I've recently returned from the New York, where I was visiting for a month. During the month, my iPhone was on wi-fi and I rarely used the data roaming. However, I did forget to turn my auto data-roaming off. So when I got slapped with a £560 bill I decided to use this as an example to illustrate value-in-use and how the concept is not as easy as it seems.
When we use the word 'use', we immediately think of physical use like using a car, a stove, a TV. Actually, the word 'use' is much broader. The better word is of course 'consumption' but even then, with consumption, we conjure images of using up something. Not necessary. As I have explained before, a ferrari sitting on your driveway gives you value-in-use even if you are not driving it. This is because you are still consuming the benefit of the ferrari on your driveway - the status and pride it gives you. So when it comes to emotional value, value-in-use is derived from the 'consumption' of the emotional attributes of the good or activity. A piece of art, an antique on your mantel - these give people great pleasure and such pleasures are still value-in-use because every day the piece of antique sits there, you are 'consuming' (or experiencing) it.
It gets a little more complicated and less obvious in certain offerings. In the case of my telco service, my iPhone did not 'use' the data service in New York (whether directly or indirectly through roaming). I was on the house wifi. Yet, one can argue that I did 'use' it, because the mere provision of availability of use by the telco is of value to me. In this case, one must differentiate between the actual use of the data and the use value of the availability of the data.
Let's try another example. I work with the defence industry and one of the most used words in maintenance and service contracts is availability e.g. delivering 85% availability of a missile, or some other equipment. If I were to promise you the availability of a piece of equipment, it doesn't matter if you use it or not - my job is to make sure that all the parts are in good condition and the equipment works.
'Use' would affect the availability of course, so if I 'use' it badly, the parts would fail often and this would make repair more frequent and threaten availability (and therefore the design and delivery of the service - one of my papers on value co-creation in outcome based contracts actually discusses this) but the point I'm trying to make is that as a customer, availability for use is of value, even if i don't actually use it (of course, i have no intention of educating my telco on this - I only asked for my money back since i did not use it :p).
Still not convinced? Think about the servicing and support of a nuclear weapon to achieve value-in-use for the customer. It is the availability-for-use of the weapon that is prized and paid for. We all hope it would never actually be used.
So pop quiz - what's the pricing, design and delivery of 'availability-for-use' as value and how is this different from 'actual-use' value? There are huge pricing implications in this (and for me personally, a £560 question). Think hard about this and you would really be pushing the boundaries of pricing, value, design and delivery....