[Synopsis: How does Apple maintain its status as an industry titan? And how can we copy them?]
We all know the legendary success story of Apple. Many of us know firsthand the unique appeal of their products. Fewer, however, are in tune with the idea that their business model revolves around not their products, per se, but the experience of using those products. It’s an experience shared by their customers and their employees.
Apple’s strategy for success is grounded in concepts that make sense and are easy to visualize. But taking their approach and putting it to work for ourselves? Come on. They put cutting-edge technology in people’s hands. We take furniture and boxes off of people’s hands. Apple’s products are sleek, even sexy. Our services? Not exactly sleek.
But for all the differences between us and them, it still all boils down to the experience of doing business. In fact, a glance at CustomerThink’s rundown of Apple’s four points for success tells us that yeah, we can apply their principles to our own game plan.
Like we said, Apple doesn’t just offer customer service. They deliver customer experience. And moving is always an experience. So the trick is making it a great one; Here are Apple’s ideas for how to make it great.
1. “Build Your Vision and Values Around the Customer”
What the customer wants is what we want…get everything loaded up, transported and unloaded in a short amount of time without breaking anything.
“Everything cascades from the principle of customer success,” we are told. For Apple, this means making products that help their customers achieve success in whatever area they choose. Translated for us, the idea is to make them feel like their actions make them feel successful. Is the customer worried about that antique curio? We’ll show them how we’ll wrap it up to keep it intact throughout their move. Customer obsessed with color-coding their boxes? Then so are we.
Echoing Apple’s sentiment, Campaign Monitor Nate Skinner maintains, “If our customers kick ass, we will too.” Put in slightly more erudite words, he says his goal is to be an advocate for each customer so they feel like they’re succeeding.
Every job is different. So it hardly makes sense to say “this is what we do” – unless what we do is what the customer needs us to do, every day, in whatever way they require to see their move become a success on their terms. Moving is often a big deal for them.
2. “Create Support Careers — Not Just Jobs”
“Hire smart people who wake up every day wanting to help others,” goes the advice. People who are a positive force around the customer will influence and elevate the morale of other employees too. This is why Apple hires for attitude as much as aptitude.
This sounds simple enough, but in this business, even the most positive of people can get burned out – especially over the course of an intense and laborious summer season. And when pep talks and doughnuts aren’t enough to keep everyone in high gear, where do we turn?
“Reinforce the value of customer support by creating a career track for people.”
In other words, while great customer service can be its own reward, feeling good don’t pay the rent. Ideally, we want to cultivate an industry filled with moving professionals, not people doing side-jobs for money. In the long run, the tangible benefit of moving up in the company not only can create loyalty among your own people, but it also helps keep customer satisfaction at a high-level.
3. “Invest Time in Great Service”
Pop Quiz: When a customer asks you about coverage and valuation do you (a) hand them a pamphlet or (b) take a few minutes to explain to them the points that they would like to understand?
If your answer was (a), we need to talk.
Seriously, this may be an oversimplified example but in any situation, Apple believes that “taking the time to thoroughly resolve every issue will boost customer satisfaction, improve retention and avoid future complications.” Customers want to know that we care about giving them the info they need.
To this point, we are told that “…if (Apple’s employees) can’t answer your question, they’ll help you find someone who can.” This advice is golden. Impress on your employees that it’s okay if they are not sure how to answer a customer’s question, but it is not okay to fake an answer; This can create bigger problems down the road. Even if there’s no logistical (or legal, yikes!) fallout, a pattern of providing inaccurate information can result in lower customer satisfaction.
Training people well includes letting them defer to the crew leader or the office when they are unsure of something. Get the customer the right answer, then make sure the employee knows the answer for the next customer who asks.
4. “Be More than a Service Desk, Be Their Resource”
Building on #3 above, we can and should do more than simply answer questions when customers come, even if we do a great job with that. What we want to be is the source of information for our customer base.
“Consider how you can make your customers’ lives easier…not just how you can answer their immediate questions.” Some customers – maybe many (most?) don’t know what they don’t know…like whether they need certification from their vet when moving pets across state lines, or how draping their carpets and area rugs in the sun for a day can eliminate tiny pests that they might otherwise be transporting to their new home. Why would they think to ask you that? They wouldn’t. Tell them.
By applying these principles to your company, we become more than just the movers they hired; We become the experts that make their moving experience a great one.