Posted on August 17, 2008 by Dennis Snow
As more products and services become commoditized, one of the remaining ways to differentiate your organization from the competition is to focus on the overall customer experience. Your product offering might be excellent, but so is the product offering of your competitor down the street.
I encourage organizations to expand their idea of the product to include the entire customer experience. When you consider everything a customer goes through in order to purchase and use your product, it's apparent that a lot of factors impact the experience - and that impact can be either positive or negative.
Consider the "product" of purchasing a meal at a fast food restaurant. Certainly the food itself has to be of high quality in order for the customer to ever want to return. But, let's look at some of the other processes that surround the meal:
And this is just a partial list of the surrounding elements; the list could go on.
In the majority of cases, the physical product (the meal in this example) is of a quality that meets the customer's expectation. And companies spend a lot of time, effort, and money to get the product right. It's the surrounding elements, however, that often cause customer frustration. So, the meal may be great, but if the wait is long, the restrooms are dirty, and the condiment station isn't stocked, the customer certainly won't think of it as a great experience. He got the product he came for, but he didn't get the experience that would generate loyalty.
I find this to be an enlightening activity to do with a workgroup. In the center of a flipchart page or white board, write down the end product or service you provide. Then ask the group to brainstorm all of the processes that surround the end product and write those in as participants call out their examples. Then make a big production of drawing a circle around the whole thing and make the point that "this is what the customer is really buying from us - it's the entire experience." You can now have a lively dialogue about how the organization is doing with all of the surrounding factors and what can be done to improve where improvement is needed.
This simple activity gets the team to move beyond defining the product too narrowly. It gets everyone thinking about the customer's experience in dealing with the organization and how well designed and delivered that experience is.
Expand the product to include the entire experience.