GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: The Apple Store’s Five Steps of Service by Carmine Gallo author, "The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty."
Since it opened its first store on May 19, 2001, Apple has redefined the customer experience and built unprecedented customer loyalty. A big part of Apple’s success is its commitment to training all of its employees to follow the “five steps of service” in every interaction. These five steps are so effective they will work for almost any business in any category.
The steps are outlined by the acronym A-P-P-L-E.
- 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.
Approach warmly. People who are greeted warmly within ten feet or ten seconds of entering a store perceive their wait time to be shorter and are more inclined to say they had a great experience. The key is to make sure customers are greeted by a friendly face that makes eye contact, uses a customers’ name, and is committed to creating a personalized and meaningful experience each and every time.
Probe politely. Apple Store salespeople (specialists) are instructed not to sell products. Instead they are encouraged to “enrich lives.” When you enrich someone’s life it means you are focused on building a long-term relationship with the customer and matching a customer with a product that best suits his or her needs. Specialists will ask a series of questions to thoroughly understand what product will best match a customer’s needs. Apple also runs a non-commissioned sales floor so specialists can spend as much time as the customer desires without fear of being reprimanded for spending too time with someone.
Present solutions. Apple employees are instructed to present a “solution” the customer they can take home today. The solution need not be a new product. It might be something that enhances and strengthens the customer’s relationship with the brand. For example, a customer who isn’t quite sure about buying an iPad might be encouraged to sign up for a free class. Another customer who is having trouble with his iPhone and doesn’t have a Genius Bar appointment might be referred to another store in the area or shown how to schedule one for the next day. The best “solution” is the one that puts a smile on a customer’s face.
Listen carefully. Apple Store sales specialists are constantly listening for unresolved issues. A customer who is new to Macs might be concerned about learning a new operating system. A specialist would have learned about this concern from asking the right questions in step two. In one conversation I heard a specialist say, “And don’t worry about learning something new. The Mac is simple and intuitive. In fact, I just started using a Mac a year ago and today I’m working on the sales floor.”
End fondly. Apple has discovered a direct correlation between how people feel when they leave the store and how likely they are to recommend the experience. Employees will end a conversation with a “fond farewell” and, more importantly, an “invitation to return.” For example, a specialist once concluded a transaction with me by saying, “Carmine, I’m sure you’ll love your new Macbook. I think you’ll be blown away with what you can do with Keynote[presentation software]. Be sure to sign up for your first One-to-One class. I can’t wait to see what you create.”
These five steps of service are powerful. A business does not need to have a physical presence to follow the five steps. They apply to almost any customer interaction in person, on the phone, or even on social media platforms. Customers will reward you with their wallet and their loyalty if you make them feel appreciated, confident, and happy.
That’s the Apple way.
Carmine Gallo is a keynote speaker, communications coach and author of the new book, "The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty." More information can be found at www.appleexperiencebook.com