Originally published on Forbes.com
By Craig Rock, President & CEO, Forbes Technology Council Member

When an organization looks at their company goals for growth, new development or additional products and services, they need to consider how these elements will create and provide value for customers. Without value, there is no demand. So let’s break down what value is, what it looks like to customers and how you can ensure you are providing it with every move your company makes — to ensure success all the way around.

Value is quite simply a product or service that a customer needs. This could be in the form of something they can’t produce or deliver themselves at a competitive price to make it worthwhile for them. Price and perception predicate value. For example, if you have an item that costs $5, you might not consider it to be a good value compared to a similar item that costs $100. However, it could be an excellent value for the price. It’s important to consider how value is relevant to customers.

Value can sometimes be confused with customer service, a valuable component in any business. However, there is a difference between the two. The product or service you provide through a scope of work is already considered to be of significant value. However, you still have an obligation to deliver that statement of work on time and within budget. That’s just the beginning — the “bare bones” of customer expectation, so to speak. Providing anything less than that will most certainly result in unhappy customers, so it’s important that companies go above and beyond. That begs the big question: How do you go beyond that? In the answer is where you can start sleuthing out and creating true (and individualized) value for your clients.

Sometimes, creating value means thinking outside the box, which can prove difficult in companies that are run and staffed by “black-and-white” thinkers. It truly takes a shift in conceptualization to focus on value creation versus simply solutions and service. One way to do this is by putting your customers’ needs before the company’s deliverables. It’s that mentality that will move the needle. For example, instead of focusing on selling the customer on what you have to offer, first find their specific needs and address how, where and if you can provide an effective solution. Once you’ve done that, you’ve suddenly created value.

At my company, we use a 50-yard report to set customer expectations. This is a report/presentation that we walk through with our clients around the halfway point for certain projects that gives the client a view of what’s been done so far, what’s to come, etc. This allows us to quickly determine where their complications are coming from. This evaluation also sets us up for an interchange with the client to discuss what may be missing, falling behind or causing timelines to be compromised. Bringing forth results of this report can also provide insight for the client about a complication they may not even be aware of. That complication can sometimes even be that the customer isn’t participating with what is needed to complete the SOW or provide added value. Determining these issues and then finding solutions to them is instrumental in creating value.