Are you sure it’s what they want?

August 11, 2011

…Give your customer choices they actually care about

One of the buzzwords that continues to bounce around the marketing world is “value add.”  I have no issue with providing more value to your customers.  In fact, I think it’s a dandy idea.  But I think you can also stub your toe when you do it in a vacuum.

As you know, I fly a lot (visiting clients, speaking at conferences, etc) and I always fly United.  Like most of you who travel a fair amount, I have traded choice of airline for airline perks.

For the most part, I love United and the benefits I get as one of their frequent fliers.  But it also gives me an opportunity to see many a marketing attempt go awry.

What your customers want, in terms of value add, is real value, not value for show.  Let me show you a few examples (at United’s expense):

Real value: The Red Carpet Clubs — very cool spaces with plenty of free wifi, soda, snacks, really comfy chairs and best of all,  customer service reps who  will take as much time as you need to help sort out a messed up ticket or change in plans.  (Value added — comfort and great service)

Value just for show: Unlimited upgrades for their upper tier customers.  Except…. in many cases, they don’t upgrade your companion if you’re flying with someone else.  So really — it’s just mean teasing.  “Oh, we wanted to upgrade you but your kid/spouse/buddy will have to fly coach.”  Who wants to be that jerk?  Which means I only get to use the upgrades I’m offered if I am flying alone. (You’re pretending to give me a value and then taking it away)

Real value: Letting frequent fliers board the plane first, meaning there’s always overhead storage space available.  (Value added — convenience and comfort)

Value just for show: The ridiculous red carpet line (complete with a scrap of red carpet that you have to cross) that only makes the casual traveler feel like they don’t matter and the frequent flier feel conspicuous.  (You’re using me to advertise your perks)

Notice how the real value happens when a company selflessly worries about what matters to their customers.  But the value just for show is when the company decides, without asking their customers or walking a mile in their shoes.  Then the “value add” looks self serving and may actually diminish the experience for your best customers.

So as you contemplate how you can appreciate your customers and reward them for their business — be sure the value add is genuine AND actually valued.



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