Why People Buy and How They Perceive Value


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Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about the elusive nature of “value.” The post told the true story of a man who started with a red paperclip and, through a series of improbable bartering trades, ended up in possession of a house.

I was reminded of this story when a recent episode of the NBC television show “The Office” explored a similar theme—at a company garage sale Dwight begins with a trivial item and keeps “trading up” until at last he’s attained a telescope (which in predictable sitcom fashion then gets traded for a packet of magic legumes).

It’s the eternal question for advertisers, marketers, developers, sales professionals and customer service strategists: Why do people buy and how do they perceive value? The more companies explore the question, however, the more layered the answer becomes.

Why do people buy?

Two key factors guide customers’ decisions to buy — or buy into — your offering:

  1. Do they have a desire, need, or problem that your product addresses?
  2. Does your product appeal to one of more of the universal values — wealth, esteem, convenience, ease of use, convenience, or security? (For more on these universal values, see Sales—The Other Side of Service™).

How do people perceive value?

Value results from a simple equation: What do you get in exchange for what you give?

As is evidenced by the two stories at the top of this blog post, however, this perception of value is nowhere near absolute. The concept of value is personal and highly variant — one man’s telescope is another man’s miracle legumes.

Adding to the fickleness of this aforementioned “simple equation” is the fact that our perception of value changes over time.

The need for value to perpetuate

Most of us are familiar with the experience of purchasing automobile insurance. When buying the insurance, “value” is overwhelmingly determined by cost. Once the car has been in a car accident, however, the customer’s perception of value changes: How good is the service provided? How quickly is the claim handled? What is the level of care and concern extended to the customer?

Every company — across industries — can apply a similar analogy to their products and services. There’s the value that leads to a buying decision and the value that leads to customer loyalty. The next rung on the ladder would be the value that leads to proselytizing — those customers who are so thrilled with the value of your product that they enthusiastically bring new customers to you.

In building a customer service strategy for your organization, it’s important to consider how your customers perceive value, not just when buying but also in the long term. The goal of every customer-centric organization should be to provide enough value to customers that they buy from you, stay with you, talk about you, and bring others to you.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Vasudha Deming
Vasudha Deming is a consultant and author lucky enough to get paid for doing something she loves: helping businesses to thrive by putting values into action. She also organizes athletic races, service projects, community events, and anything else she can get her hands on. When it all gets too stressful, she heads out the door for a long-distance run.


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