By; Tracey Lloyd, Organisational Development Manager, S.C.O.P.E incorporated 

The history of the world can be found in the stories that have been passed down from generation to generation.  From cave paintings to cat videos that have gone viral, stories provide us with intimate knowledge of the world and more importantly the people that share the world with us.  In our world of funding, outputs, deliverables, key performance indicators and competitive markets, we seem to have forgotten the true impact the work of human service organisations has on our clients’ lives. 

Surveys can provide great quantitative data, excellent for reporting against key performance indicators in the new competitive marketplace and thanks to tools like SurveyMonkey; GetFeedback and Google Forms they are easier than ever to set up and distribute to a target group of clients.  The question is what meaningful data can a simple online or paper quantitative survey actually provide to improve person centred service provision?  What does satisfied with the service really mean, particularly when working with a target group of clients who have cognitive and intellectual disabilities?  That my workers turn up on time and are nice; that they didn’t abuse me or that the service is being provided in a person centred framework that means the client is truly living the life that they want to live.  It is important to ensure that when creating feedback tools, the risks of response bias are minimised as much as possible; in our target group we believed there were risks of acquiescence bias and social desirability bias in undertaking traditional survey methods. 

The opportunity to participate in the storytelling component of the QCOSS Customer Experience Project allowed us an opportunity to hear the impact that the support provided has had on our clients’ lives and understand the experience of living in supported shared accommodation.  Hearing our clients’ stories gave us an insight into their lives before and after the organisation entered into it.  The stories of connections, interests and family memories gave us ideas for strategies to further develop the person centred support provided and provided us with knowledge of the positives and negatives of the organisation’s involvement in the person’s life that we would not have been able to obtain from a Likert Scale survey. 

The beauty of the storytelling process for gaining feedback is in its naturalness and simplicity.  Rather than the formalness of interviewer and interviewee or the removed from the everyday paper or online survey, storytelling is simply two humans connecting and shared experiences in the way humans have for millennia.  The fact that you can use the insight you gain from the stories for continuous quality improvement of the service provided to clients and improve the customer experience is an added bonus.

Tips for using storytelling for customer experience feedback

  • Listen with the intent to understand not respond
  • Don’t be afraid to explore the negative statements about your organisation or service
  • Enter the process with an open curious mind
  • Remember there’s no right or wrong; good or bad answer.  This is an individual’s experience and we all perceive things differently.  Of course if you undertake this process with a number of clients and they are all reporting that they have an issue or are not happy with the service, then there may be an issue that requires further investigation
  • Build a connection by being prepared to share parts of your own stories (where appropriate) but don’t make it all about you or there is a risk of losing the connection and disempowering your client in this process
  • Make sure you use the insight gained from the stories to improve the service and share that knowledge with your clients
  • Most importantly have fun!  Gaining feedback from storytelling is an enjoyable natural human process.