Apple customers most commonly cite store employees as the reason for why they are promoters. Although Apple is an incredibly innovative company led by a dynamic leader (who has left an indelible mark on the tech industry), it’s the employees that customers say bring them back.

Six Dimensions of an Engaging Customer Experience
Six Dimensions of an Engaging Customer Experience

Apple seems to have figured out intuitively what we have learned from all of our customer experience research.

We uncovered the following model for the dimensions of an engaging experience. Great customer experiences start with the basics: a solid offer and a company that cares enough to make it easy to do business with them. From there, it’s a matter of remaining consistent across touch points and earning trust. Plenty of companies do fine with those four. But to truly delight and create exceptional customer experiences, human involvement is required: employees who show extra effort and are genuine in their interactions.

While recently writing an annual report for a client, we analyzed a year of customer comments to identify “above and beyond” behaviors that customers highlighted in their feedback. The top three behaviors were as follows:

1. Being friendly and welcoming and smiling

2. Having a positive attitude and willingness to help; and

3. Proactively assisting customers

From a business perspective these behaviors might seem trivial, but from a human perspective we all know how rare it is to see a company representative exhibiting these types of behavior. These simple behaviors take an average interaction and turn it into something delightful.

The idea of “behavioral innovation” says that too often innovation efforts focus on product, technology, or processes. But true innovation happens when you change what people do. Umair Haque says companies like Apple have shown behavior innovation by being fundamentally different. Who Apple is is just as important as what Apple creates. I remember my own experience buying an iPhone and how happily the salesperson pulled out his own phone to show me features and his favorite apps. His enthusiasm was contagious. Within minutes, a customer joined us to demonstrate to me how Facetime works. The customer shared how much he loves using the feature to chat with his niece a few states away. It was like the iPhone commercials in real life. Competitors can’t steal or copy a culture like that. This is a uniquely Apple experience that is difficult – if not impossible – for competitors to copy.

The Corporate Executive Board argues that customer delight is a profit wasting initiative, saying that companies should focus on getting the basics right and reducing customer effort. Their argument isn’t wrong. No customer will do business with you if you make it difficult. Further, a company must get the basics right to get and retain customers. But the evidence suggests that the things that truly delight customers are often intangible.

Our research offers evidence that a company focus on creating great customer experiences can also improve the employee experience. Understanding what “delight” means to the customers who buy from you is an opportunity to build your own unique internal culture, a chance to create an experience that differentiates your brand – for both the people who purchase from you and those who work for you.

Photo courtesy of: Teerapun