Enhancing value for customers

“Service, in short, is not what you do, but who you are. It is a way of living that you need to bring to everything you do, if you are to bring it to your customer interactions”. ~ Betsy Sanders

This quote lucidly explains that unless companies must strive to enhance value for customers, else they might not have them for very long. Obviously customers will buy only that which they perceive as adding value to their business or being of value to them. With the many choices available to them now, they seek out the ‘most valuable’ and rightly so. Enhancing value for customers translates to a number of intangible advantages as well for companies. These intangibles are over and above a robust return on investment and positively affect things like employee morale, market reputation and goodwill. Any company that wants to be seen as providing value will need to keep applying pressure on themselves to portray this value beyond what their competitors can provide.

Enhancing value for customers is a lot about providing exceptional levels of customer service at all times. The last time you were a customer at a retail store, do you remember having to wait in a long line and the cashier suddenly disappeared. There was no one around to help or even provide an answer for this delay and you were left guessing. There are no prizes to tell that this experience left you annoyed and frustrated and not in the least valued. This was certainly not the place to buy again since it refused to understand the meaning of value for customers and of customers.

Enhancing value for customers also means valuing each customer relationship which in turn translates to an understanding of the value contributed through your customer. The value contributed by customers must be segregated from the other aspects of your business that add value such as products or services, brand, social media presence and such. We say this so as not to confuse the value of customer relationships in conjunction with the value of the brand.

All internal strategies applied by companies such as improved quality, lowered operational costs, multi-channel communication and distribution, updating technology and competitive pricing – help to enhance value for customers. Of course, for each of these strategies to be successful, it is important that they done with a focus on the customer – surrounding what the customer desires. Tying these together based on customer needs and expectations will enhance their value in the minds of the customers.

The perceived value in the minds of customers will determine whether they buy, how much they buy, from whom they buy, what they will buy at slightly higher prices and what and whom they won’t buy from at all. Creating enhanced value for customers will give companies the leeway to price their products based on their required profit margins. When enhancing value for customers is the driving force of all strategies, companies are undoubtedly on the path of fast growth, better bottom line and sustainable success. They are able to create a niche and a commanding position in the market and have greater respect amongst their shareholders.

All said and done, the value that customers perceive lies in their mind. What is of value to one may not be for another and hence despite products, services, quality, customer service and other aspects being the same, the value may vary. The value of all the strategies and products and branding narrows down to how well and literally they align with what the customer wants and what they perceive as customer value. Unfortunately for companies, they have to unrelentingly work towards creating and enhancing value for customers, without knowing what will click and what will be a complete waste. The strategy for any company then would be to try and figure out what translates to value by viewing the market from the eyes of the customer’s perceived value. It would be easier to crack ‘the code’ of why something didn’t work when it was expected to and why something worked despite low hopes pinned on it. It will save the company time and resources in constantly creating what they consider to be value rather than what actually is valued by the customer. Save your best efforts from tanking and undergoing losses for nothing.

However, what drives customers may vary from time to time. What was valuable for some customer at a point in time may not be perceived as enhancing value for the customer now. This is undoubtedly frustrating for companies and also a major challenge. But to remain successful and being known as a company that enhances value for customers, this task must be done religiously. Some of the major buying inconsistencies and perceived value of products and services are mentioned here:

– Buying the most expensive model of the very top brand automobile because it matches the status of the person. They may not however, be that particular about buying a shirt since most shirts look the same. They may eat at the most fancy restaurants but shop for daily items at the local grocer.

– Offices spend loads of money on branding and office equipment and yet compromise on the brand of tea or coffee that comes in to the office. They might not pay their employees well and then throw lavish parties and expensive outings to boost employee morale. Strange but true.

– They probably buy certain goods only at certain places. For their daily products it’s alright to buy any brand and may even visit the local vendor to buy fresh poultry and meat. For pulses and vegetables they will buy more expensive organic produce.

Every customer has their own reasons that impact their buying habits and decisions and these decisions strongly influence them all the time. Companies may struggle to find that ‘sweet spot’ that will help them understand this psyche, but we think that is a losing battle. Companies must and have to continue innovating and creating to enhance value for customers – never know what will work! The traditional methods of providing many products and or services were sufficient a while back but with so much information, technology and rapidly mushrooming start-ups – customers know they can get more and are milking this opportunity to enhance value for their benefit and success.

The possible way to enhance value for customers is in creating one or two unique features in a product and or service. Leave the whole – focus on the parts and use those to differentiate from others. A simple example of a washing powder should help – earlier there were washing powders to be used in bucket washes. With the onset of washing machines, companies came out with washing powders for machines. Then it was different fragrances, separate powders for top-loading and front loading machines and powders that were for all kinds and also bucket wash. These variants are what created and enhanced the value for customers. A friend buys any washing powder that will be suitable for her machine and that smells like the forest. That for her is value. The brand and company does not matter. Companies create and enhance value for customers by keeping a watchful eye on the customer’s buying patterns, long term behaviors and changes in attitude over a period of time.

As we said, a customer’s preferences and tastes keep changing especially because they can get what they want and the market is constantly flooded by ‘new and different’ products and brands and even companies. Keeping a hand on the pulse of customers will allow companies to get to the level of customer satisfaction which is easier to build on. Everyone in a company must be focused on enhancing value for customers and know their role and importance of their contribution in this whole exercise.

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