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What my failed attempt to become Town Crier taught me about CX

360 Magazine 
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What my failed attempt to become Town Crier taught me about CX

Although it is decidedly an offline sort of job, I first heard that the municipality I live in was looking for a new town crier on Twitter. Almost immediately, I knew I would be throwing my hat in the ring.

The job description was what you might expect: the town crier dresses in a period costume and opens up major events such as the local harvest festival, dedications of buildings and the like. (My mother-in-law’s first question: “Does it pay?” It does not.)

I was drawn to becoming town crier for several reasons. First of all, I’m still new in this town and it felt like a way to meet some interesting people. Second, there’s something noble to me about celebrating key moments in the life of a town and bringing a sense of occasion to an event. Third, I recognized that town criers were in many ways the original form of mass media, so there was a connection there.

The process involved shooting a brief video in which I demonstrated my ability to cry things like “Oy yay!” I had to write a little essay on why I wanted the job. Then, last week, I had to appear at the town fair and compete with five other finalists by crying out a 100-word speech I had written.

Although I gave it my best shot, and really enjoyed the experience, I learned today that I lost. They haven’t announced the winner yet, but I have my suspicions. If it’s who I think it is, they are entirely deserving.

Going through this process, I’ve since realized, gave me a unique perspective on what many brands hope to achieve with their customer experience (CX) strategies.

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While the basic objective of most CX work is to stop customers from leaving and hopefully generate some repeat business, the holy grail is to become so beloved that your customers act as ambassadors – a sort of army of town criers who talk you up to their families and friends. The thing is:

  • As I stood before the crowd during the town crier competition, I was grateful I had prepared my speech and largely memorized it. Most customers might be true fans of a brand, but they might not always be sure how to articulate their love to the wider world.
  • Town crier-style behavior also takes some guts – I was cognizant of the teenagers in the crowd and wondered if I would be heckled. Customers may love a brand but aren’t willing to put themselves out there for fear of being rebuked by peers who had a poor experience.
  • Even if I had gotten the gig, meanwhile, I was already wondering what kind of a commitment I was making. Would I really be willing to make myself available whenever the town needed me? What if they wanted me to cheer on something and I wasn’t feeling it? The last town crier had been doing this for a whopping 38 years – how long before I would be ready to move on?

Similarly, customers may have moments where they’re willing to be a brand’s quasi town crier. But not universally, and certainly not perpetually. They need reasons to make their voices heard on a brand’s behalf. And when they cry out, it had better be for a good one.

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