Value-making seems to be a full time profession for many people. Everywhere you go there is somebody insisting that they are trying to provide value for their customers, their clients, their company. But what is the value they are trying to provide? People don’t seem to know. Why do I think they don’t know? Because they’re sending out too many surveys. They are constantly talking about value and constantly asking others about value, but they never define value. They value value, but don’t know what it is!?!
Value Is Generic
Value is really a generic catch-all phrase. It’s non-specific. It doesn’t tell me anything about what you do, what you think you should do, or what you want to do. Instead, you sound like everybody else when you talk about value. Do you really need a survey to tell you that people value great customer service? Or timely delivery? Or competitive prices? No, these things are generally a given, though some people will value one more than the other. These values are also generic. Most organizations have these very same values and make promises based on these values.
Problem 1: Organizations Don’t Really Listen
I don’t think people are really listening to the answers their customers, clients, or partners might be giving them about what they value. They’re not listening because the things being said aren’t direct answers. Instead, the answers exist in other interactions.
3 Opportunities to Listen and Provide Value to Customers
- For example, when I call any type of customer service line, I expect to get my question answered quickly and professionally. And everybody, including me, thinks their question is unique. No one believes their question is exactly the same as someone else’s question. So why is it so rare to get a real person on the line when you call customer service? Clearly these organizations don’t care about what I really want. But I bet I’ll get a follow-up survey asking me how the phone call went. Instead of this survey, why not have a real conversation with me when I call? Why not listen?
- When I’m checking out in a physical store, why doesn’t the cashier listen to what I have to say about my shopping experience?
- When I check out online, why doesn’t someone call me to help me through when I’m having trouble? Imagine that level of service.
Problem 2: Value Doesn’t Easily Scale
But these ideas are somewhat of a pipedream because these things many people value don’t easily scale. Amazon can’t scale that level of service to call any customer having trouble checking out online. They’ve already attempted to solve that problem with one-click shopping. Facebook can’t call you when you encounter a log-in issue. Target isn’t suddenly going to have their cashiers strike up a conversation about my shopping experience. Why? It wouldn’t scale well. The utility company, cable company, and so many others aren’t going to get rid of their artificial intelligence operators (standing by, but no real problem-solving skills). It doesn’t scale well.
4 Ways to Scale Value
First, listen in all the interactions you might have with a customer. Don’t have the interaction and then send a survey as a proxy for listening. If you send the survey after the fact, I don’t think you were ever really listening in the first place. Second, be proactive in problem areas. How can you help a customer solve a problem before he/she calls you? Call them first instead. Third, think of every other way you can listen without surveys and pursue those listening opportunities first. Fourth, give all employees the ability and authority to act immediately on whatever they are hearing from customers. Addressing issues after the fact (discovering them through a survey) is hardly ever as good as responding in the moment.
Conclusion: Value People
People want to be valued. Don’t wait to define your values based on surveys. Start first with valuing your customers as people.Constantly act on expected values by listening during conversations and solving problems proactively. If you do these things, you may find that you can say “You’re welcome” more often as customers thank you for your value-based based interactions.