April 2, 2012
By: Connie Blaszczyk, Managing Editor, Resource Center
In his latest book, The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty, author and communications coach Carmine Gallo uncovers the secrets behind Apple’s customer service and its extraordinary retail success.
We spoke with him about the role of great customer service in creating the Apple experience.
Monster: Apple customers are notoriously loyal. How did Apple’s approach to customer service that you discuss in your new book help to cultivate that deep customer loyalty?
Gallo: The Apple Store’s ‘secret sauce’ can be found in the two words on the front of a wallet-sized credo card all employees are encouraged to carry: Enriching Lives.
When you start with the vision of ‘enriching lives,’ interesting and magical things begin to happen.
For example, Apple has a non-commissioned sales floor so employees don’t feel pressured to make a sale.
The Apple Store offers personalized, custom workshops to educate its customers. The store has play areas where children can see, touch and play with computers.
These are just a few examples of how the Apple Store is more than a ‘store.’ But it starts by asking the right question, “How do we enrich lives?”
Monster: Can a great customer experience help transform good products into great products?
Gallo: You used the magic words -- good products. I don’t believe that a great experience can improve poor products.
But if you offer “good products,” then an extraordinary customer experience will help your business stand out from the competition and build incredibly loyal customers -- real advocates for your company brand.
Monster: Has the Apple approach to customer service changed significantly over time? If so, what had the biggest impact in its evolution?
Gallo: The Apple Store is always seeking to improve the experience because “feedback” is a critical component of the brand. I’ve talked to Apple Store salespeople (specialists) who say they get feedback every day from their managers even though they have been on the job for months.
The feedback is always empowering and positive and it’s always aimed at helping salespeople understand the conversation they just had with a customer and how to improve the conversation next time.
The Apple Store also seeks feedback from its customers. It sends a survey after a purchase and asks the ultimate question -- on a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend Apple products to a friend? Anything less than 8, 9 or 10 is considered room for improvement.
Monster: Innovative products demand innovative marketing. When both come together it’s a match made in heaven. How did Apple find that groove over and over again?
Gallo: Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief designer, once said that human beings crave simplicity. In Apple’s world, simplicity is the elimination of clutter.
If you can create a product so simple that a 2-year-old can use it instantly (like the iPad), then you know you’re on to something.
Steve Jobs was committed to building products that were elegant, simple, and easy to use. I believe this philosophy should extend to everything a business does -- Are the products easy to use? Is the business web site simple to navigate? Is the communication easy to understand? Eliminate the clutter to create a better customer experience.
Monster: How did Steve Jobs’ communication style shape Apple’s unique approach to customer service?
Gallo: Steve Jobs didn’t talk “speeds and feeds” like they say in the computer industry. He talked benefits instead.
Apple Retail employees are taught to talk benefits, not features. If a customer is interested in an iPhone, an employee will not go into the technical specs of the A5 dual-core processor. Instead they will focus on what the chip means: better video, higher quality photos, faster web browsing, and Siri, the personal assistant.
Monster: The Apple Experience is your third book to disseminate Apple’s unique approach to business. How do you see Steve Job’s legacy informing the company’s customer service strategy going forward?
Gallo: There would be no “experience” without Steve Jobs. When he opened the first Apple Retail Store in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia in May 2001, Jobs said that people didn’t want to buy computers. Instead they wanted to know what they could do with computers.
Jobs was committed to building an extraordinary experience and he brought in another executive who shared his vision -- Ron Johnson (now CEO of J.C. Penney).
Together they built a store that is more than a store to people. They built a store where people would be willing to pay a premium for the experience.