If you are wondering why your recent trip to the Apple Store left you loving Apple more than ever or wanting your customers to feel the same way about your company, we got the book for you.

The Apple Experience” by veteran Apple/technology author Carmine Gallo deep dives into the Apple retail experience and breaks down exactly what it is that Apple retail employees are trained to do just to make a customer feel good about an experience (and want to come back). The 235-page book goes through every aspect of employee training and pours through countless hours of interviews with employees and shoppers on Apple’s five-step service: Approach, Probe, Present, Listen, and End.

Even if you do not own a retail business and just want to understand how Apple retail works, there is a lot here for you.

Gallo heeds his own advice by delivering a fun and incredibly insightful book that will help people understand the “magic” of the Apple retail experience.

The Apple Experience is at Amazon. The hardcover is $16.50, and the Kindle version is $9.99. When it hits the iBookstore, it will be available here.

An “Apple Experience” excerpt from “Chapter 10: Sell the Benefit” is below:

My mother-in-law, Patty Cook, expressed an interest in buying an iPad for her husband, Ken. As we approached the holiday season, she contacted me for advice. Sensing a unique opportunity to do some observational research, I told her that we should visit the Apple Store and ask a Specialist for advice. I purposely avoided offering any input, and I did not say a word when we walked into the store. It was important for me to watch the interaction and how it impacted Patty, without influencing her decision in any way. Patty is friendly and talkative, so it should not have been difficult for an Apple employee to walk Patty through the steps of service. She also knows very little about Apple products or computers in general, so she needed basic information. We had two conversations with two separate Apple employees. The results were very, very different.

The first thing I learned was that Apple gets it right more often than it gets it wrong; but it gets it wrong from time to time. Every- thing in this book is aspirational. The concepts you’re reading will help you create an exceptional experience for your customers whether you sell a product or a service in-store, on the Web, or over the phone. It’s my contention that Apple has refined the customer service model to the highest degree of any major corporation, but with 30,000 employees around the world, even Apple has a difficult time achieving its ideal experience in each and every transaction, especially if someone on the sales floor does not get trained repeatedly in the five steps. Here are two examples—one where it went wrong and another when it went right.

When It Went Wrong

In the first store we met a Specialist, Alba, who did not walk through the steps of service, and she did not score any points with Patty. See if you can figure out why.

Patty: Hi, I’m thinking of buying an iPad for my husband. Can you tell me more about it?

Alba: Well, there are two models. One connects you to Wi-Fi and the other to 3G, so you can get an Internet connection anywhere. Those start at $629.

Patty is thoroughly confused less than one minute into the conversation. She’s acknowledges she is nontechnical. Patty doesn’t know what Wi-Fi or 3G means. She doesn’t even know what to ask next, and Alba is not guiding her.

Patty: Is this your top of the line? (Does Patty really need “top of the line”? Alba never probed to find out.)

Alba: This is the iPad 2. All the different models we carry do exactly the same thing.

It’s only the storage space that’s different. It goes 16 gigs, 32 gigs, and 64 gigs.

By now, Patty has the “deer-in-the-headlights” look: totally befuddled. I feel horrible because I told Patty that buying an Apple product would be a memorable experience. I’m debating whether or not to jump in and end the misery. I let it go to see what would hap- pen next. Yes, I know, bad son-in-law!

Patty: My husband is a photographer, and he wants to store his prints on it.

Alba: He can definitely do that. (Long pause. Nobody speaks. It’s getting painful to watch.)

Patty: Would you recommend one over the other?
Alba: Like I said, they all do the same thing. The only difference is storage space, and if you want one with Wi-Fi or 3G.

At this point, my six-year-old daughter who was also with us, saved all of us by loudly proclaiming, “I have to go potty!” She wasn’t the only one who needed relief. Patty and I left the store without having made a purchase or being “enriched.” Patty was thoroughly confused, and Apple had failed to make a sale or establish a relationship with a new customer. Where did Alba go wrong? Here are a few factors:

  1. Alba explained the features of the product, but not the benefits. Nobody cares about features. They care about how the product or service will improve their lives.
  2. Alba failed to probe. She didn’t ask questions to guide the conversation. When Patty asked if the iPad was “top of the line,” a well- trained Apple Specialist would be concerned about whether the product was the right one for her and not try to sell her the most expensive model. Remember, Steve Jobs once said that he doesn’t give customers what they want. He gives them what they need.
  3. Alba never made an effort to connect with any of us emotion- ally. She never asked for Patty’s name, my name, or anything about Patty’s six-year-old granddaughter who was sitting right next us laughing and giggling as she was playing on an iPad. She could have at least said, “Your granddaughter can play on your husband’s iPad when she comes to visit!”

I convinced Patty to do some other shopping, get her head together, and return later to the Apple Store with the hope that we could score a Specialist who has had better training. This time we were greeted by Jessica, who had been trained in the five steps of service. The experience for Patty was wildly different and far more satisfying.

When It Went Right

Patty: I want to get an iPad for my husband. Can you just tell me a little about them?

Jessica: Absolutely. sure. No problem. The great functionality of the iPad is how portable the device is. You can surf the Web, play games, check e-mails, take pictures, store movies—there’s a whole lot you can do.

