7 Customer Service Tactics to Copy From Apple
So I'm sitting on a hard wooden seat in my local Apple store waiting patiently. It had been a half-hour since I was politely shown to a waiting area while the large crowd buzzed around me. Twice an Apple rep came over to apologize for my wait. Her apology felt sincere, like she actually cared that I was waiting and inconvenienced. Another point scored for Apple — sincerity.
Which is when it hit me. In any other store, I'd be cursing under my breath, impatient as heck, demanding to be served.
So why was I being patient? What I came up with is this: I actually felt respected and cared for by this company. I had history with Apple (I got my first Mac in 1990). And across that history, and across all its touchpoints, I really couldn't remember having a negative experience. Now that's not to say that things didn't go wrong with their technology. I've had a laptop fail (replaced, no questions asked), got an iPhone replaced (it got wet, but again, no questions asked) and I won't even discuss my kids, who I think should work for Apple as product testers.
Over the years I've called Apple maybe 30 times. Never a bad experience there either. Just easygoing people happy to help me with my problems, who always took the time to get it right — even called me back if I got disconnected. A vastly different experience than I've had trying to call other tech companies. Some tech companies don't even publish their phone number at all (or they make you work to find it).
So what can marketers take away from Apple?
- Superior customer experiences make for superior customer advocates (or the opposite in this socially driven world).
- If you treat your customer with respect and care, they're more likely to accept that your products and services aren't always perfect.
- Even great customer service can't make up for a bad product. Make sure your products live up to your messaging and brand promise.
- Stand behind your products. Make sure your guarantee and warranties are clear and customer focused. Make it easy for customers to return, fix or exchange your products.
- Train all of your customer-facing employees to BE, not just ACT, caring. This is a challenge, but the rewards are enormous.
- Monitor and review all of your customer touchpoints frequently. If they're not up to the standard of superior customer experiences for all, then change them immediately. If you have a weak link, fix it.
- If an employee doesn't exemplify your "spirit," no matter how good they are technically, train them or replace them!
One of my favorite quotes comes from noted customer service expert Peter Drucker: "There is only one valid definition of business purpose — to create a customer. Companies are not in business to make things … but to make customers." To me, these are words to live by.
Jim Gilbert has been creating direct marketing programs that drive superior ROI for almost 30 years. Fluent in consumer or B-to-B, creative, operations, and analytics, he marries the strategic and tactical sides of direct and social media marketing in a seamless fashion that gets results. He's CEO of a multidiscipline direct marketing agency, Gilbert Direct Marketing, Inc., which focuses on direct mail, catalogs, DRTV, telemarketing, print, alternative direct marketing media and social media marketing. Jim has been involved in start-ups, expansions and turnarounds, and is an expert in helping multichannel marketers get to the "next level." He's a former adjunct professor, teaching direct marketing at Miami International University, and is President of the Board of Directors of the Florida Direct Marketing Association. Jim loves to talk direct marketing, and has done many lectures on direct and social media marketing.