Value is a term that is over-used but often under-appreciated. It’s not enough to claim you’re providing goods or services at a fair market price, with perhaps an extra feature versus a competitor’s product. This tactic could work in the short run, but eventually it may not hold up over time as competitors replicate your success. Let’s take a look at what drives long-term customer value.
Start by considering what is important for your target market and how your goods/services will benefit them. What problem are you helping them solve? It’s not about having extra buttons on your widget, if your customers aren’t somehow gaining year-over-year advantage. First, create a Value Stream or SIPOC process map to summarize the inputs and outputs between you, your customer and your customers’ customers. Next, consider a direct approach. Soliciting feedback through a short phone call or survey on a regular basis ensures pulsing your customers’ needs or concerns. Good salespeople know this well and should actively participate.
Keep your company’s strategy close at hand. Dust off or create the organization’s SWOT analysis, a planning technique used to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It helps to identify the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to your industry.
Finally, take every opportunity to create a memorable customer experience. I recall when an electrical contractor called with an urgent order for an outdated air circuit breaker that had an 8-week lead-time. My factory expedited that special order unit in 10days (at a premium price, of course) which required me to fly from San Juan to Miami and back the same day to pick up a set of critical components for the breaker. That customer was grateful for the “above and beyond” service attention. This customer’s CTQ (Critical to Quality) characteristic was maintaining a hospital fully equipped with auxiliary power. Forming this excellent customer experience allowed us to develop a strong relationship that went beyond the initial sale for many years.