Myth Busted: Steve Jobs Did Listen To Customers

Dec 19 2013, 10:40pm CST | by

Myth Busted: Steve Jobs Did Listen To Customers
Photo Credit: Forbes Apple

I’m tired of hearing people say, “Steve Jobs didn’t listen to customers.” It’s not true.

By the time Jobs returned to Apple in the 90s, his views had evolved. He’d been listening to customers for more than 20 years and, by that time, was deeply attuned to their needs.

He made the following statement in the 1997 Worldwide Developers Conference (see video above):

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology…I’ve made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room…As we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with ‘What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?’…I think that’s the right path to take.

No one is saying to form a communist-style committee to ask customers what features they want in a new product because, as Jobs said, “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

But show them and pay attention to what they say. Better yet, watch them as they use it, like he did when he visited the Apple Store in Palo Alto.

He believed that “really great products come from melding two points of view—the technology point of view and the customer point of view. You need both.”

This belief pervades the company’s retail operations, too. Apple uses Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty. On a daily basis, customers are asked—across hundreds of stores—how likely they are to recommend Apple. Fred Reichheld and Rob Markey explain the process in 2011’s The Ultimate Question 2.0:

Comments from customers help [Apple] store managers prepare for service recovery calls with detractors to close the feedback loop. The outcomes of these calls, together with the customer comments, provide important coaching and feedback messages that are passed along to employees.

Every company should obsess about customer experience the way Apple does. Customer focus is the surest way to satisfy financial stakeholders in the long run.

“Maximizing shareholder value,” Jack Welch admitted, “is the dumbest idea in the world.”

I know what else is dumb: not listening to customers.

Follow me on Twitter

(Drew Hansen is responsible for Special Ops at Qualtrics, the world’s leading enterprise survey platform)

Source: Forbes Apple

 
 

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