A Golden Delicious Customer Experience

If Steve Jobs were alive today, he would have turned 58 yesterday. In homage to the inspiring changes he brought to big business and to marketing, we’re celebrating one of his many pivotal moves: the customer experience.

Best known as the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Apple, Jobs saw customer experience as a total package to be given to the consumer, never limited to the sales floor or the product. Jobs helped define this unique customer experience for Apple – and it skyrocketed Apple to the top after years in the slumps.

Apple’s user experience is notoriously pleasant and simple, and we’re not just referring to single-button iPods and intuitive touchscreen iPhones. “The Apple experience” is carefully crafted to be delivered in a series of steps, starting from the moment someone enters the store, to purchasing a product, to helpful tech support.

So what lessons can be learned from “the Apple experience”?

Experience Marketing, Minus the Marketing

Apple offers an experience that extends far beyond what’s in the box. Speaking of Apple’s box: Ever noticed how easy it is to get into? Frustration-free packaging gives customers a pleasant experience from the first moment. Inside, the product is snuggled into a perfect niche, alongside an instruction pamphlet that feels more like a storybook than a how-to guide. The only thing missing is a bow on top.

And they don’t leave their customers hanging after the box is open. Any time there's trouble with a product, a line of chipper tech geeks are waiting at the Genius Bar to take care of it (for free). An Apple store is undeniably a different experience than any other tech store. It’s bright and airy, the sample products are all touchable, and best of all: checkout stations come to directly to customers. Easy-as-pie transactions and a Genius Bar that takes reservations means customers no longer have to wait around in agonizing lines. (Sometimes the experience is about what you take out of the picture rather than what you put into it.)

The experience doesn’t stop at the marketing. Apple makes the experience about the product and service – independent of themselves. That’s more revolutionary than any product.

You Gotta Have Heart

Much has been written on how Steve Jobs really, truly believed in his products – to him, they were as much art as they were product. We’re sure Jobs saw dollar signs like any CEO, but he also put real feeling into Apple’s creations. When you love what you’re selling, you can’t settle for an imperfect product.

That’s why even the packaging and the charger are a little bit special, a little bit exciting. Apple products look prettier, feel smoother, function more intuitively, and ring a little more cheerfully than competitors’ similar products. People react to all those little extras. Jobs didn’t re-invent the wheel; he just made it faster.

Some Practical Advice

Too many individuals and companies try to achieve success by copying the execution of somebody else’s ideas. Look at Best Buy – they’ve changed their entire store look to resemble that of Apple’s. Microsoft’s new retail stores also have a similar look and feel. However, both fall short of “the Apple experience.”

If you're going to copy something, don't copy the look and feel of a competitor. Instead, try copying the spirit of that company’s ideas. Then apply it to your unique product/service and client base.

Consider how you can make an experience out of whatever it is you provide your customers. What experience do they want? If you’re an artisan soap maker, perhaps provide an experience where customers can attend a DIY class – a tactile, olfactory experience not offered by other boutique soap makers. If you’re a landscape architect, you might impress your customers by sending them a bouquet of flowers with care guidelines for all the plant types that were put in their yard. Whoever you are, become the one that’s different. Be an experience-maker.

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