What Makes Apple So Special?
I know there are a number of people out there that just don't get the whole Apple thing. I understand the lack of interest in paying somewhat higher prices as opposed to saving some money. I'm sure I could just point out the sheer numbers of people that have jumped on the Apple bandwagon and then Apple detractors could come back to me and say that people are just buying into the hype. . . . .I do understand, but I couldn't disagree more!
There are some great hubs out there on Apple and Steve Jobs, but this hub explains just what all the hype is about. By the way. . . I also understand that Apple isn't perfect! After all what company is? Apple has become a lesson in building customer advocacy for everyone in business today!
Design and Function Dictate Engineering
Everyone today pretty much acknowledges that Apple makes great products, but few understand the difference in Apples approach. While i could go on and on about Steve Jobs, I will just briefly state that Apple's design process is different. Steve Jobs and Apple created a corporate culture that designs a product more with the end product in mind than any other company. They understand that the product's essence, design, and function should all be worked on in tandem. Engineering doesn't just design a product and then turn it over to someone to build a box or covering for it. This is the way things have been done for years. Engineering generally drives the end product, and then designers must figure out a way to design a case or a shell that will accommodate whatever the engineer comes up with. This all too often results in mediocre or poor products. Steve Jobs and his company decided what they wanted to see for the user and how they wanted it to work and appear, and then the engineers had to go about finding a way to make it work. This may result in a more expensive product, but it results in a user experience that is second to none!
Apple Has Been A Misunderstood Concept By Many
For years Apple couldn’t get any respect or shelf space from all the retailers out there that sold computers. Even when they did manage to get into a retailer the people in the store didn't give them the attention and respect they deserved, because even those people didn't really understand what Apple was about. It was like Apple was the black sheep of the computer family. The sales people in the stores treated Apple just as though it was just another generic version of any other computer. They went about talking specs, memory etc, but did not understand the many nuances, and innovative features found in an Apple. To the average salesperson, it was about getting their commission, and it was much easier to get a commission if they sold on price alone. Apple understood that it must not only build a great computer, but they needed to elevate and control the store and purchase part of the process as well.
Today that has all changed. It didn't come easily and it didn't come overnight. From the very beginning, Apple was about quality and the user experience and they have carried that philosophy into everything they try to do. While many companies may be in to quality, Apple is entirely about making sure the customer has the best experience possible. This carries over into design, elegance, user friendliness, incorporating leading innovations and customer service. Apple pays attention to every detail. For example, they want you to even enjoy the experience, anticipation and pleasure of opening a product put together in a first class and unique package. (I'm talking about the box and packing materials here.) They spend a lot of time and money making sure from the moment you open your product you have a smile on your face and what you see and feel, you know you have something special!
Satisfaction Is Not Enough For Apple!
Apple is NOT perfect! However, they seem to trying harder than any company has ever tried to please their customers. They are constantly trying to raise the bar in the way their products work and interact with their customers. Does anyone out there really believe that the phone and pad business would be where they are now without Apple pushing the envelope and constantly challenging everyone else to catch up?
Apple has never been satisfied with their product or their service. They understand better than anyone out there that satisfaction is NOT good enough anymore. Satisfaction is the weakest form of customer loyalty. Satisfaction won't keep customers coming back to a business. Customers are still very easy to steal and jump ship when they are only satisfied. If you really want a long term booming business, you have to "create raving fans." If you are a retailer, you need to memorize that statement. Apple lives and practices that philosophy everyday. The difference is that whomever you’re buying your computers and gadgets from today, most likely still does not get it!
Apple just wasn't a company that happened to fall into some great products. They have a philosophy and a way of doing things that works to insure their corporate culture is carried out through everything they do. Hopefully corporate America is wising up.
Apple Applies Their Philosophy To Retailing!
Once they opened their own stores, they again took the same approach with their retail stores in terms of making the customer experience all important! And once again, those skeptics who don’t get Apple, predicted the demise of their stores within about a year or two. These same people who don’t get Apple are now saying the same things about their stores as they did their products i.e.“You’re paying for gimmicks and looks.” In the book on Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, he reminds us of the Business Week article in 2001 which mocked Apple's slogan, "Think Differently". It stated, "Maybe it's time Steve Jobs stopped thinking so differently." The headline of the article read, "Sorry Steve, Here's Why Apple Stores Won't Work."
