By Elea Andrea Almazora
There’s a reason why Apple is one of the most recognizable and popular brands worldwide. They’ve always done things their own way. When someone mentions Apple, the usual suspects come to mind, like iPhones, multi-purpose watches, MacBooks, and now the rumored Apple Glasses.
Apple has always represented quality and sophistication. While the products take the limelight, there’s a much less glamorous piece of the puzzle behind its business growth – it’s unrivalled customer service.
Every single employee has bought into it, which has taken time. It’s a meticulously crafted strategy. But that’s not to say businesses can’t learn from it and look for new ways to improve customer experience.
Lessons from the Ritz Carlton
Where did Apple’s unique approach come from? Surprisingly, it wasn’t a brainstorm session in a flash Silicon Valley office. Instead, Apple sent its store managers to attend the Ritz Carlton’s hospitality training.
The Ritz Carlton is a hotel chain that provides the “ultimate customer service.” They go above and beyond, exceeding expectations and fulfilling ‘even the unexpressed wishes of its guests.
When Apple first opened its stores, it instilled these principles and goals in every employee. They wanted seamless, simple, and genuine customer service. Now, nearly 20 years after opening their first store, these are all clear to see.
With that said, here are some tips to take away from Apple’s customer service.
Choose Channels that Work for You
Before 1997, Apple sold its computers through third-party chain stores and other outlets. Performance was steady, but something was missing.
They recognized that they had no say in how Apple products were being sold. Subsequently, they cut ties with over 10,000 third-party retailers and moved their customer service in house.
This gave them total control over customer engagement in-store and online.
This radical change may not be possible for your business, but it’s always a good idea to assess what platforms need modifying.
For example, you may own a business that requires you to be on the move and out of office. A suitable channel may be a virtual phone number. This provides you with the flexibility you need to answer your customers’ calls from anywhere.
Make customers feel at home
Apple’s store restructure gave them control over both their customer service and customer experience. In their physical stores, they designed a layout and style that made their customers feel welcome.
Their first ever store followed a structure that set the benchmark for every Apple store worldwide. The layout promoted a seamless customer journey, from start to finish.
- On entry you’re welcomed by Apple’s range of products.
- In the middle of the store, you see how people engage with these products.
- At the back sits the”Genius Bar, where customers can get products repaired.
This layout was never designed to “wow” customers. It’s simple and basic compared to some in-store experiences, but effective. Customers learn about products and access useful advice from well-trained employees. It’s a journey that’s consistent across all Apple channels and devices like iPads and iPhones.
If it’s your physical store or website, make sure you create a buying environment customers feel comfortable in. Make online chats, FAQs, and e-commerce checkouts as easy and accessible as they would be in person.
Don’t be afraid to make changes
Apple wasted no time in making changes they felt needed to happen. To cut ties with their third-party retailers was a huge risk that ultimately paid off. If your customer service isn’t where you want it to be, then don’t be afraid to take the plunge and make a change.
You may not have the same safety net as Apple, but this shoudn’t stop you. Changes can be small and far less radical. If you want to increase your customer service productivity, introducing something like a progressive dialer system is a minor change that makes a big difference. As long as they are set to benefit your customer service, then you should always embrace change.
Hire the right people
Apple’s recruitment process is one of the hardest around. But it understands that there’s more to customer service than academic ability.
Their customer service is all about looking after the potential buyer – qualifications don’t always cut it. When you’re hiring, look for people who align with your company culture, those you know will deliver a personalized customer experience.
Offer many channels
There’s no harm in offering a range of ways to contact service representatives. Apple offers comprehensive support across all available platforms. Customers have preferences when it comes to customer service. Some may opt for an online chat, others a direct call or email. They appreciate choice.
Put your customer first
While Apple’s worth surpasses the trillion dollar threshold, it’s clear they’ve never been content with making money alone. Apple has deployed a long-term customer-first strategy from the off.
Employees’ interaction with customers is not motivated solely by the sale. They are there to make a lasting impression and look after their customers. This applies to both minor requests and online data – backed by Apple’s use of the best enterprise network security products. This caring formula is why Apple’s customers keep on coming back.
A final major reason for Apple’s impeccable customer service is its use of applied psychology. In their “Genius Training Student Workbook,” they focus on people skills, body language, and nonverbal gestures. Apple trained its employees to get the most out of interactions with customers.
You may not have the resources for this level of training. But the results of applied psychology are there for all to see. Why not round up your employees and test out an empathy exercise?
The most important lesson to take from Apple’s customer service: always look to go above and beyond. But do so in the simplest way possible. This formula applies to most industries and is transferable to digital marketing strategies for small businesses.
Elea Andrea Almazor is the SEO Content Optimization manager for RingCentral, the leader in global enterprise communication and fax service provider. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience in on-page optimization, editorial production, and digital publishing. She spends her free time learning new things.