Method: Customer Value Exchange Exploration

NB: The instructions in this page extend the basic Instructions that come in the booklet with the Customer Value Exchange Card Set.


Customers’ wants and needs are a primary consideration for enterprising organisations. This is referred to as Customer Value Proposition. However value isn’t the same for every Customer. It’s also possible – but not desirable – to assume as an organisation, what customers value.

This activity provides a way for exploring different kinds of value for the Customer Perspective to better define a Customer Value Proposition.

This activity is not a total solution for discovery of customer insights, and it can be paired with other customer-centric design methods [1].

For an article on the idea of Value Exchange for Customers.



Card set
To do the Value Exchange Activity, Quello offers a set of Cards. The Cards contain Value Elements – like SAVINGS or PERFORMANCE – from a Customer perspective.

Gold elements are for value OUT – value the customer seeks to create or gain for self/others
Teal elements are for value IN – value the customer has that they provide or invest to get the product or service.

There is a wide range of Value Elements in the card set so you don’t have to think up notions of value – rather you can use your thinking skills to figure out creative ways to best generate such value for your Customers.

The ledger
The ledger is the format for where to place the Cards for a single customer perspective of value IN and OUT.

There is a printed sheet that comes with the cards. When you need a fresh sheet, simply download free A4 version.

The instructions below are for you and your team to do this activity. If you’d like expert assistance, talk to us about a series of custom workshops.


Mindset and practice

♦ Listen to actual customers to discover what’s valuable

Too often people creating products and services, think of themselves as representative of their customers. Be aware: Your customers don’t necessary share the same tastes and preferences for value as you.

You listen – to discover and to understand their perspective. You listen to customers because they are who you serve by creating or generating value.

The Value Elements help you look for patterns at an abstract level, from granular data. With the level of abstract analysis, you can start to see things in new ways; and see connections with things that maybe similar at abstract level but very different at granular level.

For example:
“I always look around to get the best deal.”
“I don’t have a lot of discretionary dollars to spend.”
… are both about SAVINGS.

People don’t often talk literally in terms of value. Sometimes their language gives you strong clues, and sometimes weak clues. Translation is required.

For example:
What they said: “I get really anxious when I think of how we’d cope if we had a fire.”
(Potential) Value Element: PEACE OF MIND

WARNING: As a translator – you seek to translate their perspective, not overlay your own perspective!

Your interpretations of what you hear and see won’t be objective – by default, you’ll filter through what you know and have experienced. There are known cognitive biases to be aware of and to overcome [2] to help you get to a more authentic understanding of your customer(s).

How do you listen?

  • Listen as you observe
  • Listen after the fact
  • Listen in actual direct conversation

Where do you do the listening?

  • While they are being served
  • When they have their say through formal feedback forms, surveys, etc
  • When they use support/after sales service channels
  • When they comment on social media
  • While they are experiencing a prototype during development/design activity


♦ Practice exploring customer value

Before you start with other people who are customers, start with yourself.

Why? It’s an opportunity to practice on real live situation. It’s also a chance to expose your own current Value preferences, so you can separate those from what others might Value.

Here are two activities to do as you prepare as Customer Researcher.

Note: The Customer Value Exchange Card Set contains basic instructions for exploring a single Customer Perspective completing a Value Exchange Ledger.

Practice Activity 1 (Conversation) 
1. Pick a product or service you use frequently and do the Value Exchange Activity on yourself where you are actually a customer.

2. For the same product or service – do the Value Exchange Activity where others in your team use the cards themselves as customers. This will expose you to how others have different value preferences for the same service or product.

3. For the same product or service – do the Value Exchange Activity with a friendly familiar person – maybe a family member.

    1. Ask them to tell you about their experiences and expectations of the same product/service you choose. (Don’t show them the cards or tell them about the cards.)
    2. Record the conversation so you can listen to it later and use the cards to analyse. Be sure to get their permission for recording. Let them know you are doing this as practice activity that it’s not for real.
    3. Listen to the recording with the cards in front of you:
      • What value can you identify as a match for a) value they want OUT from something, and b) value they want to put IN to something?
      • There’s probably lots of things you can find as a match – focus on those that seem most strong. Aim for no more than six for each column of the Ledger.
      • Hint: Listen to what they rave about or delight in. Listen to what they complain about or what pains them. Listen for situations where they might trade-off or sacrifice something to get a greater gain. These are often strong signals about what is valuable to them.

Practice Activity 2 (Observation)
Listen in on conversations in coffee lines, transport queues and other places where people are experiencing a product or service in real-time and context. Practice identifying and translating to Value Elements of what people deem valuable: both as value they get, and value they contribute.


Doing Discovery with Customers

You seek to understand What is Valuable to your customers.

Here are four activity options for discovery, your choice will depend on your situation and what scope you have for the various types of engagement. The activities below assume an existing medium-level skill in observation research, note-taking, analysis and insight generation.

Activity 1: Post-Service
After serving a customer (on the phone, at a counter, in a session), take out the cards and reflect on what you heard and saw. What value can you identify as a match?

You can do this activity by yourself, at any time, without any supervision or permission.

Activity 2: Observation in the Field
Purposefully go to places where real customers are interacting with your organisation’s products and services. Observe and take notes.

Activity 3: Customer Interaction in the Field
Invite customers to speak to you as they interact with your organisation’s products and services out in the real world. Record conversations if possible and take notes.

Activity 4: Customer Interaction in the Lab
Invite customers to share their thoughts at they interact with a prototype product or service in your design lab. Observe and take notes.

For all the activities above:

  • When reflecting on your observations, use the cards and ledger to capture a Value Exchange for each individual customer. Take a photograph of each completed ledger.
  • Keep details of the specific evidence from which you judged/discerned a value element. (Allow others the possibility of translating something different than you.)


Actual vs Desired Customer Perspectives

All the activities above assume you will be collecting a mix of a Current Actual Perspective and Desired Perspective.

There is value in separating these two perspectives so you gain a benchmark (Current Actual Perspective) from which to see the depth and breadth of a gap with the Desired Perspective.

Simply do two separate Value Exchange Ledgers, keeping in mind the difference.


Value Creation

With a good understanding of Customer Value perspectives, you can take the next steps to plan how the organisation will create and measure the value Customers seek. See Method: Value Creation Planning.


At Quello we can help you with all these activities. Talk to us about customised workshops with your team to learn-by-doing.

[1] Design methods that can be supplemented by VX & Value Creation Activity

  • Persona – include Value Elements as part of the Description of each Persona
  • Journey Maps – include information about Value Elements as key stages of the journey; also details about how Value Creation activity occurs at key points in the journey.
  • Value Proposition Canvas – demonstrate how the Value Elements connect to the Gains, Pains and Job-to-be-done of a Customer.

[2] Cognitive biases – a selection

  • Anchoring – the first bit of information you hear dominants your understanding and becomes an anchor for understanding and interpreting what you hear after this
  • Confirmation – you are drawn to and only consider information that confirms your existing perceptions
  • Endowment – you value something that you own more highly than what others own
  • Empathy Gap – you misread other people’s behaviours based on how you are currently feeling
  • Observer-Expectancy Effect – you unduly influence someone’s behaviour simply by observing them when they know they are being observed
  • Ostrich Effect – you avoid negative information
  • Survivorship Bias – you misjudge groups of people by only looking at a select few of the group

For a more comprehensive list of biases


Creative Commons License

This work by Quello is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License so it can be freely shared with attribution to the creator (Quello); it cannot be used for commercial purposes; and it cannot be modified.