Meanwhile, Apple quietly continued to work to make the technology-buying experience something that has been among the best consumer retail experiences around in any market. Believe it or not, there’s a lot more to the Apple stores than clean modern interiors, bright lights and premiere retail locations with great glass staircases.
Apple streamlined the purchase process. Have you ever been to many retail stores where the definition of customer service is, “we’ll try to ring you up once your ready to buy and if you just want to look we’ll hover over you like a vulture until we finally get a chance to answer a question and then we’ll read off the sign or information stickers about the product for you as if that is our purpose. Once you really do want help, it may take you 10 minutes or more to get someone’s attention. And then once we take your order, we’ll probably need to call a manager to come over and help the salesperson with the point-of-sale system. Too often, even in larger more substantial purchases, the transaction seems to come along with a clumsy and lengthy sales process that is certainly not designed with the customer in mind. Anyone buy a car, some furniture or a boat lately?
If you don’t buy into the real meaningful differences at Apple you and just think it's about aesthetics at Apple's stores, watch another company go build a store with a supersized glass walls, large heavy wood tables, special sandstone floors from Italy and a great glass staircase and see if their sales become even a reasonable fraction of the $6,000 plus per square foot for the Apple's Stores. No one in retailing is even in the same neighborhood as the sales production per square foot as Apple. As outlined by Walter Isaacson in his book, the average annual revenue per store was $34 million as of July 2011.
Apple wants you to truly experience the product before you buy!
Apple Understands, It's About The Customer's Experience
Consumers don’t care about electronic gadgetry and gimmicks for very long. Gimmicks will only take a company so far. Ask Sony! Customers actually care about what the products can do for them and they care about how they feel when they use them. Consumers were blown away over these past years when they were treated with the Apple experience inside stores and over the phone. Regardless of what you buy, especially when it's a major purchase a lot of it comes down to the experience before, during and after the sale!
Teddy bears have been available everywhere for decades. Why did Build-A-Bear become such a sensation? It truly is the experience and the emotions! People feel good about the way they are treated and what they buy at Apple. Apple makes it fun, they remove the sales pressure and they make products that do what their supposed to do.
A First Hand Experience Of The Apple Treatment
Years ago my mom decided to buy a Mini Mac. She didn't want to pay for DSL service and was satisfied with using a modem and telephone line. I thought we had mentioned this to the salesperson at the Apple store, but I'm not certain. Regardless, when we got back to her house to install her computer, i realized that there was no place to put in the phone cord. I called Apple's customer service number and explained the problem. I thought they had screwed up somewhere in the assembly process and left out the modem. The customer service representative on the other side of the conversation informed me that all of Apples computers had already been converted to DSL only and there were no modems put into their computers any longer. before could say another word, the representative asked me if I could hold for a couple of seconds. After a brief delay the Apple employee told me that they had called the store where we bought it and had explained the problem. The very understanding and empathetic employee told us that if we would take the computer back to the store, we would go to the head of the line and we would need to appointment. Apple would put a modem in the computer while we waited and we would be done in less than 15 minutes. . . no charge! This is just one of the many areas that garners Apple total customer love and advocacy like what I'm exhibiting here.
One More Example of A Company Dedicated to a Great Customer Experience
Another example of Apple's great customer service fan came a couple of years ago when a friend's desktop computer began acting very strange. They took it to the Apple store in St. Louis. It was diagnosed as a bad hard drive and the customer gave their approval for a replacement hard drive. When they came back to pick it up, they were told there would be no charge. They're computer had been out of warranty for over a year and the repair cost was somewhere around $200.00. Apple repaired the hard drive for free because they didn't believe the hard drive should have died so soon.
It is obvious that this is a company that works from principles rather than policies. Policies can often get in the way of doing what's right and many employees and companies hide behind them Principals will rarely get a company into trouble.
Should Apple Hard Core Fans Be Called Apple Cores?
Just what are we talking about when we mention Apple hardcore fans? According to a recent BBC documentary, physcological tests on a number of hardcore Apple customer advocates found brain-wave activity was virtually the same in the Apple customers as it was in religious worshipers. Using an MRI test, neuroscientists found when hardcore Apple fans look at photos of the company's products, the same portions of their brain is stimulated in the same way as a person of faith, when they are shown religious imagery. The BBC documentary reported that Apple fans witnessed emotions more like that of an evangelical prayer meeting than just buying a consumer product." The documentary showed a number of people traveling from the U.S. and other locations around the world to an Apple store opening in London England. They traveled thousands of miles to wait in line for the doors to open. When the store finally opened, these fans would find the same basic products as they could find at any Apple location in any city they may have lived near. In my mind this actually reminds me of those who follow rock groups like The Rolling Stones, U2 and others around the country and the world, to hear the same music over and over again that they could have seen and heard in their own cities.
