We've all heard the incredibly funny baseball routine performed by Abbott and Costello in their 1945 film "The Naughty Nineties".  And while miscommunication makes for great comedy, it isn't nearly as funny when it shows up in your organization.  Of course there are many reasons why communication can be challenging in organizations today, one that I've seen often over the years stems from a lack of alignment about customer value.  

All too often the context for understanding customer value is within each manager's respective functional area.  Each area has a different role with the customer, and without an organization-wide customer value definition, each area will tend to establish what it thinks is the most relevant definition based upon their viewpoint or experience with the customer.

To product development it may be all about the number of open, P1 defects; while customer service believes it's all about first call resolution; while product management focuses on product utilization and sales believes it's about "time to close".  It could be any of a million different things.  And that's the point, without a clearly articulated and commonly understood statement of customer value that is based upon the customer's needs and objectives, it will be all over the board.  And most likely, not at all what they customer values the most.

While we are debating among ourselves what the customer really wants from us, the customer's voice get's lost and we continue in our fragmented and disjointed delivery of our perceptions of value.  One of the primary reasons for this is the simple fact that we don't really know what the customer values most from us and so, we start making things up and confusing what is valuable to us with what is valuable to them.  What makes our lives easier or better vs what makes their life easier or better.

This is not to say that each functional area is wrong to have their own metrics, but it does mean that each area's metrics should be tied in some clear way to the customer value statement.

A common understanding of customer value also helps break down functional silos in the organization.  It acts as a unifying principle that brings all parts of the organization, regardless of their specialized focus, together.  It helps the organization work together to deliver, in a consistent and compatible way, what is of most importance to the customer.  And it helps the organization shed internal barriers that limit our efficiency and effectiveness and tends to open new avenues for improved customer value delivery.

A simple test of how well you're doing in this area is to ask members of your staff what they think is of greatest value to the customer.  The answers you receive will tell you whether you're united around a common customer value statement, or not.    

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    John Geffel

    Value is a much abused, misunderstood and misused word, everyone thinks they provide it but so few show real evidence that they do!

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