I never met Steve Jobs. I didn’t know him. But like many, I didn’t have to. I became an Apple fan (I have at least one of just about everything they sell) not so much because of the products, but because of the culture. If you peel back the innovative design and technology, what you’ll find buried way underneath is a culture of hospitality, a culture of caring about not just what you’re doing, but how you do it. Many people have described Steve Jobs as a tremendous leader and visionary. Some have characterized him as a hard driving perfectionist which was off putting to more than a few. But almost no one has labeled him as a hospitality guru. I have.
Imagine the Apple retail experience without the following...
- Obsession with efficiency and customer handling- handheld checkout devices, emailed receipts and a devotion to having more than enough people to handle customer demand.
- Hello and Good Bye- Devoted to greeting you at the door and saying good bye when you leave...regardless of purchase.
- Passionate people- having witnessed the hiring process first-hand I can say they spend more time and money on screening and training than anyone I’ve come across, except for maybe Zappos. The result is an army of fiercely loyal and passionate people who I think would almost work for free.
- No Counters (except for the genius bar)- devoted to a high level of customer engagement.
- Genius Bar- a dedicated group of highly trained specialists who listen and care more about solving your problem than charging you for it.
- Apple Care- just the name is enough said.
- The Details- classic Steve everywhere...receipts (if you want one) are produced like magic tricks from printers cleverly hidden under display tables, bags are high quality design statements in their own right and worth buying (and also come from seemingly nowhere) and store layouts are spacious, eye appealing, clutter free and comfortable. Everything fits.
Without these elements, Apple stores would be very different...much like most average retail experiences...boring and much less personable. Thank goodness they’re not.
Here’s a video pitch I made earlier this year to help secure an Apple training meeting at our hotel. I’m told it made quite a splash at Apple (and luckily we got the meeting). We lived with the Apple culture for three weeks, had a great time, made new friends and learned a lot. And in the process we helped them open a new store.
Steve...thank you for doing it differently. Thank you for inspiring me to often ask “how would Steve do this?”. And thank you for taking hospitality seriously.
I will miss you.