A Matter of Ownership

My wife Susan recently shared a sad customer service experience with me. She and my oldest son Andrew were in the middle of a full-days’ worth of appointments. They realized that in order to have anything to eat before dinner, they would have to pick up something and eat on the run. Spying a fast food chain nearby, they pulled into the driveway. Susan ran into the restroom while Andrew approached the empty counter to place their order.

Well, my wife came out and Andrew was still standing at the counter. No one had taken his order. No one had even acknowledged him standing there. They waited for a few more minutes, watching as employees busied themselves with cleaning, stocking and other chores. Finally, they turned and walked out of the restaurant.

Most organizations say they put the customer at the center of everything they do. But when you experience the service provided by the average business, you see this just isn’t the case. In all honesty, most businesses enact processes and policies designed to maximize their convenience, not the customer’s. Why is there such a disparity between what’s promised and what actually takes place?

Part of the problem is a lack of ownership.

Ownership involves seeing your job and the service you provide from the outside and taking personal responsibility for the satisfaction of your customer. It means putting someone else’s needs and satisfaction before your own. Ownership occurs when you take on someone else’s burden as if it were your own. You quite literally own it.

Ownership is at the heart of customer service. When ownership is present, customers see you as an advocate or a partner. They want to do more business with you. When ownership is missing, customers want to leave and never come back.

Identifying a lack of ownership is easy.

Ever contacted a business with an issue only to be transferred around several times? That’s a lack of ownership.

Ever left a voicemail for a coworker without receiving a return call? That’s a lack of ownership.

Ever left a place of business because no one acknowledged your presence, or asked to help you? Needless to say, that’s a lack of ownership.

Ownership is both an individual trait and part of an organization’s culture. Effective leaders know the value of ownership and cultivate it in their organization. So how do you build a culture of ownership? Start by asking yourself these three questions:

What does ownership look like in my organization, department or job?

What policies and procedures do we have in place that prevent people from taking ownership?

What can I do today to model the concept of ownership to my team?

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