Monday, March 1, 2010

How Culture Leads to Profits

Over the last month or so, I have had a very interesting B2B buying experience. Our company decided to upgrade our laptops in January. As a relatively happy Dell customer we decided to order 2 new Dells. (or let me just say try to order). Here is a brief overview of my experience:

1) Called Dell direct after I configured our systems online including colors from their widely advertised color options.
2) After we finished the configuration I was told I would have to speak to someone in the home division instead of business because I had chose a color that wasn't offered in his business unit. I would have to start the process from start.
3) I said that I wasn't willing to do that, and he needed to figure that out internally.
4) Finally after 2 days, my order has been placed and we will have our laptops mid-February.
5) Due to several delays, the order being placed inaccurately, the unavailability of the processor, etc. they said it would be March 15th before our order would ship.
6) I cancelled the order. (after speaking with the salesperson, he felt his hands were tied in the process and believe me, I felt his hands were tied as the customer).

Here is a brief overview of my Apple experience:
1) Called Apple to discuss transferring to a PC and integrating our smart phones. They said it would be no problem.
2) Went to the Apple store spoke with the Geniuses, (and they are), ordered the laptops, picked them up the next day.
3) Logged in a call to Apple online support with a question regarding my email and they said someone would be calling me in a minute, it took 10 seconds.
4) I am using my Apple Macbook right now and proud to have paid double for the level of service I received.
5) Had a slight issue with my email after pick up, BJ a very cool Apple Genius stayed on the phone with me after hours for an hour trying to diagnose.

So, how does Apple do it? They have 10% market share today, but I feel that is growing. They make it EASY for a person to buy their products via a very smart, highly trained, highly committed workforce. Their culture supports their strategy and in my opinion it is created in a deliberate manner. The customer is at the center of everything they do. My question is how do they sustain that culture of high touch customer service?

I have some thoughts on the subject, but what is your experience? How do companies like Nordstrom's, Apple, Zappo's, Chick-Fil-A and others make their culture where you can almost see it because you certainly do feel it? How is the culture SUSTAINED over time?


Unknown said...

I think in these cases, the companies are really really good at empowering their employees. BJ wasn't just helping Apple's customer, he was helping 'his' customer.

Unknown said...


You are absolutely right. That is what it felt like on my side, that I was HIS customer. Thanks for making that point and thanks for reading!


Anthony said...

Agree with Eric, providing the target goal for the staff as simple and clear as possible, coupled with a high level of autonomy and training allows for a great culture and customer experience.

Internal audits, systems, etc can also play a great part to ensure while you are offering exceptional service that you are also profitable.

The Ritz Carlton is great at customer service and training. You need to be willing to build the culture, provide the autonomy and training and sit back and wait for the fruits of your investment. Not many companies are willing or can wait...

Unknown said...

Hi Anthony:

Great points about autonomy and training. Ritz Carlton is awesome at delivering a great customer experience, thanks for bringing up that example. They definitely have world class training.

I appreciate your reading and sharing your thoughts-


Karen said...

I live in a house divided - my husband is a dedicated MAC guy and I'm a soon to be converted PC user. Your MAC experience just illustrates the difference between the "renter" mentality and the "owner" mentality. MAC employees have an "owner" mentality which puts you, the customer, front and center. It will only be a matter of time before Apple gains the lion share of the market.

Martin Haworth said...

...and the irony is that dell will never see the lost client in terms of the potentially thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars you will now not spend with them.

Voting with your feet will eventually show these arrogant organizations what-for!

Unknown said...

Martin, I so agree and I filled out one of their "satisfaction" survey and have not hear word one. AMAZING!!!!

Rita said...

Cathy - Another great blog! My sister had a similar experience with Dell so it does not surprise me.