The experience is the product
There is your product and then there is the experience someone has using your product. It’s easy to see the difference from afar, but to the person using your product they are one in the same. This cannot be understated. Every interaction with your product/service/company matters and becomes part of the product experience.
The original iPod is a canonical example: the iPod experience included everything from picking up the device to finding music with the scroll wheel to syncing with your computer to ripping music off of CDs (the iTunes store came later). All of those interactions taken together made up the total product experience and ultimately what the customer was buying. But even further are the interactions with the company itself. Taking an iPod to the Genius Bar at an Apple store, calling customer service, and interacting with other customers in the forums are all part of that overall experience.
The numbers are startling, too. According to Bain & Company, a customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price- or product-related. Think about that for a second. The human interactions outweigh the actual product interactions! And an Accenture global customer satisfaction report suggests price is not the main reason for customer churn, it is actually due to the overall poor quality of customer service.
There are several layers to this. One is the creation of a service around a product that helps people use and enjoy the product more. Then there are the human support services in which you deal with actual human beings when trying to get help. There are so many ways to interact with a company nowadays that it’s almost as if we’re returning to the days when you actually knew who you were buying from. Companies are learning to be as transparent as possible because that’s all part of the product experience.