What do you need to add customer value?
Our customers expect our solutions to be inherently valuable. That's why they bought them in the first place. Why then, do we always talk about adding extra value?
Because our business, our solutions and our customers evolve. As account managers we need to stay aligned when things change and bring new opportunities to our customers to help them achieve their business goals.
Plus customers have short memories. Yesterday's value is old news.
What is value?
What does “adding customer value” even mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines “value” as:
The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
That doesn’t exactly narrow it down. It could be anything.
But there is one word in that definition that stands out among them all.
So if "adding value" is simply being useful, things get a little clearer, don't you think?
Adding 'value' is like panning for gold
Value - I mean being useful - could apply to anything. So where do you start? Especially in complex B2B environments?
I think I've found the answer.
You, me and your customers are all the same in one fundamental respect. We’re bombarded with information.
A 2009 study by the University of California found we process 34GB of information in a single day. Between mobile phones, television, email, newspapers, books and social media that adds up to about 105,000 words a day.
They also estimated the amount increases by 6% each year. So the compound effect 10 years later is a whopping 60GB of information a day that crosses our path.
My head hurts just thinking about it.
Information is cheap and we're all overloaded. Just think about what's whizzing past your client that might have a major impact on their business ... only they've missed it?
The easiest and fastest way to add customer value is this: turn information into something useful.
How do you find those nuggets of gold? Read on.
Step 1: Choose a lever of value
KPMG developed their 9 Levers of Value more than 20 years ago. It’s a framework that focuses on value creation at a cross-functional level which allows it to be applied at a corporate or business unit level.
This is a great place to start. Pick one of these levers of value that's important to your client and where you have some information that would interest them.
- Financial outcomes. What are the financial aspirations of your client?
- Markets. Where does your client compete, with who and what’s their current position?
- Propositions and brands. What is your clients’ business and core value offering to their customers?
- Customers and channels. Understand your clients’ business from their customers’ point of view. Are there any disconnects or untapped potential you can help them resolve?
- Core business processes. Assess the core processes required to deliver your clients’ business model. Where can you help them optimise?
- Technology and operations infrastructure. These are what enable your clients’ core processes. Is there any potential to improve efficiency or quality?
- Governance, structure and risk controls. How is your clients’ organisation structured? Are the right controls in place to get things done and get decisions made? Can you help them be more agile?
- People and culture. Does your client have the right leadership and capability in place to deliver their strategy? Can you help upskill them?
- Measures and incentives. These are the performance measures that track and motivate progress towards goals. Any ideas or trends you know about that might help your client improve?
Step 2: Transform information into knowledge
So you've decided on a lever of value. Next, gather any information you have about this lever and about your client because you're going to transform it into knowledge. Here's an effective process for you to follow, as explained by Ross Dawson in his book Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships:
Filter. Reduce the quantity of information by assessing its relevance.
Validate. Make sure the information is reliable and correct. Save your client the time and confirm it’s from a trustworthy source or supported by data
Analyse. What trends, patterns, benchmarks, opportunities and implications does this information have for your client?
Customise. Apply the information to your clients’ situation.
Communicate. What's the best format to present the information and your findings? Email? Call? Meeting?
Step 3: View through a customer improvement lens
For information to be truly useful you must always ask yourself: "how will this improve my customers' business?". Apply your hard-earned experience and wisdom so that you develop a point of view on why this knowledge is valuable:
What opinions do you have? You certainly have ideas on how your customer could improve their business. Apply them to your new-found knowledge.
Write them all down. It will help you organise your thoughts.
Cast a critical eye. Which are the absolute best of them?
Share your insights with your customer. Experts give recommendations, not options. Decide on the course of action your customer should take and present an alternative. Any more than that and you risk confusing your customer and having them question your expertise.
Back it up with evidence. Give them confidence your ideas will work and quantify the return on investment to motivate your client to act.
Include in your account plans. Capture anything they're excited about in your key account plans and go for it.
You don't have to look far to add customer value. Transform information into knowledge that your customer can use to improve their business. It's a powerful foundation on which to build your partnership, earn credibility and begin the journey from supplier to trusted advisor.