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July 1 2009 Posted by: Mark Fidelman in: Enterprise 2.0, Miscellany

Quite Simply the Best Customer Experience I’ve ever had (Apple /

I finally joined the ranks of other recently-new-Apple-users (RNAU’s) today and bought a new iPhone 3G S. I’ve never much cared for the hipster company before, but I just couldn’t resist the allure of the new iPhone with video. What struck me today as important though was not the cool new phone but the customer experience. Starting with the first interaction with Apple on their website and ending with a paperless receipt, the process was smooth and stress free.

Throughout the process I was stunned by how at each step of the way the right answer or information was given to me before I had to ask. It was almost as if they were reading my mind. Knowing Apple the corporation as I do (I did some work for them at A.T. Kearney), they probably have customer service experts break down the entire buying experience into detailed actions, then optimize them for maximum customer satisfaction using interactive focus groups. Meanwhile, someone at Apple is managing the entire process to make sure that end-to-end the process is efficient and hassle-free.

Being inquisitive, I asked my one-to-one in-store counselor what training they received as part of their on-boarding process. He told me that they spend a weekend learning about Apple, participate in daily coaching, and have weekly product training courses. I am fairly certain Apple has profiled the ideal retail associate and look for those characteristics in their new hires. Starbucks is another company I know that does this type of profiling.

After this “WOW” experience I began to think about how the encounter with Apple can be translated into developing a similar experience for online technology companies. First of all, every individual brings a series of expectations to each encounter. You may or may not be cognizant of those expectations. Whether they are specific or general, distinct or nebulous our experiences are shaped by our past interactions. Nevertheless, every prospective client approaches every experience with some level of expectation. It’s just the way the human mind works.

Using Apple as an example, how do they exceed expectations and how can an online technology company learn from it. Let’s assume your company’s prospect has already decided to purchase your product or service:

Apple Step

Your Company’s Related Step

Log onto Apple’s home page - 3 quick clicks and you’re at an inviting buy it now page.

Log into your well designed site and in less than 3 clicks have your prospect at a clean, well designed sign up (buy it now, download, etc) page

Since AT&T has integrated their sign up process with Apple, I am asked whether I am an existing customer of AT&T. I select “no”.

You’ve incorporated all third party applications or product add-ons into this page so that your customer can quickly choose what options they want a la carte.

I then am taken to a billing information screen for AT&T which I quickly fill out (I do believe this screen could be made more efficient by using Facebook Connect or some other log-in system).

You’ve incorporated Open ID, Facebook Connect or an easy to fill out form so that all of the necessary personal information is filled out one time.

I am then presented with 4 easy options to select my rate plan. I select “unlimited minutes”.

Your customer is then presented with no more than 5 customization options for your product or service. Make the options clear and concise.

I arrive at the Store at the designated time and a greeter is there to meet me. The sales counselor warmly greets me and somehow realizes I am there to pick up my phone. I wonder, ‘How did he know that? He says, “It is so nice to meet you let me tell you about your phone.

The product/service/solution (P/S/S) is given to the customer at the designated time with a friendly set of instructions about what to do next. The instructions have been so well thought out that they are concise and practically read the customer’s mind. You have anticipated the top 5 questions your customers have at this stage because you’ve conducted focus groups.

He then hands me a small box containing the iPhone unseals it and sets it up in minutes.

The P/S/S has been preconfigured and is ready to be used out of the box.

He asks if I am satisfied with the phone and I reply “yes” and then asks how I want to pay for the phone. I respond “credit card”.

A customer service representative calls, emails or is immediately available for a chat on the day they receive the P/S/S to ensure that they are completely satisfied with their purchase.

No need to see a cashier, he swipes my card there on the spot. Within two minutes, the transaction is complete and he’s emailed the receipt to my email address.

On a pre-designated schedule, your customer is given educational information via email about the P/S/S. You are not selling but informing. Your goal is to get your customer to maximize the value they receive from your P/S/S.

Before I leave, he explains that as an Apple customer I now have free access to the Genius Bar in the back of the store for any technology related questions. He also inquires about the App Store and iTunes to make sure I have an account. I respond that “I do”.

After 60 days, you receive feedback from the customer’s experience with the P/S/S and you enthusiastically incorporate that information into a database. You’ll rigorously use this information to better the P/S/S and overall customer experience.

As I leave the store, he says, “It was good to meet you, Mr. Fidelman I look forward to seeing you later.”

You continue to train and educate anyone or anything involved with touching the customer to maximize the customer experience. Your employee on-boarding process emphasizes this philosophy.

Above is of course a general example. I believe it demonstrates how you can transform the average experience into a “WOW” experience. If you think about it, contemplating every detail of a process for maximum customer satisfaction can really be applied to anything—a romantic date, teaching an arcane school subject, a 4 year-olds birthday party, or even a trip to the DMV. Okay scratch the last one, sorry I got carried away.

Not everything in life needs to be WOW (that’s a lot of planning, research and focus groups), but when your purpose is to impress your spouse, customer, stranger etc. why settle for anything less than WOW? You’ll stand out like Apple and become a company/person that everyone wants to be associated with.

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