A lot of companies point fingers when something goes wrong. So it’s impressive when a company asks, “Even though it’s not our fault, what can we do to make this situation better?”

“Believe It or Not, Someone’s Listening” discusses Travelocity’s devotion to the entirety of the customer experience and gives this example:

After discovering a pattern of dropped reservations at certain hotels, Travelocity hired a company in India to call the hotels ahead of customer stays to make sure they were prepared for the guests. The company says this has reduced the incidence of dropped reservations in two years to less than 1 percent from as high as 20 percent.

Increasingly, said Ms. Peluso, “We are taking accountability for things we otherwise wouldn’t take accountability for.”

In the end, the customer doesn’t care whose fault it is. They just want the problem fixed. And if it’s not fixed, the entire chain of companies involved suffers. So it’s neat when a company takes responsibility for something that’s normally considered out of scope.

Some other examples: Amazon replaced a stolen package even though it had been delivered to the right apartment building days earlier and signed for by a neighbor. Amazon knows a disgruntled customer is a disgruntled customer, regardless of where the fault actually lies.

This attitude can extend to manufacturing too. Threadless knew customers were dissatisfied with the existing options for blank tees, so it decided to start manufacturing its own.

One more example: Most tech hardware companies buy off the shelf stuff, which means things look and feel the same. Apple discovers new materials and production processes so they can build things no one else can build.

Of course, you can’t take responsibility for everything. Sometimes you’re better off letting a customer go than promising the world (e.g. a web app writing off IE5 people).

But, when done thoughtfully, redefining the scope of what you’re accountable for is a great way to 1) differentiate yourself from competitors and 2) take ownership of more of the customer experience.