You are how you feel

Businesses are like people. The way they behave is directly linked to their sense of self-worth, or value. So for your customers to have a positive experience, your business needs to feel good about itself. How can you make this happen?

Value is more behavioural than conceptual. It’s more about how you act toward what you value than how you think about it. To value something goes beyond just seeing it as important: you also appreciate its qualities, while investing the time, energy, effort, and sacrifice necessary to maintain it.

Think about relationships. You’re likely to have certain friends who you like more than other friends. You’ll invest in them more, talking to them or seeing them more often than other friends. You’ll give them more of your time. You’ll appreciate their better qualities and be concerned about their physical and psychological health, growth, and development.

This principle holds true in the business world too.

How you behave towards other people connected with your business is indicative of your understanding of value, whether these people are your immediate team, your wider staff base, your suppliers or your customers.

In other words, people often behave as a reflection of how they value themselves. There’s an old Swahili proverb, “The bug that bites you is under your own clothing”. In other words, if you don’t value yourself, this will manifest in undervaluing your team and ultimately in undervaluing your customers.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

I’ve been working with the leadership team of a company who want to understand their value to their customers better and ultimately become a more customer-centric organisation. Yet how they behave towards me and to our consulting team tells me much about this company, before I’ve even spoken to any of their customers.

I can’t get the time I need with them to really clarify the scope. We arrange to hold calls and they are moved or cancelled at the last minute. When we do finally get to speak, our hour-long meeting is often cut short to around 20 minutes.

All of this makes us feel undervalued, as if they can’t be bothered enough to give us the time and attention to help them in their business. It feels like we’re a nuisance and that we’re not important to them. Certainly they’re paying us but we can’t, or rather won’t, conjure up a research and consulting study without our client’s full involvement and participation. We are consultants co-creating a new model of customer-centricity together with our clients; we simply cannot (and will not) do this for them without their participation.

The power play here is very important because in my 20+ years of consulting I’ve learned that how a client treats me and my team is almost exactly the same behaviour they exhibit toward their customers and themselves. Devalue me and my team and I guarantee that they’ll devalue their customers, and almost certainly their own staff.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t intentional. This is played out in organisations as part of their unconscious process. In other words, they don’t know they’re doing it. They haven’t realised that by not understanding their own value in forensic detail, and documenting it, and sharing this knowledge with their teams – making it explicit and, in psychological terms, taking it from the unconscious to the conscious – they are unconsciously undervaluing themselves in the market place.

I’ve seen this played out hundreds of times in organisations where by not understanding their own value they devalue themselves and therefore end up commoditising themselves. Companies often come to us to ask for help in reversing the effect of commoditisation but they don’t realise they’re often doing it to themselves.

Customers are savvy. They see much more of the dynamics of your organisation than you do. They know when you are not being authentic and congruent; when what you say about your company doesn’t match with what you do, when you give lip service to providing customers with higher value but this doesn’t play out in their customer experience.

It’s essential that you truly understand what value you’re giving customers. The starting point for this is to understand, in forensic detail, your own value as an organisation.

Here are some common symptoms of not understanding your own value:

  • You dilute the strength of your offering by breaking your products or services down into ever smaller commodity pieces
  • You are burnt out by constantly running to meet customers every demand
  • You benchmark everything you do by what your competitors are doing
  • You have an inability to say ‘no’ to customers
  • You say that customers are only interested in price
  • You offer discounts too quickly

Let us know what steps you have taken to really understand and uncover your own value.