It has often struck me that, especially in the technology sector, humanity and soul is ultimately winning out. 20 years ago it was all Dell and Microsoft. They were the king geeks. They were the engineers. They wrote the code and made the boxes that housed the code and we all supposed to be happy they had engineered and cost-controlled things till they were so affordable to corporate america.
And, let’s face it, it was dull. Something was missing. And we all knew it. We just didn’t know how to articulate it. But a certain Steven P. Jobs knew how.
Microsoft and Dell had something else in common too. In the gold rush to computer-based productivity, things like humanity and soul understandably got ignored. Dell and Microsoft sold all the shovels and the dynamite. They had virtual monopolies. They didn’t feel the need to be human and caring and worry about annoying and girly things like aesthetic appeal and product design and brand “feel”.
But that was then.
Cut to now. Apple’s stunningly brilliant products and brilliant store execution is trumping dull and soulless boxes. Anyone who has an iPhone knows what I mean.
I recently purchased a new Mac book. I was giddy as a child as I walked into the Mac store. Here’s what happened. I was accosted by a smiling young Apple employee who offered to help me. He listened and then directed me to the computer I needed. And he advised me of what peripherals I might need. And I didn’t have to wait in line, even though the store was packed (as it always is). I left with my new mac smiling. Then I get back to the office, anxious to take it for a test drive. All is going really good. And then I have a bad experience. Nothing to do with Apple though. No, it was loading the unavoidable Microsoft word software. It was torturous and needlessly complicated. The product of geeky boneheaded design that was more concerned about software piracy than my experience of the brand. Quelle surprise! Another mediocre Microsoft experience.
If you look at pretty much any consumer brand that is held up as exemplary (Whole Foods, Virgin Atlantic, Nike) you’ll notice that they all exhibit sensitivity to their customers. They are obsessed with creating the best possible experience. Can you imagine what a Dell store might be like? Yes you can. And it would, in all probability, suck. Based on precedent.
So, clearly, the recipe for success is very simple. Create a great product experience and build a culture that is based on anticipating very basic human wants and needs of your customers. Apparently, this is a very, very, very hard thing to do.