphere sets the stage for customers’ experiences to unfold.

An effective ghost story evokes a listener’s feelings. Consider your own experience with ghost stories. The good ones brought out feelings such as anxiety, fear, alarm, surprise, or suspense.

While the feelings differ, a memorable customer experience also evokes feelings such as: delight, importance, pleasure, or confidence. It’s important to influence the feelings and emotions of your customers. Perhaps the easiest way to accomplish this is to smile, make eye contact, add enthusiasm to your voice, and, when you have access to it, use the customer’s name.

An effective ghost story requires a plan, a purpose—a plot. The listener craves a reason to continue listening. He is drawn in by a mesmerizing opening, gripped by a spellbinding story, and startled by an unexpected ending. A good plot is original and leaves a lasting impression.

Customer experiences also unfold like a good story. A customer wants reassurance that she has made a good decision about where to spend her time and money. She is pleased by a positive first impression, appreciates the assurance of an attentive staff, and remembers a fond farewell.

Unless you’re Wes Craven or Stephen King, your goal is probably not to frighten your customers. Even so, by applying some of the elements of a good ghost story to shaping customers’ experiences, you may succeed in scaring your competition. ; )

Happy Haunting!

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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