The Apple Store: Informed, Empowered, and Motivated to Deliver an Unbeatable Customer Experience

The most important component to the Apple experience is that the staff isn’t focused on selling stuff. It’s focused on building relationships and trying to make people’s lives better.

– Ron Johnson (Apple’s former head of retail)

When the Apple Store celebrated its 10 year anniversary in May 2011, the media attention was on the growth: one billion visitors, 325 stores, $10 billion in sales, and so on. The numbers were and continue to be astonishing: $6 billion in quarterly revenue, $4,700 in sales per square foot, and 22,000 weekly visitors in a typical store. But numbers alone won’t teach you anything. It’s the story behind the numbers where you’ll learn how to turn your business into an experience so thrilling that your customers will become true advocates for your brand.

Today is the sixth session of Summer Term II of the 2013 GsD program with Applied Guestology 201, a review of some of the leading organizations who deliver exemplary Guest Experiences with application to ChurchWorld.

The Apple Experience, by Carmine Gallo, tells the story of Apple’s retail stores. Gallo, a communications coach, speaker, and journalist, is no stranger to Apple. He has written two other books about Apple’s founder and late CEO Steve Jobs: The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs. The Apple Experience rounds out the trilogy and will help readers understand what it means to deliver an Apple-like experience in any organization that deals with people.

Apple Genius Bar

The core of Apple’s success and intense customer loyalty isn’t just insanely great products but great people who are informed, empowered, and motivated to deliver an unbeatable customer experience. In The Apple Experience, Gallo breaks down Apple’s customer-centric model to provide an action plan with three distinct areas of focus:

1. Inspire Your Inner Customer with training, support, and communications that create a feedback loop” for improving performance at every level

Apple touches the lives of its customers only after touching its employees.

If your team members are not trained, personable, and passionate about the brand, you’ll have no chance of building an organization that delivers an Apple quality experience. Unfortunately, many organizations rank low on the customer satisfaction index because their teams are discouraged, disillusioned, and uninspired.

Apple intentionally has a “first focus” on its team members by taking these actions:

  • Dream Bigger – an innovative customer experience cannot happen in the absence of a loftier goal, an inspiring vision that attracts evangelists and reveals every ounce of your creativity and potential
  • Hire for Smiles – Apple hires for attitude and not aptitude
  • Cultivate Fearless Employees – team members believe in something and they are willing to “fight” for it
  • Build Trust – integrity and trust are a basic threshold requirement to be a part of the team
  • Foster a Feedback Loop – employees feel comfortable and empowered to make comments and suggestions
  • Develop Multitaskers – true multitasking is accommodating three customers and making them all feel special
  • Empower Your Employees – give your team more autonomy, authority, and flexibility when it comes to serving the customer

2. Serve Your External Customer with irresistible brand stores and dedicated salespeople who embody the APPLE five steps of service – Approach, Prove, Present, Listen, End with a fond farewell

People don’t just want to buy personal computers anymore. They want to know what they can do with them, and we’re going to show people exactly that.

– Steve Jobs

The first secret to offering insanely great customer service is to make sure your team is happy, motivated, and passionate. But passion and energy take you only so far. Step Two is to master the skills required to make your customers feel special.

Follow Apple’s Five Steps of Service

Walk into an Apple Retail Store, and you’ll be greeted with warm, friendly, cheery welcome within seconds of stepping inside. It’s the first of five steps employees are instructed to take to create an enriching and memorable experience for all Apple Store customers. The steps are known to employees by the acronym APPLE:

  • Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome
  • Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs
  • Present a solution for the customer to take home today
  • Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns
  • End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return

Apple, like other customer service champs (Disney, Ritz-Carlton, Starbucks, Nordstrom’s, and Zappos) are successful because they make customer feel special. They approach with a warm welcome, they ask questions, they listen, they enhance the conversation, and they give you a feeling of empowerment. If you can make your customers feel appreciated, confident, and admired, they’ll reward you with their loyalty.

3. Set the Stage by ensuring that no element is overlooked in creating an immersive retail environment where customers can see, touch, and learn about your products

Get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.

