Article - Leveraging Value-Connection With Your Customers

Project Description

TTM associates Article

Magdi Hassan
Magdi Hassan is the TTM associates director and principal consultant for Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

 

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

Intro – What is the Value Connection and Why is it Important?

The ability to connect with customers is of paramount importance to organisations and is often what differentiates great organisations and brands from plain, mediocre ones.
Successfully connecting with your customers is critical because when you do, customer behaviour changes drastically in powerfully beneficial ways. The customer will be more likely to recommend your product or service; they will be less price sensitive and also less likely to shop around.

So what is the Value Connection? It is the connection between buyer and seller, based upon the crucial concept of value – something which we all perceive differently.
What does this mean? It means, as an organisation, being able to select the right value for each customer at the right time and deliver it consistently across all customer-interfacing units, with an important degree of personalisation, care and attention.

What is Value? The Value Map

So we need to connect with our customers and create the best possible relationship. But what role does value play in this?
We can agree that ‘value’ is the monetary worth of something, meaning whether or not someone will pay for something and if they will pay – how much they are willing to pay.
And to justify this evaluation of ‘worth’, consumers derive benefits from their purchase and these benefits make the cost they pay acceptable, often encapsulated by the product or service’s value proposition.

commercial value map

Value is a combination of tangible and intangible elements. Why do you want to buy the latest model of a particular car? Is it for the quantitative factors such as measurable fuel efficiency or passenger capacity or is it for the qualitative factors such as the elegance or quality associated with the car through its brand and the self-actualisation achieved through ownership? Or a mixture of both?

The value map helps us understand the value of our organisation’s offerings in terms of two factors – the benefits as perceived by the consumer and the cost of ownership. Market leaders, naturally occupy the region of such value maps which depict the most benefits for the lowest cost.

What is ‘Connection’?

Customer connection

The buyer seller relationship is a dynamic thing and can range from an emotionless, functional purchase of something commonplace and insignificant to an involved, long-term process based upon trust, interpersonal investment, research of alternatives, prolonged decision making, deep consideration at every stage and the development of a very necessary relationship with the seller.

Implicit in this relationship is a connection between buyer and seller. The connection is comprised of what the customer can see, feel and hear and is the basis of very powerful customer loyalty. It is something which is developed not only by your organisation’s brand but also by the behaviours of your organisation’s customer-interfacing functions which may take the form of a one-time transaction or an ongoing provision of service.

The creation and maintenance of this connection requires passion and a service-oriented mindset and is applicable no matter how or where you serve your customers, for example in a traditional retail environment, an ‘inbound’ customer service call centre or an ‘outbound’ sales centre.
The connection can be achieved without necessarily offering more product or service – it is realised by how you offer the product or service in the first place – great, personalised customer care, responsive and knowledgeable staff, well-aligned communication and smooth resolution of enquiries and issues.
Proof of a strong, beneficial connection is found in the customer’s behaviour which reflects the bond they feel with your organisation and its importance over and above mere product features and price.

How Did we Get Here? The Evolution of the Paradigm

Paradigm evolution

It all begins with the most basic of approaches to the buyer-seller relationship – the transactional approach.
This focuses on basic promotion and short-term solutions with little attention being paid to customer needs – these are eclipsed by the preoccupation with monetary exchange.

Next is the technology approach which focuses solely on innovation and the technological aspects of the product or service, leaving little attention paid to customer needs.

As the paradigm evolves from the previous two, quantitative approaches, we arrive at the value based approach. This approach to understanding the buyer-seller relationship is based upon understanding and working with the benefits as perceived by the customer – a ‘next step’ beyond the mere features or price of the offering.

Finally, by better understanding the customer’s experience and further evolving the qualitative aspects of our relationship with the customer, we develop the connection approach which is concerned entirely with the customer and what they feel during their experience with our organisation, focusing on providing a differentiated, value-added experience which touches a deeper, emotional cord and thereby serves to bond the customer with the organisation in a meaningful, commercially beneficial way.
This paradigm is widely applicable to customer relationships in business-to-consumer environments, in business-to-business environments and throughout our marketing efforts.

Generating Value Connection in B2C

vc_b2c_logoThe creation of a value connection and the generation of real ‘customer intimacy’ requires collective effort throughout the organisation.
It is true that employees at delegate level – those who play the role of direct customer interface – are critical in achieving such a connection. So we should pay attention to the environment and the limitations inherent to these such environments, including traditional face-to-face retail environments (shops) and call centres.

Skills such as emotional awareness and assertiveness are useful when dealing optimally with customer complaints but so are technical solutions particular to the customer-interface including skills such as merchandising, trade marketing and category management.
At the same time though, the front line depends on the support and leadership from management – proper delegation and empowerment plus solid guidance and advice to help build relationships with customers.

Lastly, the organisational vision and customer-orientation cannot be translated into well-organised responsive departments and processes without top-tier direction and management. A value connection must cascade down from the top in order to ensure that the entire organisation is aligned and working coherently with this aim in mind.

Generating Value Connection in B2B

vc_b2b_logoBusiness-to-business relationships are typically very different from business-to-consumer relationships – they are often more involved, closer and span across a much longer period of time – think months or years rather than minutes or days.
However, the premise is the same – the entire organisation needs to be primed from the top-down, to allow the coherent development of a genuinely useful value connection.

This time however, the sales process takes a different format with sales teams focusing upon entities at the scale of a company or group and requiring often more persuasive and commercially intelligent skillsets plus technical sales capabilities such as territory planning and productive key account management.

It can be argued that business-to-business relationships naturally comprise a greater element of value connection than many, simpler business-to-consumer relationships typically do. However, with increasingly automated supply chains following strict schedules and SLA’s it is important to note that these apparently deeper, longer term relationships are becoming modular and de-humanised and as such are losing the very essence which once elevated their customer-connections over and above simpler business-to-consumer relationships.

Generating Value Connection Through Marketing

vc_mktg_logoRegardless of environment, there is one constant which applies to all when selling is involved – marketing. It affects and supports what every organisation does from front line promotions and branding to the manner of staff and the internal coherence of the organisation which becomes evident to customers during their interactions with staff.

Understanding the principles of value connection and how to build customer intimacy should be a key part of every marketer’s raison d’etre and as such, marketing people need to understand the principles of marketing including operational, value-based marketing and strategic marketing, plus how to build customer insight and build customer-centred brands.

Technical aspects are important to provide an understanding of core life cycle management, upon which to then execute successful initiatives such as customer-centred public relations and digital marketing exercises.

Lastly, these core marketing skills can be further developed by improving their very foundations – skills such as business acumen, political intelligence and innovation. All of which build a bigger, more coherent picture in the minds of our people, thus empowering them to more effectively build genuine, lasting value connection with customers.

Summary

So we see that value connection requires targeting the correct customers in the correct markets where the best chance of delivering genuine value exists. We need to work to build strong, lasting connections which will bind us closely with our customers in a mutually beneficial, win-win relationship that is resilient against erosion by time, competition or other factors such as price and technical features.

Such a feat can only be achieved by shaping our organisation from the top-down, to be able to generate this value and form these connections – and all of this is made possible by our people exhibiting the right skills through their shared behaviours in a way which creates a lasting impact upon customers.

Read more about Value Connect, customer intimacy and how to achieve commercial excellence. You are also welcome to view and download our full online brochure for your reference.