Customer story

Bringing customer centricity back

I try and start most meetings with a customer story. There are two main purposes for this exercise.

A meeting never comes in isolation

A meeting is always part of someone’s day. Things happened before, things will happen after. Your meeting attendees will have rushed from another meeting, come in late, were checking their mail, will be wondering about their next meeting, have problems at home, have problems at work. So any exercise that will help to get everyone on the same page an focus on the same objective will help slightly neutralise all these distracting factors.

Customer centricity: a lot of ads, little acts

A lot of companies talk about customer centricity, but more often than not, customers, customer data, customer experience, customer stories and customer validation are not part of their daily practice. And this, while customers are real people too. This exercise is a small intervention to at least start every meeting with the customer in mind.



Time frame

Group size

For all audiences.

Facilitation level

Comfort level participants

Materials needed

Customer story examples

I am a hoarder of customer stories. I try and collect many of them in my ‘best practice‘ and ‘worst practice‘ category. Often they are my own experiences, often they are interactions I had with customers. Like how I got lost in the desert and made friends with a bedouin. About how Werner is handing out his own umbrella to customers. About the free coffee I got at CitizenM.

Five Structural Elements for Idea speed dating

Idea speed dating is a really simple exercise and helps generate many ideas quickly. As a facilitator, the key challenge is in time keeping, making sure everyone moves in the right direction at the right time and making sure people stay engaged.

Five structural elements

How to read the instructions

To bring some structure to tools and excercises, I borrowed the “five structural elements” from Liberating Structures. It is an easy and structured way to describe the different dimensions of an exercise.

More on the elementsHire me as facilitator

This is a rather easy structure for people to understand. There are -however- three main things you will need to weave into your invitation:

  • Purpose of this excercise. Explain why you are inviting attendants to share a customer story. You can use the elements as describe above: the fact you want to have everyone on the same page (in contrast to thinking of the next or previous meeting) and you want to truly bring the customer into every meeting.
  • Format of the customer story. Depending on the need in that specific moment, you can ask for people to reflect on the story and/or work in answers to questions like ‘What can we all learn from this?’, ‘What made this moment so special?’, ‘How can we make this a daily practice?’, ‘What is the one thing you would do to fix this?’
  • Time constraint. Make clear how much time each participant has to share his/her story and keep the time.

Depending on these variables, you will most probably end up with one of three scenarios:

  • As the host, you share one customer story.
  • As the host, you invite someone to share a customer story.
  • As the host, you invite several people to share a customer story.

Tailor your invitation to what is needed in that exact moment.

How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed

Arrangement of space is not essential here. A customer story can work in a large conference table setting, a stand-up and even in an all-hands setting.

Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation
  1. Explain the purpose of the excercise.
  2. Depending on the time you have and the purpose of the excercise, invite someone to share a story, share a story yourself or have several people share a story.
  3. Discuss take-outs or questions collectively.
  4. Synthesize the key insights from the stories.
  5. Move on to the next subject.
How Groups Are Configured

No special configuration needed.

Make sure people are able to see the person telling the customer story.

How Participation Is Distributed
  • Host makes sure participation is distributed, either by speaking him/herself, or by appointing other storytellers. As this exercise is often only part of the meeting, make sure to keep time.
  • Participants can share their story either free format or working in specific variables/answers to questions.
Additional tips and pointers
  • To increase the usefullness of the stories and the willingness to share amongst the attendees, consider telling them beforehand that you will be starting with a customer story and/or ask them specifically as a homework assignment to come up with one.

Keep me posted!

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Let me help you

I have 15+ years in changing companies to be less about ads and more about acts. I’d love to hear your story and see how I can help.

Contact me
Polle de Maagt

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