What it is: “The Apple Experience” is a book that explains why Apple’s customer service consistently ranks near the top of customer satisfaction and how Apple manages to keep their customer support at such a high consistent level.
There’s nothing more frustrating than paying for something and being ignored, frustrated, or outright cheated. What most companies do wrong is that they focus on profits and anything that doesn’t directly bring in profits, they cut, which includes customer service. At one time, Gateway Computers reportedly cut back on their technical support by limiting the amount of time each technician could spend on the phone with each person. That way one technician could theoretically help more customers.
What Gateway Computers didn’t realize was that by forcing technicians to cut customers off too quickly, it created a frustrating experience. When customers are upset with a company, the last thing they want to do is buy something else and give more money to that same company. So cutting back expenses for customer service initially saves money, but in the long run it destroys future profits every time, which is something corporate executives neglect so many times you’d think they’d eventually learn. (They don’t.)
What Apple does is focus on changing people’s lives, not just through selling products, but through interacting with customers to make them feel valued. While other companies save money outsourcing their technical support to overseas call centers that attempt to turn computer novices into their own technicians over the phone, Apple doesn’t put the burden on the customer. Instead, Apple offers the Genius Bar where you can walk in, get help, speak to someone face to face, and get your problem solved as quickly as possible without trying to follow convoluted technical instructions over the phone.
Would you tune up your own car by listening to instructions from a car mechanic over the phone? How about doing your own dentistry by listening to a dentist tell you what to do over the phone? If that sounds ridiculous, now consider the stupidity of making computer novices try to troubleshoot their own computers by following instructions over the phone from someone who can’t even see what the problem is. Not surprisingly, dealing with technical support through outsourced call centers dramatically decreases customer satisfaction with the company as a whole.
Apple realizes that so they focus on making each customer happy, knowing that happy customers may not buy an Apple product right away, but will likely buy one in the future and will likely tell others of their great experience with Apple. That translates into free advertising from happy, satisfied customers, which reduces the need to spend more money on advertising.
Great customer service simply increases the chance that current customers become lifelong customers. Yet companies are willing to spend billions on advertising to bring in customers, but won’t spend money on customer service because they think it doesn’t bring in customers. The truth is that it’s easier to sell to a current customer than it is to bring in a new customer. That’s why companies really should allocate more money on customer service and less money on advertising, since better customer service is proven to be more profitable in the long run.
What makes Apple’s customer service better is choosing the right people. Most companies hire employees based on what they know. Apple hires employees based on how friendly they are. It’s easy to teach someone how a Macintosh works or how to use an iPad. It’s far more difficult to teach someone how to be friendly to others and be willing to help them walk out of the Apple Store with a smile on their face.
It’s not what you know that matters. It’s how well you get along with people because dealing with people is what customer service is all about.
Apple gets it. Other companies don’t. That’s why Apple has such a loyal following and other companies don’t. Customer service may seem unimportant, but it’s actually critical to long-term success. Make people happy and they’ll likely turn around and make you happy. Make people angry and they’ll likely turn around and make you angry by not only leaving, but bad mouthing you to their friends. That type of negative publicity hurts any company, yet few companies ever think that improving customer service would return far more profits in the long run than spending money on more advertising. Attracting new customers all the time is pointless if poor customer service keeps driving them away.
If you want to learn how Apple creates a cult-like following, or if you want to turn your company into a place that inspires employees and customers alike, then you want to read “The Apple Experience” to learn the secrets that Apple uses that other companies don’t, even though it’s not really a secret.