For the past 20 years E.G. Insight has been in the business of helping our Global 1000 clients collect feedback from their most valuable customers. Our CRp® customer interview process is a structured face-to-face conversation between one key customer contact and two people from our client’s organization. The overarching goal of the CRp approach is to help our clients discover firsthand how well they are meeting their customers’ current needs and how those needs will change in the future.
One very important question our clients have long asked their customers deals with the issue of value. Typically, the customer contact is first asked how he or she defines value, and then how well or poorly our client is delivering value based on that definition. We often provide prompts intended to provide ways in which the customer could think about value; these prompts include the following:
- Anticipate your needs
- Overall relationship with us
- Total business solutions
- Strategies for the future
- Return on investment
- Contribute to your success/profitability
Clients want to include the value question because they seldom, if ever, are the low-price provider. Not being the low-price provider forces them to find other ways to differentiate their products or services. They often focus on value as a key differentiator.
Value is always in the eye of your customer. A product or service feature does not really add value unless the customer thinks it adds value. Many organizations devote precious resources to efforts they think enhance value. The key word here is think. Remember, it is not really value unless the customer sees it as value.
Do you know how your customers define value? All too often when the value question is asked, the customer responds with a price/cost answer. Knowing customers think your prices are too high may be interesting, but not particularly helpful, because making significant price reductions is usually not realistic.
There has to be a better way to ask the value question, and we think we have found it. Lately, instead of asking about value, our clients are asking for their customers’ perceptions of the business benefit they are receiving. Framing the question in terms of business outcomes gets customers to think beyond price. Answers to the business benefit question often deal with quality, productivity, safety, sustainability, on-time and on-specification performance.
Asking about business benefit is a better way to really understand what the customer values, a better way to understand how to create competitive advantage and influence the buying process when you are not the low-price provider.