My Dinner with Neil Armstrong on radio show

August 30th, 2012 @

link to show
Words to Live By radio program spoke about the Forbes.com column titled My Dinner with Neil Armstrong. View post

Blog &Book Press &From the Author

The Apple Store Improves Its Secret Loyalty Weapon

May 21st, 2012 @

one to one session

One to One session in Apple Store

“People don’t just want to buy personal computers anymore. They want to know what they can do with them and we’re going to show them exactly that.” With those words Steve Jobs launched the store that would revolutionize retail and introduce his products to millions of new customers—Apple Retail.

In May 2001, Steve Jobs didn’t just reinvent the retail concept; he blew it up entirely. Instead of ‘selling stuff,’ his vision was to ‘enrich lives.’ When a retailer enriches lives, magical things start to happen: it hires people who are friendly, passionate and committed to the customer service, it creates display areas where people can see, touch, and play with products, and it introduces innovative programs to unleash a customer’s inner genius, like One to One.

Build a customer for life. One to One is a membership program at the Apple Retail Store designed to help you get the most out of your computer. For $99 upon the purchase of a Mac, Apple customers can sign up for one year of personalized, face-to-face classes with an Apple trainer (creatives) who can teach just about anything you want to learn to do: understand the operating system, edit photos and movies, create a presentation, etc.  There is no limit to the number of sessions you can take.

Unlike the unnecessary add-ons and expensive warranties that many retailers pressure their sales staff to recommend, the One to One program was created for one purpose: to build a customer for life. It’s based on a simple premise—the more a customer understands and appreciates a product, the more likely they are to make a deeper, emotional connection with that product, and to return or to recommend the product/service to a friend. The membership program is Apple’s secret loyalty program—customers shop at the Apple Store but they return to learn. One to One is so essential to the store’s success, this week Apple is evolving and improving the program to adapt to different learning styles.

The Apple Retail Store has added new training options and updated its web page to make it easier to reserve a session. There are now three training sessions to choose from. Personal training in 30 or 60 minute sessions (previously, all sessions were scheduled for one hour); group training where a customer can work with a small group on a specific topic like making a movie or a photo album; and open training where customers can drop in and work independently on just about anything with a trainer nearby for guidance.

Encourage and empower your customers. One to One trainers are instructed to empower customers and to build their confidence. How? By letting the customer drive the computer. The trainer does his or her best to encourage the customer to navigate the computer. If the trainer must take control of the computer, they do so only after asking for permission: “May I touch the computer?” Their conversations are also full of encouragement. If you listen to Apple trainers long enough they begin to sound a lot like Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer. Redford’s character, Tom Booker, speaks in parables to encourage a young girl (played by Scarlett Johansson) to get back on her horse after a tragic riding accident. Here are some quotes from the movie followed by actual quotes I’ve heard in an Apple Store:

Tom Booker: When I work with a horse, it’s no good just me doing it. The owner’s got to be involved, too.

Apple trainer: It’s not good enough for me to solve the problem. I want to empower you to find a solution.

Tom Booker:  When I work with a horse I want to know its history. I try to figure out what’s going on in its head.

Apple trainer: We don’t hire people because they were great trainers at another company. We hire people who can get inside the head of a customer.

Tom Booker: It’s not a question of if you can. You are.

Apple trainer: Don’t ever say you can’t. You can.

Carolyn DiPiero, a 63-year-old grandmother who lives in Modesto, California, signed up for One to One upon purchase of her very first Mac. When I asked DiPiero what she remembers from the sessions, she recalled how Apple trainers built her confidence through personal conversations. They made her feel that they, too, were in her place at one time and if they could learn, so could she. Many of them were in her shoes. I’ve met several Apple Store employees who were inspired to work for Apple after they took One to One classes. The trainers must have made an impression on DPiero because she vividly remembers details of their personal lives. “I learned that Stewart, who was in his forties, used to be a teacher. Jimmy was a little younger, under thirty. Jimmy had an interesting background. He used to teach classes for people who wanted to enter the ministry. Kirsten was a special-ed student in high school. She had a learning problem but overcame it with help from supportive parents. Now she teaches at Apple. Amazing story. And Eric was a motivator. I once said, ‘I feel stupid,’ and Eric shot back, ‘Don’t ever say that!’ They are all so humble. They act like servants when they are really kings.”

