In the next addition of our series of Zen Master webinars, we’ll hear from author and communication skills coach Carmine Gallo about how Apple became the most profitable retailer on the planet. His recent book, The Apple Experience, discusses how businesses can reinvent themselves and offer the kind of customer service Apple is known for. To gear up for Carmine’s webinar, we had a quick chat about what everyone can learn from Apple’s approach to customer service:
What is the most important thing you learned while researching the Apple Retail Store?
The “soul” of the Apple Retail Store is its people: how they’re hired, trained, motivated, and taught to communicate with customers. A lot of people make the mistake of believing that the success of the Apple Store is only due to its products, but its products can be purchased in other places, often for a discount.
Apple employees are taught to take customers through “five steps of service” that build loyalty. The five steps are outlined in the acronym A-P-P-L-E:
Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome
Probe politely to understand customers’ needs
Present a solution the customer can take home today
Listen for and resolve issues or concerns
End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return
Can non-retailers learn from Apple’s success?
Since The Apple Experience was first published a few months ago, I’ve heard from people in many, many industries who are adopting the principles—insurance, medical care, law, small business, services, etc. The Apple Experience has very little to do with retail and everything to do with how customers feel when they do business with you. The Apple Experience has three parts. The first part is all about hiring the right people and empowering them to offer exceptional customer service. The second part is all about communication—how you communicate the benefits behind your product or service. The third part reveals design principles that apply to any business.
In your book, you write about some fun things (a marriage proposal to name one) that happen in Apple stores. What is one of the crazier things you’ve heard of and why is it so important for Apple to embrace this kind of behavior?
Comedian Mark Malkoff tried to see what he could get away with it in an Apple Store. He did things like bring a goat into the store, order pizza, and even had a romantic date with his wife, complete with a small group of musicians. The funniest part of his video is watching the Apple employees almost completely disregarding him. They just go about their business. People like to express themselves in Apple Stores because the environment makes them feel good. Employees are also hired for diversity as well as fun, outgoing personalities. It’s all meant to leave people with a smile on their face.
What are some of the lessons online retailers can learn from the Apple Retail Store?
Reduce the clutter. You can learn a lot about design principles from an Apple Store. The stores are designed to appeal to the buying brain. They are open, clean, uncluttered. The same philosophy applies to the Apple website. It’s remarkably free from clutter. Instead of adding information, Apple subtracts. There is power in simplicity.
Having spent so much time researching and writing about quality customer service, what are some of the most common/biggest mistakes you are seeing retailers make?
It’s all comes down to vision. Steve Jobs and the Apple Store started with a completely different vision. Instead of “selling stuff,” as most businesses do, the Apple Store “enriches lives.” When you begin with the vision of “enriching lives,” magical things happen. For example, you hire people for personality instead of proficiency. You create innovative programs like One to One to help people unleash their creativity. You build display areas where people can see, play, and touch with the products. All of these innovations in the Apple Store were the direct result of re-examining the customer experience and deciding to enrich people’s lives.