Creating customer value through social interaction

Doing business is a social activity. That’s why I’ve always been troubled by tips for business success that fall into one of two camps.

The first camp gives us advice on how to do things better such as analytical tools or ways to do things more logically. 

The second camp gives us insights into the workings of the mind wherebye the deeper you delve the more you understand what makes people tick. The latest fad in this area is the passion for neuro-science. 

The problem with both these approaches for me is that what happens between people is overlooked or simply wished away as ‘a problem of communication’.

Just recently I’ve dipped back into Gregory Bateson’s book Mind and Nature in which he sets out the way in which we learn about the world about us. 

This quote on the importance of the interpersonal caught my attention.

“Relationship is not internal to the single person. It is nonsense to talk about “dependency” or “aggressiveness” or “pride,” and so on. All such words have their roots in what happens between persons, not in some something-or-other inside a person.”

Bateson observes that we get a ‘bonus’ of understanding when we have more than one perspective. The biological example is binocular vision. Two eyes don’t just simply double up on sight they add the bonus of giving depth to vision.

Therefore if you want to understand how sales interactions work there is a bonus in understanding the interaction between two entities rather than just focussing on the traits of the buyer or the seller or aspects of the process. 

Bateson’s insight also implies that a better understanding of value creation will come from the combined insights of process, personal and interpersonal such that a ‘meta-understanding’ is gained.

This moves beyond mere problem solving to understanding how things happen in successful supplier-customer interactions.

It is with this in mind that my recent research noticed three things occuring in the interpersonal sphere that are not addressed elsewhere.

These are:

The capability to read social contexts 

The capability to grasp relevence 

The capability to construct possible realities through imagination

Each of these plays a crucial part in creating customer value. Each occurs in the interpersonal domain. None are things or exclusively individual traits.

These ideas also resonate with the notion of value in use from Service Dominant Logic such that value is always an interaction rather than an exchange.

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