Whether your offer classes or simply post educational videos on YouTube, find ways to empower your customers and to teach them something about your products they didn’t know before. If you inspire people to feel better about themselves and their abilities—and to discover abilities they didn’t even know they had—you’ll create loyal customers who evangelize your brand.

Blog &From the Author

Apple Store’s Secret Sauce: 5 Steps of Service

May 17th, 2012 @

Apple Store in Palo Alto, CA

Apple Store in Palo Alto CA

People do the craziest things in an Apple Store. They record themselves dancing and post their videos to YouTube. Some have proposed marriage in Apple Stores. Comedian Mark Malkoff brought a goat into an Apple Store and produced a video on the other stuff he tries to get away with it (and he usually does). Why do people do such things? I believe it’s the people in the Apple Store—the soul of Apple—who make customers feel good and wouldn’t you want to return to a place that makes you feel good?

During my research into the Apple Retail Store I discovered that the store trains its employees to follow five steps of service, beginning from the moment the customer walks through the door. These steps will help anyone in any industry (retail or service) enhance the customer experience. They are so powerful that leaders should train their staff immediately to follow each and every step in each and every customer interaction.

Think of APPLE as an acronym. Each letter corresponds to a step.

Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome. Every customer should be greeted by an employee who is friendly, passionate and committed to customer service.  A customer’s perception of their experience begins to be formed in the first ten seconds of an interaction. Make those seconds count.

Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs. This simply means to ask a series of closed and open-ended question so you can match the customer with the right product, not the most expensive product. In the Apple Store, a closed-ended question elicits a simple yes or no such as, “Will this be your first Mac?” An open-ended question is more general and gives the sales associate (specialist) more information to guide the conversation. For example, “What will you be using the iPad for?”

Present a solution for the customer to take home today. Apple likes to remind its store employees that they are not in the business of selling computers. They are in the business of “enriching lives.” A sale isn’t the only way to enrich the life of a customer and to build loyalty. For example, a customer might be frustrated to walk into an Apple Store expecting to see a technical specialist (a “Genius”) only to be told they need an appointment at the Genius Bar. A trained specialist would offer an alternative solution such as, “We have appointments available tomorrow. May I sign you up or show you how to reserve an appointment on our web site?”

Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns. Customers have what are called “unexpressed” wishes or concerns. Specialists are trained to pick up on these concerns during the ‘probing’ step, which is why it is important to ask good questions. For example, some long-time PC users might be reluctant to learn a new operating system but they don’t necessarily express that concern. A specialist who uncovers this information might spend more time describing One-to-One, a unique program for Mac customers who want to learn more about the computer in one hour face-to-face sessions with a “creative.” The program, which a customer can purchase for $99 upon buying a Mac, is good for one year and includes a transfer of data from a PC to Mac. It was intended to build a customer for life and often does just that. It’s also a good recruiting tool. Many people who work in an Apple Store were One-to-One customers.

End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return. How a person feels when they end a transaction significantly impacts how they perceive the brand and whether they are likely to recommend the brand to others. For example, a creative teaching a workshop might say, “I really like the presentation you’ve started with Apple Keynote. Please drop in again when you’re close to being finished and we’ll give you more tips on how to refine it.” Even after a purchase, it’s not uncommon for a specialist to give a customer a business card should they have more questions. Above all, give your customer a reason to return.

For more examples of these conversations, please review slides 33 to 49 of this presentation. These five steps of service are powerful and apply to almost any customer interaction. Customers will reward you with their wallet and their loyalty if you make them feel appreciated, confident, and happy. That’s the Apple Store way.

 

Blog &From the Author