A Story Trigger Sparks Customer Engagement

Once every couple of months I drive 42 miles, which takes me 53 minutes, to AutoNation in Chandler, AZ to get my 2005 Honda CRV serviced. Now I know you’re probably thinking that this makes no logical sense. That there must be a Honda dealer closer to where I live. And you’re right. There is. But what they don’t have is Nick. He takes care of every need I have when I show up. Over the last few years, we’ve developed a really cool relationship. We’ve chatted about cars and whether it’s prudent to own a home these days and what it’s like to live in the Valley since we’re both transplants.

Today, when I showed up, there were several vehicles ahead of me in line. I was greeted by an older man with gray hair. The married couple in the car in front of me were greeted by a very young man who looked to be about 20. He stood more than six feet tall and was a thin as a toothpick. When this younger man approached his customers, the husband pointed to the man’s name tag and said, “You’re from Japan!” The young man, who I came to learn is Josh, said, “Yes, I grew up in Japan.”

The conversation didn’t stop there. The husband replied, “Wow. That’s amazing. I’ve never met anyone from Japan. Tell me about what your experiences.” (If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ll recognize this as a story prompt.) To which Josh said, “My dad’s in the Army, I grew up as an Army brat. It was …” And on he went with his first short story. Which was followed by a couple more, all prompted by the husband.

The name tag that Josh is wearing with his name and birth location on it is known as a story trigger. Story triggers can be objects, symbols, music, the beginning of a story, an entire story—anything that provokes a story from another person. If you decide to tell a story, even part of it, you need to stop and listen when the other person says something to the effect of, “Oh, oh, oh. I had something similar happen to me …”

Why are triggers important in business? Because when we trigger a story from others, we immediately forge a bond. The person who triggers the story shows willingness to listen and the person who tells the story expresses a level of transparency and vulnerability when telling it. When married together, these acts can initiate a relationship or strengthen an existing one.

So tell me. Where are you currently using triggers in your work? Where are there opportunities for you to use one that you’re not taking advantage of today?

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Lori offers practical, results-driven business storytelling training, keynotes, and consulting. For 26 years, she's also advised enterprises on strategy and organizational change. Listen to Lori speak about the "Power of Story"