The Value Add
My favorite author right now and podcast host to listen to is John C. Maxwell. The last several months I have consistently listened to his podcast and added his books to my library. I love this quote captured below…
“Most people don’t lead their life, they accept their life. People who lead their life intentionally add value to others.”
This is something I have since taken and tried to apply to my everyday life. However, for the purposes of this article we will lean more toward this as a business principle. The first question you may be asking yourself is, “What do you mean by “value add?” In its simplest form, the value add is the ability to see your business through the eyes of your customer. This is something that for some may sound incredibly underwhelming and others hear this and are immediately overwhelmed. The fact of the matter is that this buzz word is one that is not going away anytime soon. Your customers are demanding more and more, and let’s face it, no matter what industry you are in, there is always someone else offering the same product or service that you are, and they claim to do it better than you or cheaper than you.
The first takeaway that I would give you on the art of the value add is straightforward–have a conversation with your clients. Each time you have an encounter with your customer you should be asking questions. Get your clients talking more and you talking less. Sit back and listen, take notes, ask follow-up questions. Find out what is important to them, find out what makes them tick. Be very conscientious of your body language and tone of voice. While they are talking, you should always be engaged, lean forward in your chair a little bit, take some notes, ask pertinent follow-up questions, when opportunity presents itself.
I would also encourage keeping record of all encounters with each customer, jotting down important conversations, anniversaries, family information, anything you can write down to jog your memory and keep up with these many conversations. If you are not keeping track of your encounters with a customer, you are likely missing additional opportunities to show them value. Whether the customer is occasionally asking for tips or information, or if you are actively contacting the customer, you need to record each of these encounters.
Convenience is critical for your customer. So much of the customer experience is more about the experience and less and less about the price. The convenience factor is very transparent in most cases–increase the speed you by which deliver the kind of value people are willing to pay for. Successful people know everybody is impatient. A person who didn’t realize that they wanted your product or service until today now wants it yesterday.
People perceive a direct correlation between speed and the value of your offering. A person who can do it for you fast is considered to be a better, more competent person, offering a higher level of quality than a person who does it slowly, whenever they get around to it. Customers love convenience. Studies have shown that if they can get a product or service without much effort, they are likely to pay more for that product or service.
The value add can be something as simple as creating a pleasant customer atmosphere. The smells in the lobby, the music playing when you walk in, the greeting you receive, the comfort level of the chairs, you get my point. The atmosphere and customer experience alone can be a huge value add. Let’s think about a couple of great examples here.
Have you ever been to Chick Fil A? You already have warm thoughts and a smile on your face right now just thinking about Chick Fil A, don’t you? The joyful greeting you received when you entered the restaurant, the polite conversation and mannerisms of the cashier, the music playing in the background, and we haven’t even purchased a product yet. The customer experience you receive at Chick Fil A is often second to none. The other example I give is Starbucks. You feel hip and cool from the moment you walk into a Starbucks. From the menu jargon you use to order your drink tailored specifically to you to the vibe in each coffee shop to the incredibly cool barista that took your order. The entire customer experience at Starbucks keeps people coming back again and again.
I would also say that a huge way to add value to your customers is to consistently educate them. Look for ways to meet your customers where they are. The opportunities are always there to teach them. Educating customers is something businesses can benefit from, but most shy away from it due to false assumptions. The age-old belief that a more educated customer will be less loyal or “know too much” is tired and played out. It’s time to let go of these assumptions and truly empower your customers with knowledge and insights that help them understand your product and how it can be valuable to them. Research has shown that educating customers strengthens their trust in a business, and it can act as an important service differentiator for brands.
The smart consumer will opt to buy from the company that’s educated him on the issue and presented him with multiple solutions. That company’s selflessness has built trust — and its ability to teach him has bought his loyalty in the future.
– Mark Quinn
Educating your customers helps them understand your products better and builds trust with your brand. Without this trust, loyalty is less likely. But, I am also a firm believer in educating yourself in the needs of your customer. Keep up with the latest trends, stay tuned to what your competition is doing, and look to improve your product accordingly. If you are not working daily on your own personal growth, dedicated to growing in your knowledge of the industry you work in, then you are not only doing yourself a disservice but also your customers. Today’s customer base expects you to be the expert on the cutting edge of your industry. Take time on a regular basis to keep up with emerging topics in your field, whether it is reading books and articles, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, getting involved in social platforms, etc.
The value add is, indeed, a buzz word right now, but it is so simple to take it from just that to a way of life in your business. Good luck out there!
Heath Shearon is a second generation insurance agent with 20 years experience on both company agency and association side of the house. He is very passionate about this insurance industry and will do anything he can to serve others and to leave this industry better than he found it.
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