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A Radical Shift: Values-based Service Differentiation

Sally explores the power of differentiating your organisation on the basis of customer values.


Updated 15 Apr 20246 Feb 2018

Earlier this week I was walking down Glebe Point road in Sydney and came across Eco Dental. I took a photo. For years now I’ve been regaling my colleagues about a day when people will be able to choose a provider aligned with their values. After all, in almost every other purchasing situation customers are able to exercise their preference for eco-friendly, organic, Australian-made, fair trade and cruelty-free…. the list goes on. Finally, in Eco Dental, I’ve found an analogous service to explore.


Effortless (almost) attraction and growth of a customer-base

It turns out that Glebe is a greenie-hub of Sydney. Most of the shops are eco-oriented and the restaurants vegetarian. So, Eco Dentist has done a great job of understanding the values of its immediate market. However, I would hazard a guess that die-hard greenies from all over Sydney would venture Glebe-side for some eco-friendly dental work. Perhaps even across the bridge, and that’s saying something. In Melbourne, it would be service worth crossing the river for as it would be in Brisbane. The point is, a service provider with a strong commitment to a consumer value, who clearly communicates that commitment, will attract a client base. What is more, satisfied customers will tell their greenie friends – word of mouth promotion that costs Eco Dental nothing!


A basis for differentiation above and beyond quality

Go to the “why choose us” page of the Eco Dental website and you’ll note the first reason is “the highest standard of service and care”. Organic and eco-friendly comes in at number three after “Friendly and helpful staff available to you at any time”. No one is suggesting the eco emphasis overrides the quality of the service, it is simply a poignant point of differentiation. So too with disability support. People will always expect the highest standard of service and support to be the number one reason to work with a provider but it’s a point of parity meaning all providers (should) offer quality support, it’s not a distinction. Customers will leave or not choose a provider on the basis of poor quality support but they will actively choose (cross the bridge for) a provider on the basis of values alignment.


Authenticity is crucial

There’s one caveat. The values commitment needs to be real which means it needs to be evident in everything that organisation does. It needs to be authentic. Should a dental patient at Eco Dental observe the use of plastic non-recyclable cups in the waiting room the organisation’s commitment to eco values might be called into question in a way that is damaging. It’s not enough to slap on a recycling logo or make an eco-friendly claim, this is called greenwashing and is viewed as deceptive. Brands viewed as the most genuine integrate relevant value-based benefits into everything they do.


Find your values-based differentiator

Eco friendly is just one example of values-based differentiation. The options are endless and the inspiration right there in the lives of your current customers and staff. It might be one of following passion-driven strategies;

  • The plight of refugees: a to commit to training and employing refugees as support workers.
  • The principals of Steiner: everything is built on the Steiner philosophy of experiential learning appropriate to the individual’s stage of development.
  • Loyalty to the local football team: corporate colours are the same as the local football team, participants and workers attend every(!) game rain hail or shine, the provider is the team's “charity of choice”, participants work as volunteers at games and other club-related events.
  • Religion: going beyond an alignment with religion, a firm commitment may include support in attending daily services, recognition of relevant days/weeks/months of celebration and integration of religious tradition into daily routine.
  • Living as a LGBTQI person: A commitment to supporting participants to explore and express their sexuality and more specifically employing LGBTQI support workers and supporting participants in attending LGBTQI events and activities.
  • Keeping family together: a commitment to keeping a family together, all supports are designed with the family unit in mind and aim, among other things, to support a participant’s informal support network so they can continue to live at home.

A key to success in values-based differentiation is that it needs to be unequivocal. Just as there is no doubt that Eco Dental is an eco-friendly dentist, your values-based commitment must be reflected in everything you do from who you hire, how you train, the services you provide, to the language you use.

In a world full of beige providers (I know you’re not “beige” anymore, you’ve discovered primary colours... like all other providers, that’s the point) there’s a genuine need to differentiate and give participants a reason to choose you. One basis of differentiation that would be extremely powerful, when done well, is on the basis of customer values. Implemented with authenticity and consistency, in addition to a commitment to quality service, participants will cross the bridge to work with you, and rave to all their friends about it too.


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