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How storytelling can set the stage for a better user experience

By: Alison Wandschneider

I spend a lot of time thinking about how people adopt new technology, what gets in the way, and what can make Salesforce user experience smoother.

At Idealist Consulting, we’ve found the best way to set the stage for the best Salesforce user experience comes down to storytelling. If you can get people to feel comfortable sharing their personal story of what they do each day and how they do it, you can create a technological user experience that promotes adoption and anticipates their needs. 

Here are a few ways storytelling techniques can help you and your users prepare for a big technology change. These techniques will give you a great foundation for tackling any large technology project.



Personas are traditionally thought of as a marketing tool, but they can be so much more. Marketers use personas as fictional, generalized characters that encompass the various needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among your customers. In the context of technology projects, we use personas to articulate the roles who will be using your technology. 

Here are some questions to ask when you are developing personas:

  • Who will be affected by the new technology? Each person identified should have their own persona.

  • What is the high-level story of your business process?

  • Who are internal and external people involved in this process? Often there may be an external person on the flipside of internal roles, for example, an internal role takes payment, while an external role makes a donation through a web form.

  • What roles do potential users represent at your organization? Often, each individual will represent several roles, for example when an Executive Director also serves as Major Gifts Officer at a smaller nonprofit. Make sure to articulate roles, not just titles.

  • What are this role’s pain points? What sort of complaints do you hear from constituents or supervisors? Anything from “I can never find the expense report” to “It takes me 20 clicks every time to do this one simple task” is helpful. 

  • What are this role’s goals? How do they align with this particular initiative? What is preventing you from reaching your goals?

You will want to really take time to understand who your personas are. By forming personas, you help that person articulate that their story is important and a valid consideration for technology improvements. This exercise cannot be done through a web form or individually; it must be a guided exercise through an internal group conversation. As the facilitator, your job is to ask good questions and reflect back to end-user as much as possible. Phrases like “this is a thing I bet you hear, right?” can help keep the conversation going.

Additionally, you will want to make sure you allow people to be individual contributors to this exercise. One of my favorite moments when I have led these conversations is when you start to see light bulbs going off and people realize their individual goals align with others’ goals. This is when people start caring about other people’s problems, and when you have truly started to create an empathetic environment that will help people be more open to change. People really do like helping each other—you just have to create the right energy to unlock this desire.


User Stories

Once you have created your personas, the next step is to work on your user stories. This is an exercise that should be led by a third party who knows the technology deeply, such as a Salesforce consultant. Why? Because user stories must be written with the understanding of what the technology can or cannot do. 

As we discuss here, each user story should include who (their role), what (they need to do), and “so that I can” (in order to support what function).

Here’s an example: “As a gifts processor, I need to be able to track recurring donations on a monthly basis in order to report on fundraising goals to my Board each month."

We often find that the missing piece is “so that I can…” This element needs to be granular and is different from goals. You’ll want to think about your desired outcome, timeline, and how you’ll measure success. 

The combination of Personas plus User Stories can be a powerful lens to approach a wide range of technology projects, including an assessment of what tech tools you need. If you understand the roles, pains, and goals of internal and external users, you can be much more aware of whether you’re expecting a piece of technology to be customized to your use case, or whether you intend to bend your process. We use these tools as a stepping off point for development sprints and story mapping exercises, but you can start gaining trust and building towards great user experience by starting these conversations even before you engage with a consultant.


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