Sunday, March 16, 2008

What is Value, anyway?

One of my fellow engineers recently shared this story and gave me permission to share with you. It speaks for itself.

I had an experience this weekend which really made the idea of customer-specified value clear to me. I thought I'd share it with you.

As some of you know, I recently discovered that the diamond in my engagement ring had a chip in it. So, my husband and I took it back to the point of purchase last week Sunday and we were informed that the stone would be replaced free of charge, no problem. Great! I couldn't wait to pick the ring up a week later (yesterday) and get on with it. I do, after all, wear it every day and well, I sort of missed it.

So I go in yesterday to pick it up and I'm told to go back to the service area to retrieve the ring. I do this and the lady behind the counter very cordially greets me and goes off to retrieve my ring. She returns and hands me my ring and I excitedly replace it on my finger. And then I notice that my ring looks nothing like it did before. The diamond used to sit up much higher and frankly looked a lot bigger. This ring that I now have on my finger looks much smaller and a lot less attractive. It looks like someone took a hammer to it and squashed it down.

So, I told the woman this and she looked confused but then called the person who actually did the work. And he told me that "this setting is a lot more durable and less likely to wear". He added "You're going to like this a lot better."

For the record, I don't like it better. I hate it. It looks nothing like my ring and I have the wedding pictures to prove it :)

And the light went on. He incorrectly specified value rather than asking his customer to define it. The value of the ring, to me, is the aesthetic look of it. It is NOT its durability. When women talk about our diamonds we do not discuss their durability. We do not discuss how likely the ring is to wear and whether or not the ring will hold up during our next home improvement project. We talk about how sparkly they are and how large they are and how pretty they are. And since we are by and large the customers (directly or indirectly) of these rings, should they not be designed with our desires in mind?

So now I enter phase 2 of my ring saga where I must decide whether to trust the store with a further modification of my ring or whether I take it to a jeweler in my home town who can do absolutely anything and will, I know, actually listen to me!

Who decides “value”? The customer. Who delivers value? We do. How does this define waste? In terms of what the customer things value is.

Worth remembering.


Frank said...

Ran into a similar situation with my last visit to my Hong Kong tailor. Decided to invest in what I've been calling "my last Navy blazer", and asked the tailor to base the initial cut on my last jacket, plus some new measurements.

Went in for the first fitting, and "huh?" How come the jacket feels short? "But sir, that's the current style, shorter jackets." That school boy might look OK on some little skinny 20-something, but not on my 6'2, 235 pound body. (Plus, I wanted something to last 20-30 years, worn a few times a year, not something in the current "style" that'll look dated in 5.)

Fortunately, they listened to me and made it suitably long, eventually satisfying my parameters of values.

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