A Story To Share

There it was, staring back at us from a 3-ounce plastic cup.

A master had woven a tapestry of flavor within layers of freshness, generating incredible depth of harmony among ingredients, both breathtaking and indulgent, a lasting impression of simple alchemy between nature’s bounty and artisan technique.

Yep, good guacamole will do that to you.

The only thing missing was the Story.

Allow me to explain . . . I had been asked by a Luxury Resort to conduct a Quality Audit, a “Shop” of their service execution measured against established standards. My approach in these opportunities has remained consistent across industries: Excellent Service is not only about how it works, but how it feels.

Our starting point was the resort’s expansive pool area. It was a beautiful afternoon, and both the pool deck and accompanying restaurant outlet were busy. Nothing overwhelming, the operation was appropriately staffed to manage the volume. Service did not appear rushed in any way.

Pace is always important as you work through an overnight evaluation, so we ordered simple beverages and the Chips and Salsa, listed first among a selection of lite bites. The menu provided a brief description, highlighting house made tortilla chips, accompanied by fresh Pico de Gallo and Guacamole.

Within minutes, a second member of the service staff was in front of us auctioning off “Chips and Salsa?”

One taste of the pico de gallo and guacamole and it was “Put your flavors on stun”. The skies parted, doves flew, and I would like to think we heard angels singing, but our visions were dressed in tight black pants and sounded more like Mariachis. Regardless of the soundtrack, we were in heaven.

Anna is the guacamole connoisseur and I tend to favor great pico. What ensued was a battle for tortilla chips, a winner-take-all race to see who could scoop up the most of their favorite flavor. We both wanted to rim the empty cups with our finger once the chips were gone. Discretion won out . . . but we were tempted.

Our server came by to inquire if everything was okay. When I commented on how amazing the pico de gallo and guacamole were, he smiled from behind his sunglasses, nodded his head and asked if we needed anything else. We did not, and he left us with a copy of our room charge.

Later that evening, we had an engaging experience with one of the resort’s Chefs while dining in their Tapas-style restaurant. After exchanging pleasantries, he asked if we had an opportunity to explore the resort. We shared that our afternoon had been spent around the pool.

His first question was “Did you try the chips with pico and guacamole?”

He went on to describe with great enthusiasm the pride in which those menu items are prepared, specifically the guacamole. All the ingredients, it turns out, are sourced within a 100-mile radius of the resort. Peppers are grilled, not enough to char, just enough to add smoke. The staff is dedicated to quality and freshness, and they had been making fresh pico de gallo and guacamole every 20 minutes to keep up with demand. The recipe, a collaborative effort among the culinary staff, had been recognized with “Best In Show” at numerous local events.

All of that, and the only thing that accompanied our order was “Chips and Salsa?”

Where was the story?

Your Culture, Your Story

As much as I wanted to re-write this subheading to read “The Chronicles of Guac”, the truth is that impactful storytelling is not something limited to the food & beverage or hospitality industries.

Your organization’s culture is your story. It relates why you exist and what purpose you serve to every potential customer, client, and employee. Sharing that story allows the customer, client, and employee to then realize what they have in common with you and why they relate so well to your product or service.

Storytelling is also a great barometer for the engagement of a team. The confidence to proactively share a history of your organization, the background of a product, or vision for the future sends a message that you are “in” . . . invested, intuitive, and intentional. 

Our service on the afternoon in question was rated efficient and accurate. It was not, however, “in”.

The love and effort that went into creating our pico de gallo and guacamole were evident from the first bite. That emotional investment was simply not pulled through to interactions with the service staff, either for us or other guests in the area that ordered the same item. Each received a similar inquisitive “Chips and Salsa?” and were left on their own as to whether they heard the Mariachis or not.  

Maintain Your Simplified Perspective: Quality ingredients and proper execution make an experience memorable. Your story makes it unforgettable.

The following are a few Tall Tim Tips to enhance the impact of storytelling for your team:

Create a Culture of Storytelling

It comes down to the presence of pride. When you have pride in yourself, and pride in your affiliation with a great team, you want to talk about it.

A Culture of Storytelling must be established from Day One and nurtured throughout a person’s employment. Sharing stories brings your culture to life, promotes a sense of place, and drives a connection to something larger than “Self”.

I will often ask “How do new members to the team learn about who you are?” If the response is a one-page document in a Training Binder, a powerpoint slide, photos on the wall, or an assignment to research your website (it’s happened!), then you are not promoting a Culture of Storytelling.

