The iMpact of Customer Loyalty

How Does Apple Do It?

 Now that you’ve discovered the sparkling gem known as customer loyalty and we have discussed asking the ‘Ultimate Question’ as a way to determine how loyal your customer base is currently, let’s look at how one company has put this concept into practice and wins over customer after customer – continuing to boost profits and market share year after year in the tight competitive market of consumer technology products.

 Yes, you guessed it! Whenever there is a new multimedia “anything” nowadays, it seems there is an iThing!

And consumers clamor for the brand and can’t stop talking about how much they love it!!  Isn’t that our dream?

Some think Apple has a “secret” – well, they do but it’s not like the recipe for the Colonel’s famous Kentucky Fried Chicken or anything. It’s spelled out in everything Apple does in their daily business practices.

Call them Mac Loyalists, MacHeads, or just plain zealots, Apple’s vocal customer following is one of the most loyal out there. Its customers will defend the company and its products tooth and nail every time.

Why are they so passionate?

The simple truth: Apple’s attention to detail, their commitment to giving customers the products they want, and their consummate, personal customer service all work together to create customers who are simply delighted with everything Apple.

In 2006, Satmetrix Systems ranked Apple as the computer company with the highest customer loyalty. Satmetrix sought to discover how likely customers were to recommend the company to a friend or colleague, comparing the likes of Compaq, Dell, Gateway, IBM and others with Apple. Said Dr. Laura Brooks, then vice president of research and business consulting at Satmetrix: “Apple, whose score far outranks its closest competitor, is well known for its passionate and dedicated customer base.” That same year, a Harris Poll of “best brands” put Apple in the top 10 for the first time. Apple’s successful branding finds it in the company of Coca-Cola, GE, and Kraft, among others.

In June 2011, The Wall Street Journal published “Secrets from Apple’s Genius Bar: Full Loyalty, No Negativity”.* WSJ investigates how Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple in 1976, has revolutionized the world of consumer technology – and not just through its innovative product line. They interview current and former employees to learn some of Apple’s secrets to customer interaction that help foster the high level of customer enchantment and loyalty the company has achieved.

The article uncovered some basic guidelines Apple provides its employees for handling customer service interactions. Referred to as “steps of service”, they are spelled out in the acronym of the company’s name:

  • Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome
  • Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs
  • Present a solution for the customer to take home today
  • Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns
  • End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return

 PRODUCTS DON’T SELL. PEOPLE DO.

Think about it! Apple does not merely sell you an MP3 player – they invite you to experience the Apple lifestyle, which you see happy customers living in brilliant color in every commercial they produce. Product features don’t create enthusiastic and loyal customers — how people feel when they use your product or service is what drives them to action… whether that is to re-purchase or to recommend.

 Surprise and delight your customers!

One blog post about Apple by InsideCRM.com, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) firm, elicited over 45 user-generated responses and 87% of those were overwhelmingly positive with regard to their perspective on the Apple brand.

Are your customers sleeping outside of stores just to be one of the first to buy your product? If so then you, much like Apple, must be doing something right! It’s obvious that Apple enjoys a fanatical customer following. This loyalty is not just a lucky coincidence; it is due to Apple’s long time commitment to deliver the best customer experience through its products and services alike.

According to several employees and [Apple, Inc.] training manuals, sales associates are taught an unusual sales philosophy: not to sell, but rather to help customers solve problems. “Your job is to understand all of your customers’ needs – some of which they may not even realize they have,” one training manual says. To that end, employees receive no sales commissions and have no sales quotas.

In Marketing Apple: 5 secrets of the World’s Best Marketing Machine, Steve Chazin, former Apple marketing executive, addresses some principles that helped establish the company’s brand identity and loyalty and earn them such a huge market share.

So what are some practices you can embrace if you want to build that same kind of enthusiastic – overzealous even – customer base that is enjoyed by Apple today?

Be sincere – Every customer interaction is an opportunity. Make sure you are approachable, pleasant, and professional.

Ask, then Listen – Allow your customer to have a voice. This is a cornerstone of a trusting relationship. Lead with questions as needed, but allow the customer to fully express themselves.

Provide solutions – Remember you are the “fixer”! Once you have learned what the customer is really looking for you must convince them you have the answer.

Overcome obstacles – Be prepared when bumps arise along the path. Handle issues promptly, respectfully, and fully. Your customer will feel like they are important to you.

Show appreciation – Thank your customer for every opportunity, even if you do not make a sale. Demonstrate that you consider every moment of their time valuable and that you are available if they ever need anything.

Driving true customer loyalty must start with understanding your customer and must be maintained by providing a consistently sublime customer experience. Every interaction with a customer impacts their future buying decisions and a positive outcome is essential to creating customer evangelists, maximizing revenue, and growing your business.

The economic power of high-quality customer relationships is evident. Look at the correlation between the level of satisfaction your customers experience and your repeat sales performance and direct referrals from those customers who are in love with your product.

Continually meeting your customers’ needs – and making them feel good about their decision – creates a greater sense of value. They in turn are excited to share that feeling with others they know, which creates a “win-win” scenario for everyone involved and will help your business grow and your profits soar!

 
Arstechnica.com,“Apple shines at customer loyalty and branding”

* Full article viewable only to WSJ subscribers

Courtesy of Hi-TechAnalogy.com

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