Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at the Apple store in King of Prussia, PA. It was my second two plus hour long visit at that store. In case you have not been to an Apple store I recommend it as field research -- you will be impressed.
At a first glance the place is crawling with people of all ages and nationalities -- yes, French, Germans, Italians and even Japanese were there -- some coming in for the first time, some spending time there every weekend. It looks like chaos, yet there is a method to the madness.
The staff can be recognized by the black Apple t-shirts and name badges. Other that that, they look as animated and excited about being there as the customers do. Rather than being idle, they deep dive in conversations with customers.
On my first visit, Anthony provided a two and a half hour tutorial on iMacs, printers that go best with them, and how to integrate digital cameras and other tools. We made movies of us talking, presentations with music, and drafted a home budget.
The opposite of pushy, Anthony followed with an email I asked him to send to help me schedule an appointment when Leopard (the new operating system) was released.
Since he wasn't at the store when I scheduled, a combination of Joe and Josh helped me with my purchases. I went grocery shopping with Josh as we looked at iPhone features, we talked about his girlfriend's favorite case as I was picking one.
Joe shared stories about his family as we were getting ready to check everything out and prepare for the new system installation. In other words, it was like hanging out with my friends while we were shopping together.
Apple can have that kind of set up at their stores because the people who show up are not looking to be sold on a product -- they already know they want it; by and large, they are buyers. The products sell themselves. The staff at the store is there to assist you complete your story, not tell you theirs -- it's a big difference.
The connection occurs before you've ever set foot in the place -- it happens as people's stories come alive in their imagination thanks to Apple products.
Apple works relentlessly on providing a great product, something that will get the system maintenance out of the way so people can focus on getting the work, *their* work done.
I had been an Apple user more than seventeen years ago and I was surprised at how quickly the little I remembered came back. The interface is so intuitive that I can fill the blanks easily. As many Apple users promised I would be able to do when I asked my readers if I should go Mac or Windows.
I set up last night without reading any manuals, and today I am working. How's that for usability?
The most important point I want to make here is that although Apple's story is a very strong one, the bow to me is that on this system, my story is stronger. How about software that is easy to install? How about intuitive navigation? How about better usability? These all contribute to putting me, the user, first.
In the collective number of experiences this company provides, the positive outweigh the negative and reinforce a brand that is already quite strong. Their signs and symbols are also very strong -- think different; the apple with the bite taken off is simple and universal. I also cannot help but feel a little bit cool, even if I'm by no stretch a geek.
Part of the story is the experience that people have with your brand or brand you. As I was finalizing my last purchase yet a third staff member shared his personal take on some of the tools and usability of Apple products. Chris was literally hanging out with us while at the same time not losing sight of assisting other customers.
Nobody was excluded from the conversation, yet everyone received personal attention. It made me think of what happens on Twitter and blogs -- it's a group conversation that has plenty of deep dives with individuals. That is a dynamic of team work that has not yet fully reached corporate America. We can learn a lot from watching these people work.
More than once I heard about the fact that they will spend as much time with you as you need -- they are not compensated on selling an item. If you recall, we talked about sales compensation in the conversation about sellers a couple of days ago. It is key to get that piece right.
There's a corollary conversation to this one -- that of recruiting people who are passionate about what they do and motivated, personally, to make things happen. Clearly, Josh, Joe, Chris, and Anthony all worked in concert to assist me. It wasn't about them, it was about the customer.
What's your story?