When we ask our distribution clients how they differentiate themselves from their competitors, the majority tell us that they offer outstanding customer service and high-quality products. Certainly, these are important elements of customer satisfaction. However, recent research indicates that today’s customers see these as a minimum standard when making purchasing and procurement decisions. Simply put, they want more.
All consumers go through a mental process called value mapping. This matches the perceived cost they have paid for a product to the perceived value they have received. However, “cost” does not purely relate to the price paid and “value” does not correlate only to the functionality of the product. There are many other elements that are incorporated into a consumer’s analysis of cost incurred and value received.
The diagram below offers a simple representation. At any point along the diagonal line, there is a balance between perceived cost and perceived value. The challenge is to have the perception of the value you offer at A outweigh perceived cost at B.
This diagram demonstrates why businesses often lose customers, even though these customers have indicated they are satisfied with the product they have received. Businesses that achieve high levels of perceived value in the minds of their customers consistently achieve higher levels of customer loyalty.
In recent years, successful distribution companies have driven perceived value through diversified product offerings and other ancillary services. For example, building supply distributors may introduce valuable resources to their customers through engineering and architectural design. Food distributors may offer nutritionists to assist in the analysis of purchasing habits and recommend alternatives. Successful distributors have developed a strategy to assist their customers with more than simply a good product and great customer service; they comprehend and execute on a unique value proposition.
The fact is that everyone believes in giving good customer service. It is important to recognize that even your seemingly satisfied customers will still go elsewhere if they believe a competitor is offering a better value proposition, and this does not necessarily mean cheaper prices. It is imperative to solicit customers’ feedback and respond to their unique perspective of value. This process will enable you to drive toward A in the above diagram, which will translate into true customer loyalty. When customers use your product, they become your clients; when they enthusiastically recommend you based on a unique value proposition, that is when you know you have earned their loyalty.
QUALITY PRODUCT + PERCEIVED VALUE = LOYAL CUSTOMER
Robert S. Olszewski can be reached at Email or 215.441.4600.