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Customer Value: The Unknown Fundamental

Customer Value: The Unknown Fundamental

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Published by Crafitti Consulting
CRAFITTI CONSULTING’s (www.crafitti.com) Thought Ignition Papers Series (TIPS) is a crystallization of our research, experiments and experiences to communicate those ideas that ignited deeper and fruitful thoughts which led to successful action. These are our vehicles to co-craft innovation with our clients and partners. We look forward to empowering ideas together.
CRAFITTI CONSULTING’s (www.crafitti.com) Thought Ignition Papers Series (TIPS) is a crystallization of our research, experiments and experiences to communicate those ideas that ignited deeper and fruitful thoughts which led to successful action. These are our vehicles to co-craft innovation with our clients and partners. We look forward to empowering ideas together.

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Published by: Crafitti Consulting on Jul 02, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Crafitti Consulting
© Crafitti Consulting Private Limited www.crafitti.com
September 15, 2008 1
The Unknown Fundamental
Recently while having one of those ever-interesting evening-coffee meetings with Dr.Raju Konduru
a business acquaintance and adear friend, the topic of customer value cameup. Raju, in his imitable style recounted an
experience that I don’t think I can hold on to
any longer. In the early morning Raju went toget his bike repaired. As is usual in this part of the world, hewas asked towait at the bikestation and hewent to thenearby tea stallfor his morningtea. Whilesipping his hotmorning teacoupled withthe need to killtime, he startedobserving acockroach lyingon its back struggling to get up on its many legs.It was obviously injured and needed somesupport. Some distance away, Raju observed agroup of ants frantically searching for food.While he was finishing his tea, he observed thatthe ants were about to move to some otherdirection opposite to the cockroach. He said hewas itching to tell the ants that the cockroach is just nearby
just go grab it. The food theseants were desperately searching for was so
near to them. Yet, they couldn’t see it and were
about to lose it. Raju said his role as openinnovation champion in the global consumerproducts company where he works for is verymuch the same - to connect the searching antsto the cockroach, to connect various needs andtheir solutions so as synergy is created faster,cheaper and without failure.To do this, he not only needs to be at ahigher vantage point (from where he can seeboth the ants and the cockroach), but alsoneeds a
deeper understanding of the behavior of ants
that they indeed are searching for  food 
, and yes,
the cockroach is a possible food option for the ants
an injured or dyingcockroach definitely is an easily available food item
. He needs to know the customer needs
 and connect them to the relevant solutions,
provided of course ants are Raju’s customers.
Here comes the flip question
suppose Raju’s
customer is the cockroach. In this case, Rajuneeds not only to indicate to the cockroach theclear and present danger of ants eating it up,but also help the cockroach to get up on its legsand move ahead and may be further away fromthe ants.
What is Customer Value?
Customer value is so fundamental tobusinesses that it is completely ignored. It getshidden under layers of actions and decisionsthat businesses have taught us over manydecades. Most of us believe that we know whatvalue we are delivering, yet it is difficult to
Thought Ignition Papers Series (TIPS)
is acrystallization of our research,experiments and experiences tocommunicate those ideas that ignited deeper and fruitful thoughts which led to successful action. These are our vehicles toco-craft innovation with our clients and partners. We look  forward to empowering ideastogether.
 © Crafitti Consulting Private Limited www.crafitti.com Confidential September 15, 2008 2
come out with a single crisp definition.Everybody talks about it, in the belief that it isso very well known at the fundamental levelthat it is implicit in our work.What is value? How does one knowwhether value is being created in the work onedoes; is it created optimally; at what cost; andfor whom? Does the customer know what isvaluable? Is
the same as what thecustomer demands? Do we have any guidelinesor a framework
if one may use the word, fordefining and measuring value?This
thought ignition paper (tip)
points out aneed to have such a framework and delvesbelow the surface of what such a frameworkmay comprise.
Customer Value
