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What is the right service? What do my customers value? How can I differentiate from the competition? Even when I know the needs of my customers, how do I consolidate them?

Every startup, Mittelstand or corporate has this question. It‘s necessary to know your customer profile. It‘s necessary to talk to them regularly. But it is also necessary to consolidate these insights in an actionable format. One way to do it is the attribute map.

What is an attribute map?

An attribute map is a two-dimensional diagram. It illustrates two insights from a customer‘s perspective: What do I value most (attributes)? How do companies perform along these attributes (evaluation)?

The attributes are the ranked preferences of the customers. Customers that share both the same attributes and the same ranking form an operational segment – a group of people that want to be served in the same way.

The evaluation reveals what the customers think how well your company and competitors perform in these attributes.

A jummy example

See an example of an attribute map of restaurants I just made up to illustrate the idea. The three preferences are expectation (Do I get the same experience in every branch?), health (How healthy is the food?), taste (How tasty is the food?) and distance (How far away is the next branch?). I ranked Vapiano, McDonald’s and the local Italian restaurant based on my own judgments. There are probably more local Italian restaurants than McDonald’s branches so, it performs best in distance, it might be quite tasty and has a lot of healthy options, but every restaurant delivers its own experience. McDonald’s delivers a constant experience, has high availability but low health and taste. Vapiano is not so available, delivers good food and a constant experience – well suited for my customer preferences.

Attribute Map Example

What do I do with an attribute map?

The attribute map is here to help you with a couple of challenges
  1. Get your team on the same page: Let your team create an attribute map based on their view of the customer. It will help to reveal different perspectives among colleagues, discuss and maybe resolve them.
  2. Get your team to align with the customer: Let your team create an attribute map based on their view and compare it to an attribute map based on the actual customer’s view. Most likely there will be differences that ultimately align the team more with the customer‘s preferences.
  3. Channel customer insight: the attribute map can work as one permanent place where to integrate the results of customer interviews, surveys and feedbacks.
  4. Decide what you want to be good at: Ideally you focus your resources on the attributes, your customers value most.
  5. Decide what you want to be bad at: You can’t be good at anything. Be bad at the stuff, your clients don’t value that much.
  6. Serve different customers differently: If there are various segments within the customer base that reveal different attribute rankings, they should be served with different services. Maybe you even decide to let go of groups that do not fit to your strategy.

Where do I get the data from to create an attribute map?

The customers provide you with the data you need for your attribute map. First, get out of the building and talk to them. At the beginning you look for unknown unknowns, so don‘t try to script your interview too much. Use open ended questions. Ask people how their current process is, what existing instruments they use to solve the problem and what they value/hate most about it. After you gained confidence in the right questions and the most common answers, you can validate this by the help of a quantitative survey. But don‘t abandon qualitative interviews completely – they serve as constant sensor of your team.

Where can I get more information about it. Attribute maps are excellently described in the Book Uncommon service by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss. Initially I was pointed to it from the book Scaling Up, that suggests using attribute maps to get your value proposition right.

I‘m about to implement attribute maps. If you‘re interested in my lessons learned, reach out. How do you decide where to focus on?