Apple’s secret manual for customer experience


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Much of Apple’s success has been attributed to its innovative, high quality products which no doubt have been a crucial ingredient to it becoming the world’s most valuable company this past week.

Something that is not talked about a lot is its fastidious attention to every detail of the customer’s experience. A long time Apple manager was explaining to me recently how attention was paid even to the feeling the customer receives when opening the iPhone box! Apple wants the customer to feel they are opening a product that is special, different and high quality and the suction on the box reflects that feeling in a visceral way.

That brings me to the in store experience, recently Apple’s secret employee manual was leaked. It laid out in immense detail how employees should interact with customers. From what I have read (and experienced in store) it is spot on.

It strikes the right balance between customer empathy and Apple cheerleading.

Some commentators believe this is manipulative and other cynics believe it is an unachievable standard to reach in the real world.

The reality is the Apple in store experience is one of the best on the planet and its customer satisfaction scores reflect this fact. Now Apple is clearly not perfect and they mess up like everyone does but they are very good at getting back on track quickly and moving forward.

Here is a great example from the manual under the subheading “Empathy Exercise 2 – Techniques” lays out a simple customer scenario:

“Customer: This Mac is just too expensive.
Genius: I can see how you’d feel this way. I felt the price was a little high, but I found it’s a real value because of all the built-in software and capabilities.”

In this example employees are taught to deflect objections on Apple’s premium pricing by reinforcing the value the customer gets from the product. This approach links well with the section of the manual on things to avoid doing. For instance: “Do not apologise for the business [or] the technology.” Instead, empathize: “I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated”

Great in store retail experiences don’t just happen they require you to hire the right people and provide them with the right training to execute the difficult dance between doing what’s right for the customer and what’s right for the business at all times.

What do you think, is Apple out of line or being unrealistic?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Christopher Brown
Chris Brown is the CEO of MarketCulture Strategies, the global leader in assessing the market-centricity of an organization and its degree of focus on customers, competitors and environmental conditions that impact business performance. MCS works closely with the C-Suite and other consulting groups to focus and adjust corporate vision and values around the right set of beliefs, behaviors and processes to engender more dynamic organizations, predictable growth, and customer lifetime value. In short we help leaders profit from increased customer focus.


  1. Dear Christopher,
    I think Apple is in the right direction.
    To be honest, I was delighted to see the importance they attach to the emotional universe contained in their costumer service. However, I disagree with the approach they adopted.
    My opinion is based obviously on the restrict information the article let me know about the document. Fact is, I do not believe so much in this "scripts strategy”. The result of using scripts in ordinary rational approach is admittedly bad and the same occurs regarding to emotional approach. In fact, I would say the result could be even worse.
    When we focus on emotional aspects it is essential to develop emotional competence among the staff, so that they can better recognize, understand and regulate emotions inherent to customer relations. In this sense, each situation is unique. There is no "cake recipe” for that. There are no scripts enough for such variety of cases, and generalizations not always work.
    But that’s what I wrote earlier, I have not read the document as a whole.
    So far, what most impressed me about this article was how the media in general operates.
    Apple is one of these extremely important phenomena for the media, because they get enormous attention from the public. No matter how true or biased it is, speaking about Apple, and especially the virtues of this corporation is one of those memes (cultural virus) that guarantees a huge audience. But like all viruses, there comes a day when it reaches its saturation point and its self-destruction starts.
    I do not know how much this site (Gizmodo) is influent, but the fact is that they are starting to show a tendency to spread a negative point of view regarding "Apple phenomenon”.
    Note that there is a difference between the position of skeptics, those who never believed in the "miracle of Apple”, and the saturation phase of this “virus.” I do not know if I could explain it here, but regardless of objective questions that I can enroll about this topic; my intuition tells me that we are beginning to see signs of saturation of “Apple phenomenon”.
    The question is to know how long this will take and how they will come out of this.
    A few years ago Microsoft went through something similar, remember?
    Today is just another company, full of vicious and virtues like any other.
    When the story ends well, less evil.
    The problem is becoming an “incorrigible villain”.

  2. Thanks for your comments Andre. I agree nothing lasts forever, although I am not sure I describe what is happening as a virus more of a halo effect (ie Apple can do not wrong!).

    I agree also that scripting maybe is not ideal, it is better that people learn directly from each other and specifically the store leadership and how they deal with customers should guide their staff.

    Having said that documenting these processes makes a vague area very explicit, there is no argument that Apple is really serious about creating a great experience, not a perfect experience but the best they can….


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