Is Value Co-Creation Always Necessary?


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Much has been written by experts on value co-creation. Some believe that without co-creation value cannot be provided.

I have a view which is similar to my view on other items. For example, experience is not always necessary for value. A journey is not always desired by a customer, so why put him into a journey?

Co-creation in my view is not important in many cases, and in some cases it is extremely important. I have divided co-creation possibilities into four quadrants. The first quadrant (green) is the best for co-creation. The value creation interactiveness is high and so is the product/service experience. The worst is the third quadrant (red) where the product/service experience is low and the value co-creation interactiveneess is low.

Below is my matrix on Value Co-Creation:

Yellow quadrant

Let me start with the yellow box, which is the case for items/service for normal use. Many items are used in a routine, normal fashion. These include salt, soap, a smart phone for a lay user such as myself. I just want these to work for my satisfaction, and I do not desire an interaction with someone in your company. Many of us fall into this category.

Lessons for the company:

  1. Make it simple to understand and use (the user should not need to find a knife to open a soap packet, or to find a button on a smart phone or put a sim card of a different size into the phone (a micro sim to be put into a normal sim slot or have multiple chargers for multiple phones)
  2. Let it work as intended (my smart phone pushes the turn on image for an incoming call into a small inset on top of the phone, which I cannot easily enlarge, and so I have to go through gymnastics to answer a call. I know some of you are sniggering because you don’t have this problem, but those unlucky fellow creatures who have this problem are saying, give us a fix (which requires us to go into the red quadrant, and being made to do an useless task. This is not co-creation, it is destruction of value)
  3. Do not make the user do unnecessary work when using your product (the above is an example)
  4. Let the product/service not let the user down (the salt has coagulated in the packet and does not pour easily) (or my instant coffee from a flexi bag has completely powdered finely from the granules you find in bottles, and the coffee does not taste that good)
  5. Make it easy for the user to contact an intelligent person if the user is unhappy or has an idea (so now you have a problem, whom do you complain to? My salt has coagulated. The call centre guy responds but it is not supposed to…. You idiot customer, how did you let it coagulate…Maybe this lot was chemically different (it cannot be, says the call centre person. Your option is to throw the salt away and re buy, and find a place in your fridge (but first make sure the salt will be ok in the fridge. You don’t know, but you know you should not put the salt in the fridge but you have no choice. You poor sap, you are only a customer)

Red Quadrant

My next quadrant is the red quadrant, which you wish to avoid, but are forced to journey to when you have a problem, and you meet or talk to a company person who knows it all and cannot understand why you are a moron. The soap wrapping is easy to open, and you have spent time in the shower using your teeth to open it. The company guy says you fool you are not supposed to use your teeth…and you say it did open and he says but it does not need your teeth…

Lessons for the company:

  1. No customer is stupid enough to want to talk to you
  2. He must have a genuine problem
  3. There must be something wrong or there is room for improvement in your product or service
  4. Listen
  5. Do not make the customer feel like an idiot

Orange Quadrant

This in highlighted grey because the colour drop down box only has main colours and not the orange one (there is a box that says stop highlighting). I know if I complain, they will say you do not know how to use MS Word, which I have been using for a long time, but never needed an orange highlight. Whom do I turn to? I can google and waste more time.

This is the quadrant which can be used for highlighting problems, getting innovative fixes, in co-creating a better mouse trap… I had a conversation with LinkedIn that I could not get my California contacts. I was told that they would help and came back saying there was a problem and they would fix it. Now California works, New Jersey does not.

My wife just got 250 mails from Bharat Matrimony saying she is a registered member. Everyone is introducing himself to her as a potential suitor. The registered member is Radhika and not my wife whose name starts with a V… There is no way to contact them but to unsubscribe, and the messages keep coming…Ugh! I have this problem with a big bank. Some guy who has an email gm@yahoo,com has put his address as gm@gmail,com and I keep getting his mails. I cannot make this go away. Help!

Lessons for the company:

  1. While you had an opportunity to help in the other quadrants, this is the one you can co-create in and make friends. Take this opportunity to shine (P&G would call it Connect and Develop)
  2. You can get ideas not only for improvements but for other products and service
  3. So take the customer seriously, and have innovative, knowledgeable, friendly helpful people service him
  4. Do not make this a value destruction opportunity

Green Quadrant

Here is the real co-creation opportunity, for you to develop a better cell phone. For example, I would like a better search facility that covers the address and the notes. So if I remember you as Jane’s husband, and I have Jane in the contact notes, I want to be able to find this contact.

Or I want my text messages to be easily storable, or I want to get back contacts inadvertently deleted (why can’t there be a cache), and I want all my text message to appear, or I want my call log to be stored on the net so I can pull out the messages I made in Beijing four months ago. I do not want to toggle the on off switch when I cannot activate an incoming call. Everyone will benefit, though most accept the phone for what it is.

Lessons for the company:

  1. Look for opportunities to improve
  2. How can you make it easier for me to use your product and love it
  3. How can you co-create disruptive and creative elements

Friends, companies have an immense possibility to distinguish themselves…but they don’t. They end up antagonising the customer no end, whereas they could make him/her their friend, and learn from them and develop and co-create with them.


Avoid destruction

Seek co-creation opportunities

All opportunities do not mean co-creation

Are you laughing at me or are you with me?

Gautam Mahajan
Gautam Mahajan, President of Customer Value Foundation is the leading global leader in Customer Value Management. Mr Mahajan worked for a Fortune 50 company in the USA for 17 years and had hand-on experience in consulting, training of leaders, professionals, managers and CEOs from numerous MNCs and local conglomerates like Tata, Birla and Godrej groups. He is also the author of widely acclaimed books "Customer Value Investment: Formula for Sustained Business Success" and "Total Customer Value Management: Transforming Business Thinking." He is Founder Editor of the Journal of Creating Value ( and runs the global conference on Creating Value (


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