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

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?

Per­son­al­ity counts as much as tech­ni­cal knowledge

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.

IT cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing requires con­stant feedback

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.

Hap­pi­ness is an impor­tant part of Apple’s IT cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing curriculum

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.

Apple IT cus­tomer ser­vice reps are empowered

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.

We can’t all be Apple, but we can bor­row from Apple’s IT cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing methods

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.

 

Jodi Beuder, Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence Advo­cate at Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, believes cus­tomer ser­vice exists not just out­side the com­pany, but inside, too.. “Hav­ing excel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice skills and knowl­edge are para­mount to cre­at­ing strong work­ing rela­tion­ships, whether you are in an office or out in the field.” With over 17 years in Mar­ket­ing Exec­u­tive roles, Jodi has ded­i­cated her career to assist­ing com­pa­nies grow their brand pres­ence and sales, and most impor­tantly, their cus­tomer reten­tion and satisfaction.
Jodi Beuder
View all posts by Jodi Beuder
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