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How Apple won at Customer Experience to become the world’s most valuable company

“You’ve got to start with the Customer Experience and work back toward the Technology, not the other way around”
– Steve Jobs

The iPod

Before the iPod, Apple was primarily known for their home computing devices. Even though it wasn’t the first portable music player on the market, the iPod succeeded where other competitors failed.

The iPod exemplified Apple’s customer first approach – clearly a lot of research had been done on what the average music listeners pain points were when it comes to portable music. Technology played second fiddle to better Customer Experience.

Takeaway – All your songs in the palm of your hand. More storage, Better battery life, easy to use – these were the primary selling points for the original iPod, and as it turned out – for most people it was more than enough, which they made clear by establishing Apple as the leader in portable music, both in terms of volume and reputation.

The iPhone

A widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary smartphone, a breakthrough internet communications device. Steve Jobs kept repeating these 3 phrases at the iPhone reveal till the audience got the hint – they were one and the same.

As with many Apple products, the iPhone was not the first touchscreen device, nor was it the first entertainment focussed mobile device or one with internet connectivity for that matter.

Earlier smartphones were unwieldy, tough to use and were usually focussed on out and out productivity. Oh and it also incentivized developers and users to buy into the Apple ecosystem – promising the developers a stable target audience, and the consumers the ability to carry their apps, purchases, music, notes, and so much more across several devices no matter where they are. Apple not only delivered a better customer experience, they changed the game on Mobile Customer Experience entirely, which allowed them to leapfrog veterans in the smartphone segment and create a user base that were willing to buy into the Apple ecosystem.

Takeaway – The iPhone managed to give the best possible Customer Experience across many domains of mobile users – ensuring that EVERY user would be aiming towards owning a smartphone in the future, no matter what they used it for.

The iPad

“It turns out people want keyboards . . . We look at the tablet and we think it is going to fail,”

These words were uttered by none other than Steve Jobs himself, nearly a decade before he revealed the iPad to the world.
So how did a company that laughed off the very concept of a tablet turn around and make the most successful tablet of all time?
Insights. By 2010, Apple had carefully surveyed and analyzed just what people do with their smartphones and their computers. There was a sizeable chunk of laptop/computer users who did not exploit much of their machine’s capability and instead were using them for emailing and consuming content. Admittedly, the iPhone could handle all of those tasks, but its smaller display definitely hampered its abilities.

Enter the iPad – Just the right amount of power to handle a bit of productivity, a vibrant display to consume content and a responsive touchscreen to ensure the typing experience was as good as it could be without a keyboard.

The iPad enabled Apple to sell large numbers and practically create a segment by itself.

Takeaway – With the iPad, Apple defied themselves to become the leader in the Tablet segment, delivering the best Customer Experience that its core user base needed.

Apple store experience

“Get closer than ever to your Customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves” Apple’s mission stated by Jobs Apple Store

Apple doesn’t simply relegate its focus on Customer Experience to its products. Apple stores are designed to be the best possible Customer Experience anywhere(not just in retail). When opening the first Apple store, instead of improving on their competition’s services, Apple decided to benchmark itself against the masters of human interaction – the hospitality industry, which led to the creation of the Apple Genius Bar – knowledgeable, empathetic employees who could get virtually anyone using their devices in a jiffy.

Takeaway – Delivering excellence in the retail Customer Experience has allowed Apple to retain its user base and gain an entirely new customer base – those who aren’t the most congruent with technology.

There’s no getting around the fact that Apple has contributed to a paradigm shift in how companies value Customer Experience, especially over the last 2 decades. While other companies like Amazon and Uber have managed to craft their own brand of excellence in CX, Apple remains the leader in Customer Experience for hardware companies by a fair margin.

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