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A recent study by the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University confirmed what we already know in our heart of hearts—satisfaction has little to do with loyalty.

What was a surprise to them, however, was clear evidence that trust wasn't the deciding factor, either—at least not trust alone. What customers are looking for first and foremost is value—not the monetary kind of value, but value that impacts a person's life.

To determine the real, loyalty-building value of your products and services, you have to go beyond the features, functions and processes we are all so fond of and look instead at two critical factors: the value your offering brings to a customer's life, and how the experiences that surround and support your offering add to or detract from that value.

Determining Value

Most companies are used to thinking of their offerings in terms of features and benefits. An association might offer education (a feature) and members gain knowledge (a benefit). But value is something more.

Value represents not what a product or service does but how it impacts a person's life. For instance, a seminar that increases someone's professional skills might help him do a better job. This benefit of “doing a better job” can result in greater self-esteem, growth and perhaps even recognition or advancement. These results are the real value of the seminar.

Every benefit that a company provides should have identifiable value that enhances the personal or professional life of its customers. So how do we figure out exactly what that value is?

Psychologists tell us that human beings operate on four levels or dimensions: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual, making up what they call the Whole Person.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Diana LaSalle is coauthor of Priceless, Turning Ordinary Products into Extraordinary Experiences (Harvard Business School Press) and leader of a training company and consultancy, True North, in Georgia. She can be reached at 912-234-0780 or diana@virtualtns.com.