Customer Experience learnings from Apple, Tesla and Disneyland!


In 2017, 75% of companies had said their top objective was improving customer experience. You’ve probably read this stat several times by now.

There’s a lot more. According to Internet RetailerOpens a new window customers who are happy with the way their issues are resolved share their positive experience with at least 4-6 people. This can lead to a neat chain reaction –> word of mouth marketing –> referrals –> and so on.

Customer experience is the foundation of several successful brands. What’s interesting (and not uncommon) to note is how more than half of the worlds’ top brands, including those like Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung boast of not only their innovative products, but the innovative experiences they offer their customers. But guess what? Many of the ‘top brands’ today belong to the field of technology.

Is it that high comfort with technology helps these brands create better customer experiences? Or are these brands able to use technology to build better customer experiences?  Let’s find out!

Here’s a popular quote on customer experience from Steve Jobs – “You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.”

    Here are my CX takeaways from the best in the business:

    1. Apple:

    Apple needs no introduction.

    Apple Stores are the most profitable retailer and boast the highest revenue per square foot of any retail store.

    The Apple Store’s (secret) magic formula? ‘Building relationships is the secret to selling more products’

    Many brands do try and imitate the Apple Store model but what they don’t realize is the differentiating factor – the soul of Apple is its people – how they are hired,  trained and taught to engage customers and treat them well.

    The lessons:

    • Custom-model: Every employee is trained and expected to walk a customer through five steps that spell out the acronym A-P-P-L-E. Here’s a (very) brief snippet of what each letter means:

    A: Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome

    P: Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs

    P: Present a solution for the customer to take home today

    L: Listen for and resolve issues or concerns

    E: End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return

    • Treat them well: Customers have often said that whenever they have to go visit an Apple Store for repairs, they are always treated well. Essentially, the brand focuses on building customer relationships. No matter which Apple store you go to in the world, they’ll treat you like you just bought your iPhone from them.
    • Voice of customer: The company is known to take into account actual customer feedback and recommendations (voice of the customer)  while designing products and services.
    • No hierarchy when it comes to customers: Even Steve Jobs was known to respond to customer queries directly by email sometimes.
    • End to end CX: For market leaders like Apple, every phase of a customer’s experience is carefully planned to makethem feel valued. From the in-store experience, inviting products designs, product packaging and a great customer support experience, Apple sets a high standard on how to plan an end to end CX.

    Pini Yakuel, CEO of Optimove contributes, “Apple was one of the first brands in the market to understand that the majority of their spend should be on the purchase and post-purchase phase of the customer lifecycle rather than on the pre-purchase phase, which is where the majority of brands focus. The emphasis on their retail stores (workshops, Genius Bar, etc.) and on the actual experience of buying their products have made them second to none when it comes to successful customer communications. When compared to brands like Samsung and HTC who don’t offer similar face-to-face experiences, it’s clear that Apple’s focus on the offline experience is one of the reasons they create such a strong brand affinity.”

    My a-ha moment: Apple focuses disproportionately on the purchase and post-purchase experience as well as the offline experience; whereas most brands focus on the digital pre-purchase ‘journey’.

    2. Tesla

    Companies like Tesla are a good example of how social platforms like Twitter and Facebook are now often used to improve overall customer experience.

    Elon Musk is known to be a regular Twitter user and is often seen engaging with his audience online or offering insights. Here’s one (of many, many) examples: in November last year, a customer Tweeted to him to ask him where the visor mirror in her parents Tesla was and Musk responded with directions for her to find it! Few CEOs are known to get their hands dirty and engage in these business tasks, with most choosing to leave the task to their customer success teams.

    Apart from this, the company’s blog doubles up as a customer service tool – to share important announcements and updates.

    The lessons:

    • CX is not only a responsibility for Sales: Customer experience tactics are not meant for one specific team; it should permeate all levels
    • Blogs, social channels: Can be used to align with a company’s overall CX efforts and goals
    • Find the social red flags: By the time customers are forced to ask the CEO a question on social media, possibly means it was difficult for them to find an answer to their doubt easily. This serves as a marker and can be used by in-house product teams to optimize product and service design
    • Listen: It is more important for customers to know they are being heard when they reach out to a brand on social media. A prompt acknowledgement or non-automated response helps then build confidence in the brand.

    My a-ha moment: Customers reaching out on social media with complaints and suggestions are a huge, possibly untapped opportunity for reinforcing the brand personality – people do’t mind things going wrong with their products- what matters is how the company helps them address the issue..

    3. Disneyland

    Which of all the Disneyland’s in the world are your favorite? The world’s most sought-after theme park can teach marketers a thing or two about customer experience.

    Walt Disney himself was obsessed with great customer engagement. He was known to visit the parks in disguise to experience the thrilling rides and to be a first-person observer of the staff’s behavior with customers.

    It is not surprising that Disneyland boasts of a 70% return rate for first time visitors. Every marketer would love to replicate this stat for first-time site and landing page visitors!

    The lessons:

    • Negatives to positives: After receiving a lot of complaints from parents who spent hours in a long line only to find that their child wasn’t tall enough to sit on the ride, the staff were given permission to hand out a special pass when this happens that allows the child to skip to the front of the line on his or her next ride.
    • Importance of tone: It is common for guests to ask Disney’s staff the timings of shows. Staff are trained for hours just to get the correct tone – the tone has to be right because small moments like this play a big role in the memories the customer takes home.
    • Constant improvements: Maybe a part of what makes Disney a familiar name worldwide is their ability to seek out ways to constantly improve. From finding new ways to eradicating the problem of guests forgetting where they had parked their cars, to providing Special Assistance passes to fulfill the needs of the specially-abled, Disney focuses on finding ways to specially cater to different needs of different customers in their quest to offer the ‘complete experience’ package.

    My a-ha moment: Building systems that enable constant improvement and knowing that improvement can come in small ways, from anywhere is key to long-term CX strategy.

    The growth of multiple media channels means more customer touchpoints and more experiences to manage. But this also means more ways and mediums through which to enhance your customer’s experience. Customers want to build relationships with brands. There may not be such a thing as ‘perfect customer experience’ but a customer experience strategyOpens a new window that is consistent, authentic, empathetic and backed-by data can give marketers the chance to come close.