Thoughts From the Road: Creating Customer Value

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March 26, 2014

Today, as I awaited rebooking as a result of cancelled flight, I was reminded of what customer value actually means. My gate agent was quick to rebook us and apologized for putting me on a competitor’s smaller plane. He also volunteered the reason for the cancellation of our flight and was sincere when he wished me luck as I continued on my disrupted journey. His actions and demeanor helped me transition from a frustrated customer facing a difficult situation to someone satisfied they did what was needed to fix the problem. To be honest, I was surprised how content I was with the process..

Most of us know value when we see it, but rarely do we think of what value really means. More importantly, especially for those of us responsible for assuring that customers get the value they expect from our organizations, we need to understand how customer’s receive value. When we talk about value propositions with our clients, we often hear statements like, “We want to focus on the value we create for our customers.” Statements such as this are honest and sincere approaches, and do drive customer focus in an organization, but they miss much of what a value proposition needs to be. A different way to consider customer value is to pose the question: What value do we enable our customers to receive? The not so subtle shift acknowledges that the creation of value requires things that we do and things that customers do, and it requires those things to happen in some kind of a coordinated way.

Thinking about enabling customers to receive value, rather than creating value for them leads us to the idea of customer experiences. We can actually think of them as value creating experiences. Value creating experiences are those where the things we do, and the things our customers do, interact to create value for the customer. This means that enabling great customer experiences requires that we do the things we promise very well AND we make it as easy and as rewarding as possible for our customers to do the things they need to do. More concretely, think about buying a car that is attractive, high performance, and fuel-efficient and not being able to drive it. Value creation would not come to mind quickly if we had such an experience.

What things are available to us to support customers in value creating experiences? The short answer is most of the things we do as an organization. Often we overlook the importance of focusing everything we do around customer’s value-creating experiences, or we overlook the value of some important tools in our toolbox by viewing them as simply a means to an end, necessary only to support a sale. Specifically, we have three categories of assets that can contribute to enabling our customer’s value-creating experiences. These are:

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•   Our products and services

•   Our customer relationships

•   Our brand and image

Thinking about how all of our assets interact with each other to support customer experiences is the first step towards enabling compelling, successful and valuable experiences for our customers. Products and services are usually the first assets that come to mind when we think of value propositions and they are of course very important parts of the experience. They are not however, the only part. Customer relationships not only drive sales, but are also important in customer service, training, and many other areas. Branding is not only important for marketing, our brand and image can actually change the customer’s perception of value, increasing the value they receive from their experiences. The integration of all of our assets around the customer experience creates a value proposition that can enable exceptional customer experiences.

I could write more about the impact of each of an organization’s assets to the value-creation experience, perhaps in a future blog. It is time to head for my new flight. Remember, when customers and our organization do the things we need to do as we interact in value creating experiences, the customer receives value. Think about this when you next recognize value and consider how important the product, brand and relationships are in the customer experience, especially the next time you experience a cancelled flight. Thank you United and thank you United gate agent!