Why it’s getting harder to love Apple


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Apple is a company long renowned for its customer experience, and for inventing products that fill needs customer didn’t even realize they had. Customers have rewarded Jobs and his crew for this. As an example, did you notice that the company sold 3 million iPads in 80 days? Unlike many CEO’s, Jobs had the pleasure of gushing a bit about second quarter financial peformance recently:

“We’re thrilled to report our best non-holiday quarter ever, with revenues up 49 percent and profits up 90 percent,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We’ve launched our revolutionary new iPad and users are loving it, and we have several more extraordinary products in the pipeline for this year.”

Apple has done a lot of things right. I’m a fan. Sure Steve Jobs has always been a tad arrogant, but I’ve largely thought his cockiness was well earned. Call it a spice in the overall experience Apple dish.

Then came the iPhone 4. And now I’m finding myself thinking that it’s getting harder to love Apple.

Just this week Consumer Reports announced they could not recommend the iPhone 4 because of the antenna issue which has led some pundits to proclaim a recall is “inevitable.”

The iPhone 4 has tarnished Apple’s reputation for making products that “just work.” I’ll go further, and say that the shine is coming off the customer experience. Let’s peel back the iPhone 4 issue, and see if you agree:

At the SOLVE / PROVE step, customers are using their iPhones to solve the need for hip mobile communication (feel free to quibble with the “hip mobile communication” words I used to describe the problem or need I think Apple’s iPhone solves. When I’m asked why I carry one, that’s my answer). Apple’s goal here should be to prove its promise to help me solve that need.

What are they REALLY proving? That they can’t admit they may have made a mistake? Harsh, but that’s the growing sentiment among unhappy customers.

From Jobs’ “just don’t hold it that way” response to a reporter’s question, to the “we were stunned to find out the signal strength is overrated” and to the internal memo that states “we are NOT appeasing customers with free iPhone bumpers,” Apple is pumping out its own negative publicity about the iPhone before unhappy customers even get a chance.

This is a lost opportunity for Apple.

Dialog in social media has a huge impact, because it carries the issue beyond customers in the SOLVE step to those who haven’t bought an iPhone, or an iPhone 4 yet. I’m one. I have a 3G iPhone, my contract is almost ready to upgrade, and my needs have definitely EVOLVED since I got my iPhone nearly two years ago. Has Apple anticipated how my needs evolved? Is the Jobs team considering how the banter about the iPhone 4 may be influencing me?

I don’t know. Instead of being inundated with talk from iPhone 4 users about how great this new version is compared to the 3G, all I hear is talk about the antenna, dropped calls, and Apple “we’re right” communication missteps. Apple still has the chance to change the tide of these conversations, to bring the discussion back to the iPhone 4 and how its solving users’ needs. But they have to act quick.

As leaders there are two big lessons we can take away from this:

1. Customer experience is both tangible and emotional. As humans we can’t separate the elements:

Tangible: product quality, policy decisions about how to support customers

Intangible: tone of voice, responsiveness, dialog in the social media

2. Customer experience is about you and your customer AND your customer and their influencers. Said differently, you control only part of the customer experience.

What happens between your customer and their friends or social connections plays as big a role in the experience as what happens between is between your customer and you.

All in all, I still consider myself an Apple fan and customer. But Steve, it’s getting harder.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Linda Ireland
Linda Ireland is co-owner and partner of Aveus LLC, a global strategy and operational change firm that helps leaders find money in the business performance chain while improving customer experiences. As author of Domino: How to Use Customer Experience to Tip Everything in Your Business toward Better Financial Performance, Linda built on work done at Aveus and aims to deliver real-life, actionable, how-to help for leaders of any organization.


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