Are You the Customer of Your Products/Services?
All said and done, the provider is not thecustomer. It is imperative to understand andempathize with your customer before definingvalue. Also, there will always be a tradeoff between total benefit versus total cost that thecustomer will keep on evaluating. A smartsalesman creates an impression that thebenefits perceived by the customer are the bestthat the cost incurred can buy. It is interestingthat the salesman may not keep therelationship going if the value remains at theperception level only. This calls for an end-toend customer value model which runs, adaptsand gets refined as we get deeper into thecustomer relationship. A review of some of thecustomer value models and methods describedin literature may help.
Models of Customer Value
Prof. Mohanbir Sawhney 
[Ref: Fundamentals of Customer Value, crmproject.com]
describes customervalue in the following many words,
 perceived worth of the set of benefits received by a customer in exchange for the total cost of the offering, taking into consideration available
competitive offerings and pricings”.
Thisdefinition encompasses seven fundamentallessons of customer value (shown in Figure 1).Figure 1: Fundamentals of Customer Value
Tyson Browning
[Ref: On Customer Value and Improvement in Product Development Processes, Systems Engineering,Vol 6, No 1, 2003, Wiley, US]
in his very interesting paperreviews some logical and mathematicalexpressions for customer value described inliterature. Table 1 summarizes the valuemodels.
Customers Define Value (in terms of utility notproduct or services)Value is Opaque even to the CustomersValue is Contextual -the end user, end use situationand environmentValue is a trade-off between Benefits and CostsValue is multi-dimensional -Functional, Emotional andEconomicValue is Relative -relative to the Next Best AlternativeValue is a Mindset -the sole purpose of the firm is tocreate value not products or services
 © Crafitti Consulting Private Limited www.crafitti.com Confidential September 15, 2008 3
Table 1: Models of Customer ValueModel Parameters ( V
Quality; S- Service; SP
 Sale Price, LT
Lead Time
Need for the function; A
ability of the product orservice to satisfy thefunction; f(t)
dependencyfor timing of the product; C
cost of ownership
Function; C - Cost
Perceived Benefits; PP
Perceived Price
Performance; A
 Affordability; T- TimelinessIn a Harvard Business School article theauthors, James Anderson et al
[Ref: Customer ValueProposition in Business Markets, HBR, March 2006]
, claim,
“….there is no agreement as to what
constitutes a customer value proposition
what makes one persuasive”. They have
classified value propositions into three types
all benefits
 favorable points of difference
, and
resonating focus.
all benefits
type of value propositions,the suppliers list down every perceived benefitdelivered by their product or service. Thismethod requires a standardized laundry list tobe prepared and parroted with all customers inall scenarios. This is the modus-operandi of most suppliers and requires least effort in eachengagement. However, this leads to what theauthors call,
benefit assertion 
without anyactual benefit to the target customers.The second type of value proposition isbased on the awareness of alternatives that thecustomer has. The authors term this as
 favorable points of difference
. This requires thesupplier to have knowledge of otheralternatives in addition to his own offerings.The proposition is for the supplier to articulatethe ways in which his offering is different (andbetter) as compared to the alternativeofferings. This leads to what is called the
value presumption
an assumption that points of difference articulated by the supplier areactually beneficial to the customers.Finally, in the
resonating focus 
type of customer value proposition, the suppliers needto make their offerings superior on keyelements of value that are most relevant to thecustomers. This needs lot of effort tounderstand the customers and their context. Itis important to demonstrate and document thevalue of 
superior performance.Further it needs articulation in a way that 
clearly displays the supplier’s sophisticated 
understanding of customer business problems.
 It is clear from the brief review that theterms
value, customer value, and customer value proposition,
tend to get overused inbusiness jargon with the assumption that theterms are easily understood by everyone. Thefacts however point to a diametrically oppositesituation; value is probably the leastunderstood concept in business parlance. Manyills of our businesses actually spring from this

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