I think we can all agree Apple does Customer Experience well. They've spent quite a bit investing in the retail experience and there's a lot we can learn from their success. While reading a recent Gizmodo article, How To Be a Genius: This Is Apple’s Secret Employee Training Manual, I began to subconsciously make a list of things Apple does that others should emulate if they want rank well in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index.
1. Training. Okay, so really this entire post is about training employees. But Apple does it well. So well that Gizmodo really took aim saying it "could easily serve as the Humanity 101 textbook for a robot university, but at Apple, it's an exhaustive manual to understanding customers and making them happy." Apple has created a 80+ page manual every new Genius uses as they go through a rigorously regimented scheduled training program for 14 days before hitting the floor. While 14 days may or may not be enough time to train employees on the ins and outs of your products, there's certainly something to be said for their training methods.
2. Empathy is more important than we realize, and sympathy is out. During the 14 day training program, new employees go through a session titled, "The Power of Empathy." Employees are never to be sympathetic or apologize for the company or brand. Instead, they're supposed to be empathetic towards the customer and his/her problem. The three Fs are the golden words here: Feel, Felt, Found. "I'm sorry you're feeling frustrated" or "I can see how you'd feel this way. I felt the price was a little high, but I found it's a really great value..." While I may or may not take this empathy-sympathy to quite the same level as Apple has. there's no denying we could use a lot more empathy in our customer experiences.
3. Role playing really helps. Role playing during new hire training—or even as a refresher—really helps put what you've learned into action. I've found things might make perfect sense on paper, but when applied to the real situation, you end up having questions or it doesn't feel right. Role playing helps people get comfortable with the material (and this goes for anyone interacting with customers, whether in a support role, sales, etc.)
4. Negativity is a mortal sin. Apple prohibits disagreement, and they've taught their customer support staff the tools and tactics to avoid reaching that dark customer experience. Their hypothesis is that happy people buy things. Sounds like a lot of other studies that point out if a customer is unhappy, they typically leave without a moment’s notice or give you a chance to win them back. So, find ways to help your staff avoid confrontation and bad feelings.
5. Fearless Feedback is ridiculous. I agree with Gizmodo on this one. Giving peers feedback needs to be handled with a sense of empathy and sensitivity that you just can't get from the “robot speak” printed in Apple's manual. Of course you should strive to create a culture and a community that's open, but if handled like a robot, you're just going to create tension in the workplace. It's important to mentor employees who struggle with this, teach them tactics that will help them provide constructive feedback to coworkers without it resulting in bad feelings.
In sum, Apple is just trying to make us happy. In some cases, you may feel they're going a bit too far or they have deeper goals (to make money, but seriously, what business doesn't?), but you can't argue with the fact that they know how to defuse a negative situation and make us happy.
Can you imagine if all customer service teams had manual that helped teach them how to make customers happy? Can you imagine how much better all of our customer experiences would be?
If I were to expand this list to 10, what would be the next 5 customer service tips that should be on here? These should of course be from your experiences and knowledge.