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The Value Principle Part 2 - Questions to Ask
By Jonathan Narducci, Narducci Enterprises

"How do we grow our businesses?" Hot topic. A few examples are improving performance, customization, efficiently capturing customer needs, building more value around existing products, and moving customers up the "loyalty" ladder.

The Questions

Applying the Value Principle requires asking lots of questions. What follows are examples of the kinds of questions (to help prime the "question development pump") that can be asked at each step in Part 1. The questions should support the goal to maximize matching perceptions with expectations with experiences.

Step 1 requires that we develop a deep understanding of the customer's needs, wants and problems. In addition to the basic questions about features and price, ask:

  • Why do customers need variations of your solutions to solve the same problem? (For example, is it due to different skill or training levels?)
  • What would happen if all the variations were not delivered?
  • ould customers still buy? If not, could your company afford that and would the customer become a negative reference?
  • What will prevent customers from getting the results they want or need?
    • Do they lack skills to properly apply solutions to their problems?
    • Do they lack the technology?
    • Do they lack the resources, such as time, equipment, or people?
  • What can be done to "help" the customer overcome their constraints? Could you supply missing or needed resources - e.g. training facilities or coaches?
  • Do we have a good understanding how our solutions will affect our customers' bottom lines?
  • Does our solution give our customers a competitive edge? In other words, does it help our customers provide "unique value" in their own right?

Step 2 requires, through understanding our capabilities and applying our industry knowledge, that we develop our perceptions of how well our solutions produce the results our customers need. Ask the following questions:

  • Can we describe a reasonable scenario that convinces our customers that the perceived value will produce the results they need to meet their business goals?
  • Can we accurately describe the criteria - current state of our customers' businesses, industry requirements, and technology - on which our perceptions are based?
  • Can we adequately separate how our customers operate from how we think they should operate?
  • Do we have a realistic view on how well we operate and what we know?
  • Do we tell the customer "we can do that" even though we can't or don't want to?

Step 3 expects us to work with our customers to create a set of expectations about the scope and robustness of our solutions. Questions we might ask are:

  • Have we developed an "economically sound" set of expectations covering the right set of customers (i.e., costs to develop and deploy are in-line and we can expect an ROI)?
  • ow about our customers - can they expect an ROI on using our solutions?
  • Is our set of expectations clearly defined, with no ambiguity between the different items in the set?
  • Can we map the developed set of expectations to our customers' business objectives? To our own?
  • Did the process of developing expectations result in the need to add new features to our solutions?

Step 4 requires that we do our homework and "research" on how our value will turn into experiences (i.e. results) that are expected and, more importantly, not expected or wanted. Ask the following:

  • What are the common experiences we can expect to occur with respect to first, visible results (I load a new program on my computer and it doesn't crash) and second, the customers overall objectives (small number of crashes helps keep costs down)?
  • What "errors" can take place?
  • What harm can be caused by using the value? (For this example, will all customers get the help they need in a timely manner?)
  • What is the most bazaar experience we can think of?
  • Can we vary any of the solution's content instead of adding something new, and possibly redundant, to make sure we cover all the experiences we have defined?
  • Can we map our internal operations (e.g., the use of our skills, processes, and tools) to our customers' results?
  • Will the results of applying our solutions cause, for the most part, our customers to publicly praise or condemn us?

As our value evolves, our markets change, and our customer's needs and wants change, we apply the results of Step 5 to the above activities to ensure the perceptions of how well our solutions work remain aligned with the results our customers experience.

The following questions will help us obtain the feedback we need to determine our next steps:

  • What customers' needs have changed and does the value proposition need to be changed to accommodate those new needs? Were we able to predict the changes proactively?
  • What experiences did we miss?
  • Were we successful in creating and delivering the value proposition and how can we improve?
  • Were there enough customer and company resources (funds, time, and people) applied to the implementation?
  • Were our perceptions on target or did we have to change the solutions, after implementation, more often than anticipated?
  • Are our customers more successful than we predicted? Why?
    What new/modified solutions do we need?



Jonathan Narducci uses his 30+ years of experience in business, management, and quality systems to lead international companies in their search to locate and implement the ideas that helps craft the business performance needed for the business results expected. For more information visit www.narduccienterprises.com

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