Apple Retail Stores: the ultimate in customer service experience
In his book, The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty, Carmine Gallo states that "The Apple Retail Store is the most profitable store on the planet." He also reveals that the average Apple Retail Store generates $5,600 per square foot and attracts more than 20,000 customers a week.
The ability to satisfy customers is a product of Apple's core beliefs that run through the organization from the top management to the sales staff at the Apple Store. The credo is that "we are at our best when we deliver enriching experiences" and this reflects in the way the stores are run. The ability to deliver these enriching experiences stems from a set of organizational practices over time.
They are as follows:
- Willingness to Learn from Others
When seeking to improve the customer experience with Apple, Steve Jobs set out to find out who offered the best customer service in the world. He started this search with a colleague, Ron Johnson, and it led them to a hotel: The Four Seasons. Innovations from this hotel are so common now that we take them for granted. Innovations such as small shampoo bottles in the bathrooms, and so on.
From this, Steve initiated the Apple approach of helping the customer solve his or her problems instead of getting them to buy a product. Apple Store staff are trained to focus on caring for the customer more than anything else. Steve Jobs learnt from a company that was in an entirely different sector than his own, an hotel. I assume that the reason you are reading this article is because you, too, want to improve your business practices and are looking to gain more knowledge on how to do so. You are on the right path.
- Focusing on the Little Things
At Apple, there is the understanding they have of how much little, ignorable things count in business. Things such as a smile, an offer to help, and a compliment can go a long way in making someone happy and turning their day around. Brittany, an Apple customer remarks, "Every time I come into the Apple Store they tell me I have beautiful eyes. That's customer service right there." Quoting Carmine Gallo's The Apple Experience
Haven't you ever walked into a store to buy something and there you find the store attendant with a long-face, refusing to smile and being irritable? I know I have, countless times. And such stores I would prefer to avoid. On the other hand, I have also been to stores where the store attendant was so nice to me that I would buy some things I didn't even plan to buy and this ensured my repeat visit to the store. In fact, friendship often develops from this. That's how important it is to focus on things that may seem so little, but have great effect.
- People over Profits
This is two-pronged. At Apple, much value is placed on the employee (the internal customer), and the external customer. It is no news that Apple is the most valuable company in the world with a valuation of over $700 billion, the first company in US history to top that valuation. But even with this value, Apple still remains one of the most customer-oriented businesses in the world. It is not difficult to find businesses that begin to offend and step on their customers' toes as they grow bigger, forgetting that they are what they are because of these customers.
The staff at the Apple Retail Stores are empowered and taught to believe that they are changing the world. They are taught to smile, handle pressure and are highly trained in the art of communication. They are also taught to confidently express their ideas and deliver transformational customer services. As a matter of fact, they are also hired based on their ability to go toe-to-toe with the late Steve Jobs in communicating ideas.
For the external customers, the approach to serving them is personalized. At the Apple Retail Store, customer services are not generalized. Each customer is seen and treated as a unique person. Upon getting into the store, the customer will be greeted by a friendly face, and met with eye contact. Also, the staff politely ask questions so they can understand the customer's needs and provide adequate solutions. The aim of the specialists (the staff who talk to the customers about the products) is to always give the customers solutions they can take home today. As the customer departs, whether or not they purchased something, they are greeted with a warm farewell.
Question: Does such a thing happen in your workplace? If no, then you have to get to it.
- They set the stage for the customer experience
The arrangement and design of an Apple Retail Store is simple and neat. This follows Steve Jobs' principle for them to "Get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff." The point is, if certain spaces could be useful in the store and there are unnecessary things occupying that space, get rid of such things. Let there be enough room for your customers to move around, without having things blocking there path. This ultimately lead to more interaction, safe to say Apple Stores usually have the feel of an after work happy hours.
Also, it is important that you focus on aesthetics. Make your store as beautiful as possible. The truth is, you don't have to decorate the place as that will only clutter your store all the more. Take out unnecessary objects, paint your store nicely, buy cool furniture and keep your floor shiny (if possible). Always remember these sayings: "less is more", and "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."