What is the Values Proposition?
Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company, coined the term and calls it “doing small things with great love”. My father and uncle knew the names and families of every customer. Neither was particularly fluent in English but always had a genuine smile and compliment for their patrons. Uncle Johnny would have a handshake, hug, and a kiss when you came in and when you left. They would give paper umbrellas and fans to children. They’ll make a special ice cream cake if they knew it was your birthday. Dad would open the restaurant on Thanksgiving holiday – it was a money losing day but he had a few customers who had nowhere to go on that special day. Dad and Uncle Johnny had a great “values proposition” – their differentiator was genuine affection and connection with their customers.
Things went downhill when Uncle Johnny passed away, Dad getting older, and a new aggressive, younger manager joined in. Things were by the books. The new manager spoke perfect English but wasn’t particularly friendly to customers (a bit of an attitude). He started charging for every little item…extra duck sauce and even fortune cookies because it “cost the bottom line”. The “values proposition” just wasn’t there. (Who the heck would go to a Chinese restaurant and expect to get charged for fortune cookies?) The restaurant ended up losing money by trying to save money.
Most companies offer a Customer Value Proposition but don't work on a values proposition, They have become faceless. You cannot find a direct telephone number to call. Customers are asked for an account number and endure the automated "press 1 for..., 2 for ..., 68 for..., press # to repeat". Once connected, you get the feeling that the rep is trying to get to the next call. In our quest to become more efficient, streamlined, and process-driven, we have turned the customer into an object on the flow chart. While companies are faceless, customers are anything else but. faceless Customers are human beings with feelings and emotions. Treat them wrong or indifferent and they will wait for the opportunity to leave (via a competitor or substitute).
Remember, all things (and brown sauces) being equal, people tend to do business with people they like*. Your products or services may be deemed as the same brown sauce (commodities) as in all the old Chinese restaurants. Start by treating each individual customer as an indvidual. Make them feel good about doing business with you. It doesn't have to be costly - it should show that you care about them. As an example, I would send customers a small stuffed teddy bear (in a shirt saying "You're beary special with us") when I heard about a grandchild's or child's birth. That surprise was very warmly received. That small token was appreciated not for its monetary value but as a sign that someone listened and cared.
Ensure that you have a Values Proposition to go with your Customer Value Proposition.
A wonderful article on this: The Values Proposition: Do Small Things with Great Love by Bill Taylor
*Paraphrasing Bob Burg