Differentiate on relationships. Avoid commoditization.

Marketing guru Theodore Levitt of Harvard was ahead of his time when he said there was no such thing as a commodity. Even commodities could be differentiated by the relationship between the buyer and seller.

There is hope here even though the customer is in the driver’s seat. And even though the power of the Internet in customers’ hands has the potential of making every product or service a commodity.

There is hope for companies who are customer relationship-driven and optimize the customer experience while paying attention to profit. But first they have to know what customers experience and what it costs the company to deliver it. And what success looks like for both. When they know this, they can sell on value.

Map what the customer experiences: With a Value Creation Map (VCM) we collaborate with you to plan and launch a process or improve a process. For example, what will you do if the economic buyer leaves your buyer company? Or if you find other players at risk? Or a customer makes a significantly increased purchase? We collaborate with our client’s cross-functional team to rate Brand, Product, and Experience Value from their customers’ perspective. Together we identify which steps enhance, which ones detract from value?

The VCM includes both the steps that are directly conducted by those in your company and involved with addressing the type of customer Interaction being mapped, and also the typical steps the customer may take in response. It provides the customer perspective of an Interaction as well as the company’s perspective. An inquiry that is handed off three or four times in the company until it reaches the “right” organization or individual will be mapped with all of the hand-offs and associated steps, delays, and requests for more information.

One of the keys to understanding whether value has been created is the VCM ends with the final action of the customer, not the final action of the business. Did the customer purchase the product or service? Does the customer regularly use the product and tell others about it? Did the customer pay their bill or was there a dispute? Was the customer satisfied that their issue had been resolved completely and professionally? Did the customer move through the lifecycle of Acquisition, Closing, and Retention?

The VCM map exposes the “good,” the “bad,” and the “ugly” in what the customer experiences. For example, what does the customer experience in these situations:

  • What Interactions happen as the prospective customer researches the product/service for consideration?
  • What happens when the customer contacts the supplier?
  • What is the actual buying experience like?
  • Are there different business rules for delivery for different types of customers?
  • What does it take to get the product or service up and running?
  • What about long-term use and customer support?
  • What happens at termination of the service or disposal of the product?

Where in the process does the customer terminate the Interactions? During a product inquiry process does the customer purchase; does the customer ask for more information; or does the customer just go away? In a complaint process does the customer indicate the issue is resolved satisfactorily; does the customer ask for a supervisor; or does the customer threaten a lawsuit and hang up?

 

Customer Experience Wisdom: Customers are in charge, but not in control, unless you let them be.

Questions: How easy is it to do business with you?

Do you want to sell on value and relationships?

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