Your Value Proposition

What sets you apart from your competition?

We recently held an offsite retreat and one of the objectives was to try to better understand our
“value proposition”.  By understanding our value proposition, we can refine our service delivery and personal accountabilities to make our organization more valuable to its customers.

Michael Lanning, a former executive with Proctor & Gamble, defines a value proposition as “the set of experiences that an organization causes its customers to have”.  It’s the reason customers want to work with you, the combination of economic and emotional returns they receive.  An organization’s value proposition must offer a better deal to the customer than the competition.

A value proposition is outward looking.  To understand our value proposition, we had to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes.  We developed a list of a couple dozen aspects of our business we thought were important to our customers and then classified and prioritized them:

  1. Timeliness – we believe our customers value prompt turnover of their work.  Unlike wine, the value of historical financial information declines with the passage of time.
  2. Advocacy/who we work for/integration – too many professionals seem to be working for the tax department instead of the customer.  Our clients value us telling them what they “can” do instead of what they “can’t” do.  They want us to be on their team and to integrate into their organizations.
  3. Non-judgement/security/acceptance/openness/friendliness/humility – our customers tell us they appreciate that we don’t sit in an ivory tower and we try to speak English, limiting our accounting jargon.
  4. Peace of mind/confidence – we hope that through their relationship with us, our customers feel more secure in the knowledge of their business and level of tax compliance.
  5. Understanding what we do/knowledge sharing – our customers appreciate that we share our knowledge and work to educate them rather than hording it as leverage in our relationships.
  6. Responsiveness/availability – our work space allows customers to interact with us directly when they come in the door.  We respond promptly to emails and phone calls.  Our customers feel we are more accessible than other professional firms.

We recognized that implementation of a value proposition doesn’t involve documenting it and posting it on your web site.  You can’t tell customers what your value proposition is.  Only your customers can decide whether you are providing value.

To support our value proposition, we will:

  1. Measure turnaround time and implement a turnaround guarantee;
  2. Never screen telephone calls;
  3. Encourage clients to drop by the office at their convenience;
  4.  Opt for telephone conversations over email wherever possible;
  5. Value personality and team fit in our hiring process.

To be accountable, we are implementing a poll get more feedback from our customers.  The poll questions are aligned to the top 6 aspects of our value proposition.

On a scale of 0 – 10

  1. How satisfied are you with the time it took us to complete your work?
  2. To what extent have we made you feel like we’re part of your team?
  3. How comfortable do you feel working with us?
  4. How much does working with us increase your confidence and peace of mind about your business?
  5. How successful have we been at helping you understand what we do for you?
  6. How would you rate our availability and responsiveness to your needs?
  7. How likely are you to recommend our services to your friends and family?

We’ll be implementing the survey in March 2012.  We hope the results will reveal areas for improvement in relationships with individual customers.  And the aggregated results should tell us how well we are doing overall as an organization setting ourselves apart from our competitors in the hearts of our customers.