For the past two years I have been tossing around what it means to deliver value. My definition of value was rocked when our family dog Hunter died in 2013. I was out of town and WestJet got me home in an incredibly short period of time (you can read more here). It was a while later I figured out the importance and connection between a company’s values and the values of their clients. (you can read more here). Despite these thoughts I continued to struggle with what this buzz word value means.
Recently I was doing a talk at a conference on value. One of the participants asked me why my definition of value only focused on the client. What about those around me who I depend on and who depend on me? The people around me may not be my client, but if I’m a team leader for example do these people not get value from me? A very insightful question!
This got me thinking about product a little differently. I’ve been thinking about how products fit into the value proposition for our customers in today’s world? For me the best you can hope for is to meet expectations. To exceed expectations requires something different.
Product in today’s world is a commodity and rarely something unique or special. You may think it is but guess again! As soon as you believe your product is unique and will carry you into the future … you’re in trouble. We need to stop thinking this is where the real value comes from as it means we settle for ‘good enough’. My proof? The number of times I find myself standing in a store with my smartphone in hands doing comparison shopping based on price. Yet the whole time I’m standing there … no-one comes by to ask if they can help me.
In my opinion value is derived from the relationships we have with other people. Your customers get value from the relationship they have with you NOT the product you deliver to them. Team members get value from the relationship with you whether you’re a team mate or leader.
I choose to fly on WestJet whenever possible as it seems they have a relationship with all of their guests. I know in reality I’m just another face in the crowd, but why is it I always feel like I have a relationship with their people? Recently I was flying home from Calgary on WestJet. I got into a conversation with one of the flight attendants and before long I was sharing my WestJet story. Her reaction was “So you’re the one who made me cry!”. It was as if we were long time friends sharing a memory … what makes this connection possible?
In the quest for more predictable outcomes, teams everywhere turned to a very inhumane approach to managing their work. The quest for the perfect plan, requirements and design all have caused the breakdown of the most important factor in any project success. Organizations are use six sigma to try and create the a better team result as if we can change the chemical composition to improve the quality of outcomes. We have sacrificed the relationship with the very people who depend on your expertise … all in the name of following a process.
Leading for ChangeTM
For those of us who have been around long enough we need to acknowledge the world is changing. Increasingly the products are all just a commodity. If you really think you have some competitive advantage based on your product alone … you may as well stop reading here.
How do you measure your interactions with your customers? Measures such as profit, revenue, units sold, time per call, share value, etc are all about you (ie. the company). Think of the times you are the customer; how many times have you thought “I hope they’re profitable”, or “I hope they are able to control their costs”. While these measures are important for business they invoke the behaviours that will work against the relationship with your customer.
What is the relationship you have with your customer? Your customer may be a consumer paying you money out of their own pocket, or it may be an internal business partner. Regardless of the demographic, what are you doing to improve the relationship you have with your customer? Are you holding them at an arms length and only telling them what you think they want to hear? Are you bogging them down in bureaucracy to ensure your profitability? Are you taking steps to give the appearance of doing the work they want from you?
I would encourage you to slow down for a few minutes today. Listen to how those around you are interacting with your customers. In particular, when your customer has a question or problem how does your company respond? Do you blame an external vendor? Do you justify why it’s so difficult to do what they’re asking? Perhaps you start doing something simply so the customer starts believing you’re doing everything you can for them. What would a responsible action look like that would have your customer going “Wow!”
All of this holds true for those around you at work as well. What is the relationship you have with those around you? What are you doing to improve the relationship? What are you doing to give them value?
What I know is everyone wants their customer experiencing a “Wow!” moment. This happens when we build and operate from our relationship. This is where the memorable value comes from, and not the product we deliver to them.
What is the relationship you want to have with value?