How do you operate in a world where the customer has more and more power?  Is there a successful way to understand what’s going on customers’ minds so that you can ensure your business meets or exceeds their expectations? And finally, do you know how to make the necessary changes to your business – processes and offerings – to ensure your customers are happy in this relationship?

Customer-centricity as a path

Approaching these questions encourages us to think of customer-centricity more as a path than a goal; a business is the vehicle, but the route must be jointly discovered with customers. As we learn to more clearly understand and meet customer needs, rather than think, ‘what is the easiest process operationally?’, it may be necessary to change both the route and the vehicle. Recent shifts in customer empowerment (to which social media continues to contribute forcefully) demonstrate the necessity of paying close attention to their concerns, and case studies have shown the dramatic difference between businesses that have embraced these changes versus those who are unprepared for the challenging arena of modern customer relations.

If we want to fully engage customers, we must be willing to look a little deeper at both our ways of working and uncovering their unmet needs. And in order to help us accomplish this goal, we need insight.

Bring the customer inside the organization

But where can we find insight we can trust to guide us in this process?

A total value proposition is one answer that produces proven results. Every business wants to genuinely engage their prospects and existing customers. If only this were as simple as it sounds! Although we may be experts at understanding our products, services, packaging and the benefits they deliver, in order to ensure customer insight we have to actively bring the customer inside. Research can help us in this process, but it is important that we select the most effective tools for the job at hand.

Traditional quantitative methods can be useful, but we have found that qualitative and social sciences-based research approaches empower businesses to ‘see themselves through their customer’s eyes’.  Using methods informed by psychology and anthropology can help us answer questions about ‘why’ customers behave and think as they do, as opposed to the ‘what’ and ‘how much’ analysis provided through quantitative methods.

To become truly customer-centric, businesses must be able to accurately model the world of their customers concerns, and to respond to these new perspectives with effective reorganization of internal and external processes and relationships. Almost invariably, the resulting changes in customer retention and new business are profound for a simple reason: they are arise from a deeper and more empathic understanding of prospects, customers, and their concerns.

The total value proposition process

A transformative approach is to create a total value proposition. Take note; ‘value proposition’ is a much misused term, but its original meaning is understanding what customers ‘value’ and find attractive in a business.  Many companies are surprised by what they discover about their customers’ mindsets, needs, expectations and desires during this process, in part due to the power of new forms of research and response design.

Once formulated, it acts as a map that guides the thinking, operations and market positioning of a business. In the design process, specialized research allows us to better serve customer relationships and deliver more targeted offerings resulting in a clear blueprint for customer-focused activity.

A total value proposition creates a reliable roadmap for profitable business. It can also reveal and help us to resolve ‘blind spots’ in operations and sales that might otherwise go unnoticed. Once we can match our assets and resources to customer needs, we can then structure our operations and activities to get the job done.

In simple terms, it gets everyone on the same page, while ensuring that page is authentic, trustworthy, and profitable. It empowers us to customize the vehicle and the path, producing optimal value in all aspects of activity and relationships.

The total value proposition

The total value proposition framework is extremely effective for every size and kind of business for a simple reason: everyone has customers. It begins with the desire for true customer-centricity, and progresses when we engage in the forms of research that produce insights. But the key to its success lies in implementing the changes that actually connect us with our customers in the ways they find value in.

Selling your value proposition

The journey toward customer-centricity starts with a research-led total value proposition. This serves as the design blueprint for the first key phases of transforming a business into a truly customer-centric organization.  To fully embed customer centricity within the culture of your business requires bringing all aspects of business operations and sales into equation.  Our new book helps to bring the customer and your business together to transform your business into a selling organization.

Selling Your Value Proposition book

For more detail on this and value proposition design and selling, our latest book contains loads of case studies from over 600 value proposition implementations. Our publishers, Kogan Page, are offering a 20% saving with discount code BMKSVP20 to get your copy of 'Selling Your Value Proposition: how to transform your business into a selling organization' by C. Barnes, H. Blake & T. Howard published by Kogan Page on 4 May 2017.