No doubt you’ve wrestled with product packaging that’s impossible to pry open, struggled with electronic device tags that can’t be removed with anything short of napalm, and cursed clothing labels that are so scratchy they make you bleed.
Why in the world do companies try to drive their customers nuts? Because they probably have never heard of value co-destruction nor understood the downside of interactive value formation. Because they’re focused on what’s important to them and don’t consider what’s important to you.
Here’s a specific example of what can wrong if you ignore those practice-theory principles. I called a mobile-phone company about an accounting issue, and they told me I had to go into a store to solve the problem. What? You can’t do business by phone with a phone company?
If the company was more interested in what’s convenient for me, more aware of value co-destruction, and not focused on what’s convenient for them, I’d be a lot happier. My post-exposure disconfirmation index would be positive instead of off the bottom of the negative scale, in other words.
In fact, all the devices sold by mobile-phone companies are made by someone else and many piggyback on someone else’s network, so what are they really selling? Service. Yet, they repeatedly earn among the lowest retailer customer-service ratings.
So how do you keep a business from falling into the “it’s all about me” trap? Pay attention to characteristic patterns of interaction between providers and customers: reinforcing value co-creation; recovery value co-formation; reductive value co-formation; and reinforcing value co-destruction.
Make it easy for me to understand what you sell
I’ve been investigating dashboard software that can make brain-numbing spreadsheets more understandable. I downloaded a demo, and was immediately contacted by one of the company’s “customer success representatives.” A little pushy but, so far so good.
When the demo didn’t work (as in “at all”), I contacted her but received no response. So I went to their website and watched what was described as an introductory video. It explained how to change the colors of the user interface. When I signed up to download a tutorial, I didn’t receive a download link. I finally managed to find a set of instructions billed as “First Steps” but the very first step didn’t work. I gave up.
So much for value-coformation. They screwed up at every opportunity, despite my eager intent to find value and effectively illustrated the concept of co-destruction of value.
Make it easy for me to do business with you
Every company struggles to find ways to attract customers, and some do an amazingly good job. But many could flush the money they spend on ads down the toilet for all the good it does them. They make it so difficult for hard-earned prospects to do business with them that would-be customers simply go elsewhere.
- Websites have broken links or links to the wrong places.
- Ads and websites don’t provide contact information, maps or directions.
- Web forms don’t fill in city and state when a zip code is provided.
- Podcasts that start with endless blah-blah-blah about the presenter and zip about the content.
- Telephone systems require endless navigation to reach an operator who spends the first five minutes asking questions (like verifying my address) that solve their problems, not mine. Why not start with, “How can I help you?” and solve the customer’s problems before solving the company’s?
- I could go on and on….
Apple has made it so easy for you to do business with them if feels like shop-lifting. They let you use your iPhone to pay for accessories in their stores using the Apple Store app. You scan a UPC code, touch a few buttons, and just walk out of the store with the product.
Co-formation? Maybe, they created the app and the software, call it non-interactive value formation, but….
Make it easy for me to use your products
Is some assembly required? Give me the tools. Does your gizmo use batteries? Include them. You expect me to actually read the instructions? Make them big enough for humans to see—the 65 and older population will double in the next 15 years.
If you think I’m ranting about a problem that doesn’t exist, consider how many VCRs, DVD players, cameras, and cars have clocks with the wrong time because they’re hard to set. Consider how many apps you have that you never use because they’re too hard to figure out. Consider how many Wi-Fi or Bluetooth products you have that aren’t networked to anything because it’s not clear how to make them talk to each other.
But I bet all your clocks would be set, your apps would get used and your gizmos would be networked if manufacturers and vendors made it easy for you to do so.
Make it easy for me to return your products
From an odd sort of perspective, one of the important ways to make people happy to do business with you is to make it easy for them not to do business with you.
There are plenty of apocryphal stories about people who have been allowed to return products to Nordstrom and Home Depot that, in all likelihood, weren’t purchased there. Costco will accept returns without question on almost every product they sell. Zappos is famous for paying shipping both ways, as they put it, so you can’t not buy from them.
The message? If they treat unhappy, non-customers so well, imagine what they’ll do for you.
Where to start
The five interaction value practices—informing; greeting; delivering; charging and helping—each provide a stage on which to judge your performance. Thespians (and college professors) understand that the show is a collaboration and interaction between those on the stage and those in the audience, together, are required to create value. Or ruin it.