Writing a Book: Learning about storytelling from Chip Bell

Mar 7, 2017 | Writing A Book

I learned about Chip Bell’s new book when a kaleidoscope showed up in my mailbox. Chip sent it to me to help promote the release of his new book by the same name.

This is Chip’s twenty-second book and it’s the third one in a string about customer service. The first of the string was 9 ½ Principles of Innovative Service, and the second was Sprinkles.

Kaleidoscope, the book, is something of a deep dive into what makes the kind of customer service that people tell each other about. Not only do they find it memorable, they find it fascinating enough to tell other people about it. It’s a sparkling, exciting experience.

In a physical kaleidoscope, only a few stones create an endless number of brilliant displays. Kaleidoscope, the concept, is that while every customer service event is unique, they are created by a limited number of basic principles.

If you’re an author, you should know that there are several things that make this metaphor work. Pretty much everyone knows what a kaleidoscope is, and the metaphor is easy to remember and makes sense. The kaleidoscope also makes it easy to promote the book. I played with mine when I got it, and now my grandchildren find it endlessly fascinating. But the concept alone would not make the book great.

So, when I interviewed Chip, I asked him, “What makes this book great?” And he said that it was the stories. Well, lots of authors tell me that, so I dug a little deeper.

Personal Stories Have Power

In Kaleidoscope, Chip says that the kind of stories that people tell each other about service are about service that has a strong emotional impact. It’s strong, people to people, stuff. His stories are like that, too.

Pretty much every author tells stories, and many of them tell the same ones. There are examples like that in Chip’s book, but most of the stories are about his experience. That gives them a power that third-party or third-person stories don’t have.

How Chip Bell Develops the Stories That Make His Books Great

The stories that are the core of the book are about things that happened to Chip. As he says, “I’ve got an experience, and I go, “Here’s the experience that just happened. Let me think about that.” He reflects on the event.

Chip doesn’t embellish the stories that happen to him. The facts are right. But he does polish the telling, and that takes some time. Sometimes he thinks about coming at the story from a different angle. That’s a technique he uses with stories that people may have heard before. He reflects on the story for a while and, as he says, “polishes” it.

The Benefits of Telling Stories About Personal Experience

You get two big benefits when you tell stories about your own personal experience. The first one is that they’re your stories. No one else can use them, at least in theory.

The stories that Chip tells about his experiences are about things that actually happened to him. Real situations. Real people. And real emotions. That’s the key to the second benefit.

Because the stories are rooted in his experience and the emotions that he felt, they’re much more powerful when he tells them. Chip is tapping into something that all great storytellers know. When you tell a story, it’s like reliving the event. Here’s how Chip puts it.

“When I tell the story, I am in my head reliving it. And so, for me and for the audience, it comes out fresh.”

Bottom Line

You can learn a lot of lessons about great customer service from Chip Bell’s book, Kaleidoscope. But the most important lesson you can learn as a writer is the power of your own stories to differentiate you from other speakers and writers and to make the emotional connection that great service events and great books are made of.