I received an email from Kim Palmer, author of the blog AlphaConsumer at US News and World Report. She recently published a post about telling stories on consumer websites. She shares her initial response to an “invitation” from a grocery store, Giant, who is seeking consumer stories about their experiences with the supermarket. Kim says,
“Really? Me? Does Giant really care? I was flattered but not so much so that I shared why I shop there. (If you must know, it is because I enjoy the brightly lit aisles and ethnic food section.) I can barely keep up with the friends I do have; I’m not sure I can handle another, especially one that’s a corporate entity.”
I wanted to share my comments back to her here, as I have often wondered about this as well! Creating strong customer relationships is a goal of many companies today, but I don’t believe consumers want a relationship with an “entity”. They will, however, build connections with key employees at those companies (such as the cashier at the local market).
I believe companies want customers to “tell their stories” for a few reasons. First, more and more organizations are looking to create two-way conversations with their customers. This is taking place at blogs all over the world. The Southwest Airlines blog is a good example of customers sharing stories (especially where CEO Gary Kelly talks about the recent changes to their boarding procedure and 212 customers weighed-in via the comments); note that not all stories are necessarily glowing, but they are still valid stories.
Second, companies realize that word-of-mouth marketing is still very successful, as consumers are more likely to trust each other than that “entity”. Gathering and sharing consumer stories seems to be one way of trying to make it happen.
Not everyone will want to share their story, nor should they! Kim is not comfortable doing so, and that is fine. Companies should understand the ways in which their customers want to interact and gather feedback (and referrals) accordingly. Kim shared some great info on why she shops there; I hope Giant was reading her post!
I think very loyal customers, the kind who want to create connections with organizations in which they believe, will feel more compelled to share their stories. Disney has a section of their “Insider” newsletter that showcases consumer stories, and it is fun to read.
However, are consumers really moved to wax poetic on their local grocery store? I am not convinced that is the case, but time will tell.
Do you have a company where you would be willing to “share your story”? I would do so with Disney, Coldwater Creek, and Southwest. What about you?
(Photo: Paha L)