Storytelling is perpetual, a cycle of inquisitiveness initiated by leaders, promoted through Department Trainers, and ultimately embraced by every member of the team.

Once the initial connection is confirmed, the next level involves sharing the intention behind your vision and strategic plans. Relating an authentic perspective allows the staff to bubble elements of that intention into their interactions with customers. There will be a sense of pride and confidence that transitions a basic service opportunity into a shared experience . . . a memory. 

When leaders establish a two-way circuit of sharing stories about what matters most, from an organizational or product perspective, a team will not only relate to their culture, they will thrive in it!

A Glimpse Is All It Takes

Brevity is the recommended approach to integrating storytelling as a service behavior. In most cases, a glimpse into the background of a product or service is enough to ignite a connection.

Begin with a basic outline of the larger picture, then provide a snapshot of what matters most. We’ll use the “Chronicles of Guac” to demonstrate the simplicity of this approach. What we had learned from engaging with the Chef was:

Locally sourced ingredients (within 100 mile radius), a noteworthy preparation technique (grill to add smoke, do not char), commitment of the team expressed in relatable terms (new batch every 20 minutes), and recognition (numerous Best In Show awards).

Any one of these singular talking points, authentically delivered with pride and enthusiasm, could have been used to promote a deeper connection to our choice . . . both to the product, and the establishment.

For example: When we placed our order, a simple “You’ll love the pico and guacamole. We’ve been so busy the staff has been making fresh batches of both throughout the day”. Less than seven seconds, the time it takes to create an impression, and the stage would be set for our flavor explosion.

Then once we reached delirium and commented on how amazing each were, a quick follow-up of “That’s why they have been voted ‘Best In Show’ at local competitions”. Another mere seconds of interaction, to cement the emotional connection and have us sharing this story on your behalf.

Within a Culture of Storytelling, the server could identify which of the points resonates most with them personally and run with it. That is the element you will deliver with the most passion and confidence, all within a matter of seconds.

Cross-Pollinate to Build Confidence

Storytelling is a learned behavior enhanced through practice and critique. The most impactful stories are those delivered with confidence. The best opportunity to build this confidence is in your daily meetings, pre-shifts, or briefings.

If you do not communicate daily, then incorporate awareness within your most consistent platform.

It is critical that departments or operational divisions share their perspectives on what matters most. This can help members of a call center relate to the field, reception staff relate to technicians, and as we have seen, heart of house relate to guest facing staff. The key word is . . . relate.

Incorporating opportunities to “cross-pollinate” among departments on a regular basis builds the confidence necessary to relate what matters most with your customer or guest.    

Shift Your Customer’s Perspective

Proactive storytelling is an effective method when facing “the same old story”. A more intuitive approach can bypass physical or practical barriers and appeal directly to the emotional investment in an experience.

I was working with a team where the west side of their hotel looked over the pool and recreation area, the east side faced the parking lot and a major thoroughfare just beyond.

The challenge being experienced by the staff was the immediate disappointment of guests on the east side. Although lush pine trees lined the opposite side of the thoroughfare, and the expansive vista beyond allowed you to see almost into tomorrow, no one could overcome an instinct to look down.

By now you know that I love role-play activities, so I asked one of the staff to play the role of a guest.

As we entered the room, I moved to open the curtains, motioned with my hand toward the window, and stated “The sunrise over that tree line tomorrow morning will be spectacular. It would be my pleasure to place a wake-up call on your behalf, so not to miss it. It will be beautiful. You are so fortunate . . . this is one of my favorite rooms”.

I had shifted the perspective of my guest from negative (down – parking lot) to positive (up – beautiful sunrise) through proactive application of a story. The guest may decline, but that will not stop me from offering.

There was a similar application at play in the “Chronicles of Guac” . . . build a sense of anticipation, create confidence in a greater reward. All through a knack for storytelling.

What’s Your Story?

Stories are often an untapped resource that can separate your team from your competition. Begin with establishing a Culture of Storytelling, where your team is routinely exposed to what matters most to you, your organization, and your customers or clients. Ensure this is a two-way circuit, where you can in turn discover what matters most to your team, enhancing the sense of place necessary to promote confident storytelling. Continue to cross-pollinate perspectives among your team through collaborative sharing opportunities such as daily meetings, call-times, or other consistent platforms. Stories do not have to be long and drawn-out. Brevity is key when shifting a customer’s perspective from down to up . . . remember, the sunrise will be spectacular.

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!

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