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How Austrian Is Your Business? Continuous Value Perception Monitoring Is One Measure.

With the development of the Austrian Business Paradigm and the Austrian Business Model, and tools such as the “Value Learning Process,” businesses of all kinds can utilize the deep insights of Austrian economics to further enhance how they facilitate value for their customers.

John Boles — an avid listener of the Economics for Entrepreneurs Podcast — provides an example of how he applies these insights at his accounting firm. Here is a summary resource and a step-by-step outline: Mises.org/E4E_97_PDF.

1) Improved customer understanding.

The Austrian business paradigm places the customer in first position. This contrasts with traditional business thinking that puts the firm or the product or service in first position and searches for ways (“strategies”) to sell or market that offering to a set of customers who are to be identified during the selling process.

The way to put the customer in first position is to make your top priority a deep and intimate understanding of the customer, demographically (who they are), functionally (what they do and how they do it) and emotionally (how they feel — about key issues and challenges, about vendors and service providers, about competition and every aspect of business).

The first question Austrian business practitioners ask themselves is: how deep and intimate is my customer knowledge, and can it be improved?

2) Calibrating the customer’s perception of value.

Value is a feeling that exists only in the mind of the customer. The entrepreneur’s task is to facilitate that feeling of value — ease the way for the customer to arrive at that happy state of mind. It’s imperative for entrepreneurs to try to feel what the customer feels — to sympathize with their perception of value, rather than to focus only what the firm is delivering. We must know what the customer is buying, not just what we are selling.

The tools to use are monitoring of customer behavior (what they do — for example, shopping around for alternatives — is more important than what they say); making sure you understand their rankings of features, attributes and benefits, that is, what’s most important to them; and conducting interviews about the value experience. Ask the question: is the customer’s perception of value experienced aligned with the firm’s perception of value delivered?

3) Are value adjustments indicated?

The Austrian view of the market as a process helps us think about continuous change. Customers are continuously interacting with other customers, competitors, ideas, new value propositions, environmental conditions, regulations and a plethora of marketplace changes. Consequently, their perceptions of value are in constant flux. It should not be a surprise that entrepreneurs need to make value adjustments. It may be necessary to change perceptions of absolute value (via an adjustment in the value proposition), of relative value (via an adjustment in comparison with alternative propositions), or of exchange value (via adjustment in pricing, bling terms, or discounts / rebates).

4) Communicating adjustments.

It’s easy to overlook a critical component of value adjustments: communication. The Austrian business model advocates frequent in-depth conversations with customers at every level. These conversations, while always two-way of course, can be primarily designed for outbound communication, describing the adjustments made, and why they were made and ensuring the customer understands the responsiveness of the firm; or for inbound data gathering, primarily listening in order to further increase understanding of the customer and their preferences.

Customer communication is a component of perceived value.

5) Ongoing evaluation.

The customer is always evaluating the service provider / vendor and their value proposition, through the lens of experience: did the value experience match the anticipated experience; and, if not, in what ways was it deficient? The service provider / vendor must also undertake continuous evaluation. Did the value adjustments succeed? Are more called for? What are the indicators of change?

Additional Resources

The five steps of “Continuous Value Perception Monitoring” are described and annotated in our free downloadable graphic process map: Mises.org/E4E_97_PDF

For reference, match this monitoring tool with the customer’s “Value Learning Process”: Mises.org/E4E_55_PDF. The two processes are complementary, composing a complete yet never-ending cycle of value.

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Hunter Hastings
Hunter Hastings is a member of the Mises Institute, Business Consultant, and co-chair of the Rescue California Educational Foundation. He is also host of the Economics for Entrepreneurs podcast.
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