The New York Enterprise Report: What Do Your Customers Really Value?

If you were to ask each member of your executive team, sales team, and rank-and-file what they think customers value most when they decide who to buy from, how much agreement do you think you would find? I can tell you with complete confidence you will find little or no agreement. Of the 150 companies my consulting firm has worked with, fewer than 10 percent had much internal agreement at all among the staff on what their customers valued most, and fewer than two percent were in alignment with what their customers told us they valued, in our double-blind research studies.

This process is really an eyebrow raiser for most companies. We must ask, if the staff is not in agreement internally about what matters to their customers, how can the marketplace know what the company is about? Is the message the company conveys to its market relevant to customers?

Frequently, the different internal opinions are a reflection of who is voting and how they see their own job. When we ask internal teams to guess what their customers value, we make note of how various staff positions vote based on their own functions. We have noticed that salespeople, for example, will say “post-sales support” or “the knowledge of sales staff” is most important. A plant manager may say that the “quality of the product” is important and a logistics manager may say “on-time delivery” provides the most customer value. The customer doesn’t always agree.

Getting everyone on the same page with the customer reaps big rewards in the form of ongoing growth and profitability. These varying perceptions among key people exist regardless of the company’s products, or services, or size. The problem occurs because companies don’t actually know what their customers’ top priorities are—so they guess. When key staff members are not on the same page, and they act according to their individual beliefs, the company’s resources can be more scattered than the contents of a teenager’s bedroom. The company’s focus can be diluted and its profits can fall short.

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