Setting the bar for customer service excellence has never been more challenging, but a few brands continue to rise above the rest, including Apple, which recently topped the ClickFox Brand Loyalty Survey for the second year in a row as the brand consumers can’t live without and was ranked Best PC Tech Support by Consumer Reports. While the development of Apple’s technology may be complex and secretive, the development of its customer service delivery is anything but. It all comes down to human emotions and basic psychology.
E for Empathy, Emotions and Empowerment
Just like with its product and packaging design and development, nothing is taken for granted when it comes to the Apple customer experience. Every touchpoint is meticulously engineered based on tried and true customer service traits, including empathy. Apple geniuses are trained to read customers’ verbal and non-verbal emotional cues and to put themselves in the customer’s shoes, empathizing with their questions or issues (not to be confused with sympathizing or feeling sorry for the customer, or in any way apologizing for Apple’s technology).
In customer conversations, Apple’s geniuses are encouraged to employ the three Fs: “Feel, Felt, Found.” For example, if the customer talks about price issues, the Genius might reply: “I can see how you’d feel this way. I felt the price was a little high, but found it’s a real value because of all the build-in software and capabilities.”
Employees are also told what words not to say, as some words seem to have a more negative connotation than others. For example, the words “incompatible,” “crash” and “problem” are part of Apple’s do not use list.
And like another customer service leader, Virgin America, Apple Store employees are also empowered with the ability and directive to do what’s right for the customer. “We guide every interaction,” “We strive to inspire,” “We enrich their lives,” “We take personal initiative to make it right,” says Apple’s employee training manual. And the guide to the optimal customer experience also follows a letter rule….
A warm welcome, thoughtful listening, providing a solution in a timely manner and an engaging parting sentiment are all part of Apple’s effective end-to-end customer engagement which is summed up in the letters of Apple’s name:
- Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome.
- Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs (ask closed and open-ended questions).
- 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.
The simple genius of Apple’s customer service and the customer experience comes down to a consistent guide with consumer psychology and common behaviors at its core. For employees, the excellence they need to deliver is easily memorable, spelled out to the letter using Es, Fs and A.P.P.L.E.