Patty: He loves to search the Internet and to play games. But I want to get him on the couch next to me instead of going in the other room to play his online poker.

Jessica: Exactly (laughing). This will do the trick! Do you have a wireless Internet connection?

Patty: No, but my son has mentioned we would need to get one. He can set it up.

Jessica: The reason I ask is because there are two different types of iPads. There’s one just with Wi-Fi to connect to a wireless Internet connection, whether it be through your home network or free at a star- bucks or any place with Wi-Fi. But there’s also the iPad with Wi-Fi plus 3G. What the 3G capability allows you to do is connect to the Internet anywhere.

Patty: He might like that. He’s a photographer who wants to go to conventions and show his photos.

Jessica: If he’s traveling, 3G is great because he’ll be connected to the Internet via cell signal. From there you have to think about the storage capacity, the amount of space you have on the device, the amount of things you can store. Pictures take up a lot of storage. Music, movies, all take up storage. Our base model is 16 gigabytes of capacity. That will store an average of a few thousand songs. A full-length HD movie takes up about 2 to 3 gigs so it’s already taking up storage.

Patty: I don’t think he’ll watch movies. It’s more about the photos.

Jessica: Gotcha. Then you’ll want to consider either the 16 GB or the 32 GB model. The 32 GB might be best because it offers the extra storage. There is no way to increase the amount of storage built-in to the device. I recommend shooting high so he has the extra room for his photographs.

Patty: so what was the one that’s always connected?

Jessica: Wi-Fi plus 3 G. The data plans are offered either through AT&T or verizon.

The great thing about these plans is that there is no commitment. No contract for two years and so on. You can turn it on for a month or turn it off. I could tell Patty was already sold on the 32 GB model. But Jessica wasn’t done. She was about to close the sale with a wow moment, adding a nugget of information that would impress Patty and directly relate to something that Patty had mentioned earlier in the conversation. “Come with me,” said Jessica as she led Patty to the accessory wall at the back of the store. “This is a camera connection kit. Your husband can take his photographs, remove the memory card, insert it in this slot, and transfer his photos to the iPad.” Patty was thrilled. I could tell the sale had been made. But Jessica had one more thing . . .

“There’s one more thing for you to consider,” she said. Once he opens his new iPad, you can tell your husband that we offer free classes right in the store if he’d like to learn how to use it.” Steve Jobs, who was famous for surprising his audiences with “one more thing” at the end of his presentations, would have been proud.

Patty and I left the store because we had another appointment, but the sale had been made. Patty bought an iPad 2 a few days later (the 32 GB model that Jessica had recommended.) Ken was a very happy customer on the morning of December 25. Patty felt bad because Jessica didn’t get the sale. I told Patty that Apple Store employees are not on commission, and Jessica would not be penalized for the time she spent with Patty. She did her job, she did it well, and Patty was happy. That’s all that matters to Jessica. What did Jessica do right?

  1. Jessica talked about benefits, not features. Instead of using terms like 3G and Wi-Fi, Jessica went directly to what Patty (and Ken) could do with the device: enjoy games, e-mail, photos, movies, and so on. It was in that moment that Patty smiled and began warming up to the idea of purchasing an iPad. She wasn’t con- fused. She was empowered. She began to enjoy the sales process. Jessica had created a relationship. Once you build relationships, your customer will make it easier for you to make a sale.
  2. Jessica probed with simple questions to understand Patty’s situation and how Ken would use the device.
  3. Jessica listened closely and used what she had heard to create a wow moment, introducing Patty to the camera connection kit.

Here’s the kicker. Remember, I said that Patty likes to talk and strike up conversations. Patty was so satisfied with this experience that she actually asked Jessica if she could pass along a recommendation to her manager. I was surprised—but I guess I shouldn’t have been—when Jessica said, “Thanks. But as long as you’re happy that’s all that matters.” Patty persisted, but Jessica stuck to her ground—thanks, but no thanks.

The fact that Jessica declined an opportunity for a customer to praise her in front of her boss should strike fear in the hearts of business owners everywhere. It tells you everything you need to know about why the Apple Stores are succeeding and why you might be falling behind when it comes to customer service. Ask yourself honestly if a customer tells one of your employees that she thought so highly of the customer experience that she would like to speak to a manager, would your employee bust down the door to the manager’s office to show off a satisfied customer? Sure, they would. The reason Jessica did not want Patty to talk to the manager is because it would teach the manager nothing new. It’s expected that store employees create magical moments on the sales floor all day long. Jessica’s manager wouldn’t get any work done if she dragged every happy customer into his office! I’ve asked Apple Store employees why Jessica didn’t jump at the opportunity. They all said because it happens to each of them every day. It’s all part of the Apple show. Would the person who plays the character of Cinderella at Disneyland rush to her supervisor to say, “Did you see the smile I put on that little girl’s face! I must be really good.” Of course not. Magical moments are expected all the time at Disney and the Apple Store.

“Was your life enriched by our Apple experience?” I asked Patty.

“Yes, it was,” Patty confirmed.

“When you fill out the e-mail survey that Apple will send, will you say that you would

recommend Apple to someone else?”

“Yes, definitely,” Patty responded.

That’s what matters to Apple.

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