The Ownership Killer of Customer Experience

By Roy Barnes, Bob Kelleher

Many companies simply don’t see the importance of the ongoing customer experience over time as it relates to their product or service. Too many organizational leaders are myopically focused on one thing and one thing only: the product. How much does it cost to produce it? Is the product meeting our quality standards? On and on it goes.

And while a good — even great — product might be produced, if the customer’s experience of learning about the product, buying it, and setting it up and maintaining it is difficult, it doesn’t really matter. If the ongoing ownership and use of a product or service is nothing but trouble, customers will leave you and never come back.

Customers are fickle, flighty, and downright picky about every aspect of the ownership experience (not just the product) — and rightfully so. Need an example? Consider Toyota. For years, Toyota had a reputation for extraordinary product quality. But the experience of going to a Toyota dealership for service after purchase was abysmal.

Indeed, the ongoing ownership experience was so bad, it led many customers to not buy in the first place. The experience of Toyota’s physical product was entirely disconnected from the reality of ongoing ownership.

All parts of the experience need to be integrated. And together, they must tell a coherent and consistent story of who you are as an organization.

As you try to assess whether your organization faces an ownership experience killer, ask yourself two really tough questions:

  • What is it that is uniquely different about what you are offering?

  • What is your customer’s experience using your products and services?

Your answers to these questions will help you determine whether you are creating an experience disconnect with your policies, procedures, and methods. If you are, you’re not alone — the reality is, most companies are. It’s hard not to when an organization is castled or siloed, acting as a group of independent entities rather than as a cohesive whole.

The current global economic marketplace enables most products and services to be copied with ease and at frightening speeds. In the old days, it was months or even years after a company released some new, innovative product before competitors were able to copy its creations. Now, it happens in a matter of weeks or even days.

How do you stay in business when someone can replicate your product or service in less time than it takes to hatch a colony of sea monkeys? The only long-term sustainable differentiator is to purposefully design and consistently execute an extraordinarily thoughtful customer experience. It’s very difficult to copy authentic care, honest-to-goodness customer service, and engagement. That’s why it’s so powerful.