The value triangle – managing customers’ expectations

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The value triangle – managing customers’ expectations

As a business owner dealing with clients on a daily basis, I am always faced with the challenge of meeting and managing clients’ expectations. In my experience, the core client expectations fall into three main categories: Quality, Speed and Cost.

The main objections I come up against seem to be based around cost with typical responses including: “We don’t have the budget for ‘that’”, and “we want ‘that’ but we can only afford to pay £x”.

Then there is the time/speed challenge; “Yes and we want ‘that’ by next week!”

Finally, there is the quality angle – “Can you build me a website like the Apple one? I need it to do ‘this’ ‘this’ ‘this’ and ‘this.’’

Unrealistic Expectations

When you combine these requirements together the brief ends up typically something like this: “I would like a website similar to Apple’s website by next week but I don’t have a huge budget.” Translating that and putting it another way, the customer is saying – I want a lot of value in a very short space of time for extremely low cost. As we all know this is not a realistic brief – something has to give – you cannot have your cake and eat it.

This dilemma is exactly where the ‘Value Triangle’ comes into play. It is an extremely simple yet powerful model to explain the relationship between value, cost and time. I must thank Mike McQuire for introducing me to this model. Used in the right situation it is a very powerful way of helping the customer to clarify their requirements.

Click on the triangle below and rotate.


Managing Expectations with the Value Triangle

It works on the basis of prioritisation. A triangle always has one point above the rest. As you tilt the value triangle you have an order of priority and as you continue to turn the value triangle the priorities change. The principle is that you can never have all three as the top priority so, the lowest priority is the one that gives and therefore the focus is only on the top two elements. (See animated image.)

So, if quality is your priority and budget is second, then time will have to give – so in essence, you receive something of high value at a reasonable cost however it will take a longer time to achieve the results.

If budget is your main priority and you want something quickly then it is the quality that may be compromised. The ideal relationship is when we have quality and speed as the priorities, then it is the cost element that becomes the lowest priority. So, if you want high-value high-quality quickly then you must be prepared to pay a premium to achieve these priorities.

The secret to success is finding the right balance and making sure that all parties understand the priorities and the relationship between all three. The Value Triangle is a very powerful way to initiate this discussion.

This model can also be used to position your business – use it to decide how you want to be perceived. Do you lead on quality, speed or price?

Use the value triangle wherever you can as, in my experience, it really helps all parties to establish and clarify where the priorities are.


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