– Steve Jobs

But even if you have the people and the communication right, poor packaging will actually detract from the experience you worked so hard to achieve. “Poor packaging” in this case can refer to your digital presence (or lack thereof), your branding efforts, and your physical spaces. Here’s how Apple fights against “poor packaging”:

  • Eliminate the clutter – According to Apple designer Jonathan Ive, “We are absolutely consumed by trying to develop a solution that is very simple because as physical beings we understand clarity.” Though he was speaking about product design, this philosophy extends to the design of the Apple Store experience as well. In Apple’s world, anything that detracts from the user’s experience is eliminated.

Apple cares about things other organizations don’t. It cares about elegance, space, and simplicity. It cares about smudges. Most people don’t care about this as much as Apple, and that’s the difference.

  • Pay Attention to Design Details – Steve Jobs once said “Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” Design matters.
  • Design Multisensory Experiences – When you walk into an Apple Store, the screens on MacBook computers are set at ninety degree angles, forcing you to touch the computer and move the screen to your ideal viewing angle. In One to One workshops, Creatives don’t touch the computer without permission – instead, they guide customers to find the solutions themselves. Everything in the Apple Store is connected for the purpose of encouraging customers to touch, play, and interact with the devices.

Steve Jobs intuitively understood that there’s power in touch.

By giving Apple’s customers the ability to manipulate the devices for themselves and to play, learn, and have fun, customers would be able to immerse themselves in the ownership experience.

Apple store Northlake Mall

Application for ChurchWorld

Here are some lessons learned from Apple’s retail stores that you can put into practice at your church:

  • Know the Why – the vision of your church is the foundation of your team. Make sure it is bold, specific, concise, and consistently communicated.
  • Design the culture – build a team whose attitudes reflect the culture you’re trying to build.
  • Listen first – encourage open dialogue with your team to share ideas.
  • Solicit feedback – everyone on your team must feel comfortable and confident giving and taking feedback.
  • Learn to multitask – address your guest, assess their needs, and assign a team member to your guest
  • Foster empowerment – even small measures of empowerment will lead to huge returns when it comes to serving your guests.
  • Study the five steps of service – review Apple’s five steps of service and evaluate how you can incorporate each step in your organization
  • Review all of your customer’s touchpoints – are you and your team greeting Guests warmly? Are you making them feel as though they have entered a special environment prepared just for them?
  • Communicate consistently – digital, print, and spoken communication needs to be consistent – with your vision and your actions
  • Create culture-focused team descriptions – design a Guest-focused culture starting with your team descriptions
  • Follow the ten-minute rule – provide a memorable WOW in the first 10 minutes of your Guest coming on campus
  • Script your story – make sure that every part of your weekend experience has a story that has been scripted so that everything flows together, is repeatable, and memorable
  • Hold regular meetings to reinforce your vision – providing superior Guest services requires constant reinforcement and modeling
  • Unclutter your space – ten years of research have confirmed that open spaces and uncluttered environments make customers more relaxed and receptive to connecting with your message
  • Open space applies to your digital world – eliminate clutter on your web site; be sparing in the use of content
  • Take a field trip – visit Apple stores and AT&T retails stores for design inspiration
  • Review every detail of your Guest experience – consider it from their point of view: website, marketing materials, physical spaces. Are all the design elements telling the brand story you want to convey?
  • Develop a consistent experience – train yourself and your team to make every experience memorable from one event to the next by minding the details and not slacking off
  • Start from scratch – use a mental exercise by asking the question “How do we want our Guests to feel when they experience our church?” New questions will usually give you new answers.
  • Create multisensory experiences – using all five senses in your environments are at the heart of breathtaking, memorable experiences
  • Bombard your brain with new experiences – Steve Jobs said that “creativity is connecting things.” He meant that creativity comes from seeking out new experiences, which in turn can help develop creative, groundbreaking ideas.

Recommended Reading for this session:

The Apple Experience, Carmine Gallo

(for a complete reading list, see The Essential Guest Experience Library)

Guestology – the art and science of knowing and understanding your guests – is a term originated by Bruce Laval of the Walt Disney Company. The use of GsD is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that organizations that really want to understand and deliver a WOW Guest Experience need to study the best practices and principles in use today, and then adapt them to the context of their own environment.

the GsD (Doctor of Guestology) journey: 2nd Term Summer 2013


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