BLOG STARTUPS, VENTURE AND THE TECH BUSINESS

June 15 2011
by Thanasis Delistathis

Think Different: Apple Retail Stores

A couple of months ago my Mac Air’s operating system was fried.  The Finder was malfunctioning and I couldn’t get an anything done.  I took it to the Apple store around the corner from our office.  The rep at the Genius Bar hooked it up to a hard drive and asked me to come back in 40 min.  In that time, the operating system was reinstalled and all my data was back as if nothing had happened.  Up and running in 60 min.  Does anyone think something similar would have been possible with a windows machine?  Best case is: ship it somewhere, only to have it come back with the operating system reinstalled and parts of my data on a DVD.

The Apple retail store is an amazing part of the Apple customer experience, and they deserve credit for for the strategy.  This week J.C. Penney announced that they were hiring Ron Johnson, the Apple executive in charge of the Apple retail stores, and their stock jumped 18%.  Wall Street Journal has a great article today detailing some of the history behind the retail store concept.  They describe the detailed training and approach to customer service that made them so popular that during a single quarter visitors to Apple retail stores exceed the number of annual visitors to Disney’s theme parks.

The thing about the Apple retail stores is not that it is a standalone innovation, but that it is well integrated with the rest of the business.  It is this integrated experience that makes Apple so great.  It is part of their legacy, a decision to focus on customer experience and engineer the business to serve that objective even it means flaunting convention.  Several examples to note here.  One is that they never licensed their OS because they wanted to make sure that the hardware and software worked well out of the gate.  Another classic example is when they launched the iPod almost 10 years ago: they also cut deals with the music companies and launched iTunes, a store that allowed consumers to buy music from home.

What I admire about Steve Jobs and Apple is not any singular innovation, but the ability to think differently while focusing on customer experience.  It is the same with the retail stores.  They were the natural evolution of a drive to provide superior customer service.  It was pure and fresh problem solving.  The advice from jobs that encapsulates this approach is to constantly question the decisions made and make sure that they “make the most sense”.  Reminds me of Alfred Sloan in his book “My Years with General Motors.”  Some people have called this book the business bible.  Sloan worked in a different industry but one in which he built the best company of its time with a philosophy that is very similar to Jobs’:  figure out what makes the most sense for the customer.  It’s no accident that Jobs has built the most valuable tech company in the world with the same philosophy.  It’s something we can all learn from.

 

COMMENTS

June 15 2011
by Michael Rihani

Paying close attention to customer service and customer experience is huge in any company, but especially in the brink-and-mortar services and retail space.

This post reminded me of how Chick-fil-A is applying many of the tactics Apple and JC Penny have successfully executed on.

What Chick-Fil-A can teach the fast food industry and everyone else about success:
1. Friendliest service in the entire restaurant industry. No employees simply say “You’re welcome”, they all say “It’s my pleasure”
2. Careful screening of General Managers and all employees (http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2007/0723/080.html)
3. Attention to detail: one fresh cut rose placed on every table every day
4. Building the community by offering free events for adults, families, and children (Family Night, Spirit Night, Facebook Friday, Car Washes, Relay for Life, Fire and Ice, Family Luau, the list goes on…)
5. Free Cheerios for kids. That’ll hold the kiddies over until you get chicken nuggets in their hands. Also perfect for infants. Genius. (http://stephenbiernacki.com/cheerios-for-the-kids-at-chick-fil-a)
6. Employees walk around and ask if everything is ok, offer to give you a free refill without you having to leave your seat, etc.

I can go on with many more… the point is that good customer service shouldn’t just be a nice to have, it should be required and expected.

Now I want to go and write a post on my own blog about Chick-fil-A! I’ll refer back to this post as my inspiration :-)

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