Creating Customer Value

It appears from our vantage point and the experts that the manufacturing segment is coming back. Many of us are thinking of what is the best way to shape our company’s economic recovery into the most profitable form possible.

The answer is to deliver more than your share of customer value. Keep in mind your competition won’t be standing idle while you innovate and grow during the improving economy. To stay ahead of your competition, you should keep a strategic focus on what sets your company apart within your industry.

You could have a number of marketable differences from your competition. Spending more on R&D, or sales efforts? Acquiring capital equipment beyond your current capacities? Is what you’re doing focused on internal needs, or are you implementing your customer’s ideas?

1. Conduct face-to-face interviews.

Of all the ways to learn about customer needs-telephone, e-mail survey, Internet, nothing comes close in effectiveness to face-to-face customer interviews. Many of us use customer surveys to determine satisfaction levels. We use a Likert Scale method (1-5) based on questions we have determined are important. The reality, though, is that most questions asked are actually customer-reactive, not market-customer proactive interviews. Should we be asking our customers “Please rate the quality of our products?”, or “How can we provide a better quality product to you?” Get out and visit your customers and find out what’s important to them!

2. Develop a Voice of the Customer mentality.

Voice of the Customer studies typically consist of both qualitative and quantitative steps. They are generally conducted at the start or finish of a new product, process, or service design in order to better understand the customer’s wants and needs. That e-mail survey with the 3-5% average return, is it handing you a report of “what the customer wants?” This is a flawed model. Train your people to be VOC experts!

Best of all, you’ll develop a reputation among customers as “that supplier who really does listen to us.”

3. Become a quantitative organization.

After you conduct good qualitative customer interviews, you can target specific customer ideas you could work on. Which ideas do you target in your product design? Which ideas do you target in your product realization processes? At this point get quantitative. Being quantitative helps you to understand which customer outcomes are most important and least satisfied.

The key to taking advantage of the recovering economy is in changing the way your company approaches your current and future customers. Start now, with a new approach and you’ll shape a true recovery at your company.

 

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