1. Make Value Your Driving Force
In the digital age, one thing is clear: the power of the customer will continue to increase. To win and keep customers in the face of fast-changing customer requirements, companies must continue to adapt their value propositions (the combination of your quality, service, and price). Excellent service is no longer enough to guarantee loyalty, nor is excellent quality, nor low price. Instead, it’s the right combination of these three factors that provide “best total solution“ value that the customer will opt for.
2. Real-Time Responsiveness
Today’s customers value time above almost all else. Whether end customers or channel partners, they want it “right now” and will not accept delays. Those businesses that provide “real-time” solutions will prevail over those that are unable or unwilling to rethink and innovate new time-compressing solutions.
Real-time is the act of reducing or eliminating the float between the customer’s request for satisfaction, and the completion of that request.
Real Time: Six Action Steps
- Determine where speed is an issue in customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Identify the time-based assumptions of your department, team, and organization.
- Measure the time between customer request and satisfaction. Identify the “fulfillment floats” between the two.
- Let customers know how you are increasingly providing real-time responsiveness.
- Push for real-time process improvements in your organization.
- Celebrate low or no cost ideas that reduce or eliminate customer waiting.
3. Take on Your Customer’s Problems
It’s no longer enough to push products and services on customers. Today, you must become your customer’s consultant, problem-solver, trusted advisor, and partner. Make it a point to learn more about your customer’s customer, about how they use your products and services, and look for ways to ingrain yourself in your customers’ life in ways that increase loyalty and allow you to charge a premium price.
Three Action Steps
- Visit customers at their place of business with the express purpose of identifying new problems they are experiencing.
- Brainstorm: What are the existing problems your customer has that nobody in your industry is even attempting to address?
- Implement a single idea-gathering system that you and your customer-contact staffers can use to collect idea/solutions to customer problems.
4. Make Your Customer’s Life Easier
Making your customer’s life easier really means providing “no-hassle” convenience in every interaction. In this arena, the best never rest. Unless you’re introducing new forms of convenience all the time, you’re probably becoming less convenient to customers, because of convenience.
Four Strategies for Making the Customer’s Life Easier
- How does your customer define convenience as it relates to your company? How is this definition evolving and how are you responding?
- Add this question to your customer satisfaction survey, “What is the one thing about the way our company operates that drives you nuts?
- Monitor the Convenience Quotient of your firm and ask, “What else might we do to provide friction-free customer service both before and after the sale?”
- Brainstorm ways that your departments(s) might make its services more convenient.
5. Empower the Customer with Knowledge
Empowerment means enabling, encouraging and guiding your customer to embrace opportunities and solve problems. The value-adding company understands that tremendous value is added each time the customer receives actionable knowledge. The challenge, of course, is then getting the customer to pay extra for that knowledge transfer, either at the price of the product itself or in service delivery.
Four Tips for Empowering the Customer with Knowledge
- Identify the kinds of knowledge you currently transfer to customers that is bundled into the sales and service process.
- Survey customers as to the most valuable knowledge you might add in the future, including: new types of technical assistance, business strategy assistance, online or in-person training of product users; etc.
- Brainstorm: what new ways might you and your firm “empower the customer with knowledge?”
6. Offer Greater Customization
“Have it your way” is one of the most influential trends in business today. One size does not serve all. Mass customization is designing and delivering products, services, and solutions to meet the unique needs of each customer. Customers are willing to pay more when they understand and accept that they have special or unique needs and requirements.
Three Ways of Profiting from the Customization Trend
- Make a list of all the ways your firm currently customizes products and service delivery to customers.
- Survey customers as to the most valuable customization you perform.
- Survey customers on ways you might add value through customization in the future, including products, services, the sales process, training vehicles, after-sale service, marketing methods, payment schedules, etc.
7. Define and Live Your Values
The biggest challenge facing businesses today is creating a culture where employees are motivated to create value for customers every day. And if they are not serving a customer, they’d better be serving someone who is!
Four Ways You’ll Prosper from Company Values
- Customer-perceived value is created by associates who feel validated and who share common values.
- Coach employees as to how they can “own their own employability” and raise their value to the firm in a dynamic and ever-changing world.
- Teach your associates who face the customer the importance of their role in adding value.
- Communicate to your people that the only real security in the value era comes from winning and keeping customers.