“You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”
This is a message that Steve Jobs would repeat, over and over and over. It means that the technology sold by Apple, or used by Apple in support of the customer experience, doesn't have to be invented at Apple. And the technology Apple has lying around at its disposal doesn’t have to end up being used.
A company like Apple, and perhaps yours, suffers from almost a surplus of technologically adept employees. But Apple, when it is at its best (which isn't always, unfortunately), refuses to let technological capability drive the customer experience. Siri, to pick just one small example, wasn’t developed at Apple. It was envisioned at Apple after which Apple went on a hunt to see how their vision could be brought to life.
The Apple Store, to pick another example, was envisioned as the best customer experience anywhere (not just the best electronics retailing experience). So Apple benchmarked its customer service not against Best Buy, not against Radio Shack.
Instead, in preparing to open the first Apple Store, Apple chose to benchmark a company in an entirely different industry, hospitality: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. From their study of the Ritz-Carlton, they developed the Genius Bar (a repurposing of the concierge station in the lobby of hotel: just like concierges at the Ritz, the Apple Genius Bar is staffed with empathetic, knowledgeable people who will, so to speak, help you get to where you want to go), as well as their very specific approach to greeting customers as they enter the Apple Store.
Apply this to your own business situation
Obviously, Apple is a unique company, with a unique historical and financial position. But there is a practical entrepreneurial lesson here: Think about how different your customer experience could be if you channeled Steve Jobs’ "first things first" attitude and made it integral to your customer experience approach. A couple examples that might apply to your business:
- What if you didn’t force customers to suffer through your use of the (probably obsolete) CRM technology you have in house, but instead reconsidered what it would take to actually create the experience you want to provide for customers?
- What if you didn’t surrender responsibility for your social media interactions with customers to those in your company who are most technically adept at social media, but instead kept it firmly under the reins of the people who are truly your long-time customer service experts, with, of course, the helpful support of the above-mentioned technocrats?
- What if you picked up the doggone phone and called your customer (telephones are fantastic technology, albeit often poorly used by business) when that's the most direct way to resolve a customer issue, rather than thinking you need to sit back and hopelessly watch a simple customer issue escalate via twitter, email, and live chat?