What’s Apple’s Secret for their Legendary IT Customer Service Training?


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IT Customer Service TrainingApple is a com­pany known for, among other things, atten­tion to details. Steve Jobs had a rep­u­ta­tion for being uncom­pro­mis­ingly par­tic­u­lar about every part, inter­face, and mate­r­ial used in his prod­ucts. When Apple stores first hit the scene in 2001, every ele­ment, true to form, was care­fully orches­trated, includ­ing the IT cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing that Apple employ­ees underwent.

When Apple’s first retail stores opened, the com­pany faced the chal­lenge of not being a com­pany known for its vast selec­tion of prod­ucts; at the time, Apple only had four prod­uct cat­e­gories. So what was Apple’s response? Instead of fill­ing the retail space with prod­uct den­sity, they cre­ated a space that offered an expe­ri­ence, and more impor­tantly, solu­tions for the cus­tomers. Apple invited peo­ple to come in, linger, play with their prod­ucts, and spend as much one-on-one time as needed with their cus­tomer ser­vice reps (unabashedly named “Genius Bar Experts”). The stores, as we all know, have been a phe­nom­e­nal success.

Yet it’s more than Apple’s prod­ucts that make Apple stores so pop­u­lar and beck­on­ing; it’s truly the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence that one finds when step­ping into an Apple store. So what’s behind Apple’s IT cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing phi­los­o­phy that makes the stores so pop­u­lar for those seek­ing not only prod­ucts, but IT help?

Apple’s IT cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing man­ual, which was sum­ma­rized in a Forbes arti­cle, pro­vides insight into the depth and length that Apple goes to when try­ing to cre­ate an IT cus­tomer expe­ri­ence that leaves a last­ing impres­sion. First and fore­most, Apple seeks out employ­ees who have a “mag­netic per­son­al­ity.” The IT per­son­nel must, of course, have tech­ni­cal knowl­edge about the prod­ucts and ser­vices, but Apple delib­er­ately hires employ­ees who can deliver the IT knowl­edge with a per­son­al­ity that is invit­ing and warm to the cus­tomers. The soft skills, in other words, are just as cru­cial as tech­ni­cal acu­men when build­ing cus­tomer loy­alty.

Apple stresses in its IT cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing man­ual that both man­agers and IT spe­cial­ists should be at lib­erty to offer “fear­less feed­back” to one another. Apple looks for those per­son­al­i­ties who are not passive—they want man­agers to pro­vide hon­est, delib­er­ate feed­back to the IT cus­tomer ser­vice reps—and, like­wise, they want the employ­ees to feel empow­ered to express their opin­ions to man­age­ment. Apple is not seek­ing out an envi­ron­ment of orders and pro­to­col based on a script. The com­pany encour­ages its man­age­ment and IT sup­port staff to have dia­logue and con­stantly find ways to improve the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence through open feedback.

When exam­in­ing your own IT cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing method, how often does the con­cept of hap­pi­ness play into your instruc­tion? Is the word “hap­pi­ness” even in your man­u­als or train­ing process? Often, in cus­tomer ser­vice, we can get so caught up in con­cepts like cus­tomer loy­alty, time-to-resolution, or the holy grail, the cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion score (CSAT), that we for­get the most sim­ple con­cept of all: Make sure your cus­tomers are really happy. In Apple’s train­ing, cus­tomer hap­pi­ness is a key tenet. The stores seek to be an envi­ron­ment where cus­tomers are in a happy place, not only to shop, but to learn and get help. It’s sim­ple, but a pow­er­ful tool to keep in mind—happiness in the work­place, and deliv­er­ing hap­pi­ness to your customers.

When devel­op­ing their IT cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing process, Apple bor­rowed some tech­niques from The Ritz Carl­ton play­book, namely, the con­cept of employee empow­er­ment. Apple doesn’t want their employ­ees to work from a script or feel con­strained by time and quo­tas when help­ing customers—they want their employ­ees to feel empow­ered to make the right deci­sions that will help the cus­tomer, be able to spend the nec­es­sary time required to solve the issue, and be able to think about solu­tions that will truly be right for the cus­tomer (even if it means not push­ing a prod­uct or going for the sale). Apple employ­ees are not paid on a com­mis­sion basis, and they are encour­aged to take their time help­ing cus­tomers find the right solution.

For many com­pa­nies, cus­tomer ser­vice tech­ni­cal sup­port takes place from call cen­ters and not from retail stores. How­ever, Apple’s IT train­ing for their store reps offers valu­able insights into suc­cess­ful con­cepts that keep Apple cus­tomers com­ing back again and again to the retail stores—not just to browse and play with Apple products—but to find effec­tive solu­tions for IT issues. The key take­away we can all learn from Apple is to be aware of all of the details that have an effect on the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence; from the per­son­al­ity of the peo­ple we hire, all the way to the train­ing our team receives, so that they feel com­pe­tent and empowered.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jodi Beuder
We help organizations create a positive connection between customers and brands. We promote synergy through integration as it builds on the decades of collective history of renowned expertise. MHI Global is your comprehensive source for customer-management excellence solutions to compete in today's ever-changing, customer-centric environment.



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