How is that Apple gets it right?
We can talking again and again about "God Jobs," as George Parker calls him. We can talk about a strong brand and simple, functional and beautiful product design. We can even talk about in-store customer experience. But the success of Apple for me constantly comes back to to the fact that they empower their people to make common-sense decisions.
Yesterday I walked into an Apple Store. The battery door on my laptop wouldn't close and it seemed that the battery was starting to Torque. Instantly the sales associate recognized that the battery was expanding and upon consultation I was told it was leaking and needed to be replaced.
"That'll be $129."
"Excuse me?" I asked.
This wasn't just a battery going bad after a year and half of use. This was a battery on the verge of exploding. And he wanted ME to pay for it?
It seemed I was at an impasse. I understood that it was out of warranty. I knew that they had no obligation to me. But an exploding battery was class-action-lawsuit territory.
So off he went to fetch the battery as I dug into my pocket for a credit card. That's when he arrived back with the new battery and a smile.
"My manager says this isn't supposed to happen to a battery. So we're just gonna replace it for free."
And that's the essence of my point. When employees are afraid they will be fired for breaking the rules, despite all common sense to the contrary, I walk out of the store and write a much different blog post. I cause irreparable brand damage and tarnish the image of brand. But when a store manage recognizes that for $129 part (that probably cost them $60 to make) he can buy immeasurable good will, future sales and possibly word of mouth impact, the outcome is much different.
This is why I hammer home the point that marketing is not just in the hands of marketing. The best operations understand that you need every arm of an organization actively participating in the brand building and sales driving process. Product needs to be designing items that people want to buy. Customer service needs to be embracing and rewarding loyalty. Accounting still needs to see late payers as future advocates. It's all part of a single experience to the customer, so why break it up within the organization?
My history with Apple is a string of such events. I've had a customer service rep transfer me to a warehouse in Texas where a manager there actively rooted through boxes for my part. There were no "we can't do that" answers. Of course they could do this. They just needed to choose to do it.
It's time that business stops siloing and starts realizing that their customers will touch multiple parts of a company during their lifecycle. And every stop along that route is as important as the ad that first draws them in.