Apple is a company that totally buys into the principle that if you treat customers well, they will return again and again, and that the cost of an out-of-warranty repair is more than offset by doing so. . . . .Great products help too!
A slow day at an average Apple Store
Excerpts from Apple Store's 10th Anniversary Message
- "We've also learned that our customers like open spaces, glass staircases, and handcrafted oak tables. And that those spaces don't need to smell like pine trees or tomatoes to make them inviting. We're constantly working to make our stores more artful, more iconic, and more innovative. And we're awfully proud of every single one. We're proud of our stores not just because they're successful, but because of everything they've taught us. All the ways Apple Stores have made Apple stronger as a company."
- "Over the past 10 years, we've learned that our stores are the embodiment of the Apple brand for our customers. Now, our customers just happen to be the entire reason we're here, so let's dedicate a few words to them. Around the time we opened the store in Tyson's Corner, in 2001, everyone else was trying to talk to their customers less. Which made us think that maybe we should talk to them more. Face-to-face if possible. So we've found ways to strike up a conversation at every possible opportunity. We talk while they play with the products on the tables. And when they join us for a workshop. These conversations have taught us that customers love our products, but what they really want is to make a scrapbook out of family photos. They want to make a movie about their kid. Or a website about traveling across the country."
- "Which has taught us that Apple Stores can and should be centers for creativity. And we've figured out through programs like Apple Camp and Youth Workshops that creativity doesn't care about age. The movies and slide shows we've seen kids make are proof that all you need are the right tools and an idea. And we must be doing something right, because the kids' smiles are just as big as ours. We've also learned that musicians can record an album in our stores that goes to the top of the charts. And that award-winning film directors are interested not just in our computers but in our workshops."
- "Our millions of conversations with customers of every stripe have taught us it's not about making people feel like a computer or phone loves them. That's impossible. Instead, it's about giving people the tools to do what they love. And we've learned how to create amazing programs like One to One and Personal Setup to give people those tools. We created programs like these to replace fear with confidence. Because our customers have shown us that the ownership experience is even more important than the sale. We learned all this by asking questions. And genuinely listening to the answers. And to be sure we're hearing everything, we've learned to converse in 36 languages, and a few of the local dialects as well. We've even learned a few cultural things. The proper use of the word y'all, for example. And our Japanese customers once taught us that their superheroes don't wear capes. Which also taught us to see feedback as a gift."
- "We've learned that a visit to the "Genius Bar" can fix more than just computers. It can also restore a customer's relationship with Apple. And that we don't need a mini fridge stocked with free water to get people to talk to a "Genius". Knowing they can get exactly the right answer when something isn't working is enough. We even figured out how to shorten the time an in-store repair takes from seven days to one day."
- "Our customers hold us to exceptionally high standards. So we've learned how to raise ours even higher. 325 store openings have taught us that a grand opening creates blocks and blocks of excitement. That people will stand in line for hours, even days, just to be among the first to walk through the front door. And to get a free T-shirt. Speaking of T-shirts, we've learned more than you can imagine about our own. We've found that when we wear black T-shirts, we blend in. And when we wear too many colors it's confusing. But blue shirts are just right. We've also learned that it takes precisely 4,253 stitches to embroider the Apple logo on those blue shirts. And we even figured out which direction the stitches should go in."
- "We now see that it's our job to train our people and then learn from them. And we recruit employees with such different backgrounds–teachers, musicians, artists, engineers–that there's a lot they can teach us. We've learned how to value a magnetic personality just as much as proficiency. How to look for intelligence but give just as much weight to kindness. How to find people who want a career, not a job. And we've found that when we hire the right people, we can lead rather than manage. We can give each person their own piece of the garden to transform."
- "Why have we learned to be so selective? So careful? Because our people are the soul of the Apple Stores. And together, our team is the strongest ever seen in retail. As beautiful and iconic as our stores may be, the people who create and staff those stores are what matters most."