Customer Experience Through Values-based Selling


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Consumers are paying close attention to brands’ moral, social, and political values. They’re making buying decisions based on the values a brand stands for. However, our research shows that companies lack a systematic approach to values.

At CXNYC 2019, I’ll share findings from our values-based experience framework that will help customer experience (CX) professionals evolve their approach in this emerging area. I sat down with Forrester’s events team in advance of the Forum for a sneak peek into the findings.

Q: Consumers are increasingly evaluating the company values of organizations they buy from. Is this a passing fad based on the current social and political climate, or is this a trend that will stick?
This is a huge tectonic shift in consumer behavior that’s been growing for years and will continue to grow. In fact, around the world, values-based consumers are now in the majority: Globally, 64% of consumers “choose, switch, avoid, or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues,” according to the Edelman Earned Brand 2018 report. What’s more, values-based consumers now expect deeper value commitments from companies than in the past, so basic appeals to “sustainability” and “integrity” don’t earn these customers’ loyalty anymore.

Q: What does this mean for brands?
Companies can’t ignore the rise of values-based customers and mindlessly continue their traditional, agnostic approach to values. Nor should all businesses transform themselves into completely values-laden enterprises. Instead, firms must make conscious decisions about how much to bring moral, social, and political values into their business models — and just as crucially, how intensely they’ll depict those values to consumers.

Q: Can you give us some examples of companies that take different approaches to values?
Sure, our new values-based experience framework details nine relationships that companies can have with values. Some of the most well-known values-based companies fall into the “limited” category, which consists of companies that have core values but that don’t portray those values in the customer experience very much. Instead, these companies’ values drive mostly behind-the-scenes activities like corporate giving. Chick-fil-A, one of the most well-known values-based companies, falls into this category. Chick-fil-A is dedicated to conservative Christian values and very active with like-minded charities. However, the restaurant chain portrays its values in the CX only by playing instrumental versions of Christian music and closing on Sundays. As a result, customers can go through the whole Chick-fil-A life cycle and never overtly encounter the company’s values. Another interesting category in our model is the “shallow” category. Companies with a shallow commitment to values use ads and standard corporate social responsibility activities to send value messages, despite not having deep moral, social, or political values. Gillette is a good example. Its “We Believe” TV ad told men to be more respectful, but other than adding a page to its website and cutting a check to a charity, Gillette has done little to support this value. And I’m not criticizing Gillette for that. Like I said, companies have to make careful decisions about which of the nine approaches to values is right for them.

Q: Do you foresee a values-based arms race?
If so, what can brands do to maintain their differentiation? Absolutely. As more companies adopt and portray values, the values-based CX environment will become more crowded. This will make it difficult for values-based brands, including legacy ones, to differentiate. To break away from the pack, values-based companies will have to do two things: Appeal to more specific values more deeply, and earn trust with absolute transparency.

The foundation has been laid for real, disruptive innovation in customer experience. Register today for Forrester’s CXNYC Forum on June 11-12 in NYC to redefine CX at your firm. Use discount code CX300VIP to save $300.

This post was written by Rick Parrish, principal analyst, and originally appeared here.

Rick Parrish
Rick Parrish is a principal analyst at Forrester, serving customer experience professionals.


  1. Hi Rick: Thanks for posting this, as you’ve identified a fascinating debate. Through words and action, are companies sincerely making principled moral and ethical statements? Or, are they astutely monetizing the moral values of their customers, both current and prospective? Should companies – particularly those whose investors hold a range of values – have moral and social objectives that supersede their financial objectives? Only the naive would accept the idea that full adherence to values and fiscal vitality exist in harmony.

    Following the enactment of Georgia’s onerous legal restrictions on abortion, Netflix conspicuously voiced its threat to seek alternative (presumably more pro-choice) states to produce upcoming shows and series. Yet, in another values arena, the company limply acquiesced to Saudi Arabia’s demand to restrict viewing access within Saudi Arabia to an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act that was critical of the country’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. (context: this was following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, widely believed to have been sanctioned by the Saudi government).

    This is just one of many examples of blatant corporate values hypocrisy. I believe in the case of Netflix, the company recognizes that reproductive choice is an important values issues for its core demographic of young consumers, and its decision to assert a moral position on this matter is fully driven by its marketing strategy. Will consumers see Netflix as morally two-faced? Will the company appear insincere and tinny? Will this backfire on Netflix? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but time will tell.

    Regardless, it’s impossible for any company to apply values evenly, and it’s a risk every executive, investor, and board member should consider before diving into whatever defines “values-based marketing.”


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