The Real Secret of Apple’s Product Philosophy [Opinion]



CNET has a great article up that details the secrets of Apple’s customer service. Erica Ogg highlights the recent findings of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, a sort of Michelin guide for customer service and appreciation. Apple not only earned its highest score to date in this survey, it established a monster lead over other PC makers.

The real story is how much further ahead of its peers Apple is in this [survey]. The Mac maker’s nine-point lead is now the largest lead any company has over its competition in any of the 45 categories that the ACSI study surveys–including home appliances, gas stations, autos, e-commerce, airlines, and more.

The real secret to Apple’s success is that there are no secrets.

Apple is dominating its competition in customer service because the company cares about creating a quality customer experience at every brand touchpoint. And they do this for a reason – it’s called “profit”.  Apple has built an immensely successful business model around the depth of caring about product experience, and it’s translating all the way from customer sentiment to Wall Street.  From corporate leadership and the vision of Steve Jobs to customized retail environments showcasing flawless product design, Apple is invested in delivering amazing experiences to their customers.

We often hear that Apple “plays the game” better than Sony, HP, Dell, etc – that’s not quite right. Apple is playing an entirely different game. What’s most amazing about this?  Nobody else seems to want to play with them, they just keep playing the “other” game, and poorly.

Apple is committed to creating fun, functional products that perform flawlessly for consumers. The iPhone changed the way people engaged telephony and internet everyday. iPad introduced tablet computing to the masses. From their take on music to a rock solid operating system, every product design choice Apple makes is governed by simplicity, ease of use and functionality. Apple deliberately kept the user experience in mind at every stage of product development and has benefited greatly from it.

The other guys?  They either license existing devices from miscellaneous unnamed overseas manufacturers, or “innovate” through tiny incremental feature design – aka copy others.  They certainly talk a good game about product experience, but it’s not even in the picture at anywhere near the same level.  And we don’t understand why.  It’s easy to see how they all got here, but surprising to see them not trying to change, especially if you bring the dollars into it.

The Cupertino company’s market cap is through the roof. They make boatloads of money on hardware, software, apps, services, content, etc.  The company has built a following of brand evangelists and is attracting consumer goodwill by the truckload. People love the Apple experience so much that they are willing to forgive recent mis-steps by the Mac maker. From antenna-gate to a camera-free iPad, to a little bit of Chinese child labor, consumers are choosing to remain with Apple (or wait around hoping for them to come their way).

The investment that Apple made several years ago in superlative product design and user experience has resulted in not only brand loyalty but brand growth. At Stage Two, we help companies of all sizes create exceptional user experiences and polished products, because we believe this is an investment utterly worth making.  It’s a tough thing for any internal product or engineering team to face – the thought of an external group nitpicking apart their gem, but it’s worth it.  While there’s certainly religion at Apple, the religion is about the product being exceptional, and that’s the right kind of focus any consumer-facing product company should have as well.

This is a guest commentary by Jeremy Toeman of Stage Two consulting, a San Francisco Product Experience company. It was originally published here.