Apple’s secret ingredient? A large group of very satisfied customers

Apple Store“Pundits often refer to them as ‘zealots’ or ‘fanboys.’ The more polite references include ‘Mac loyalists.’ I am, of course, talking about Apple’s more vocal customers, those who will defend the company and its products in any debate going on around them. What is it that drives their passion for most things Apple? Is it a deluded mind, warped by the Reality Distortion Field that Steve Jobs so successfully wraps every new product in? In short, the answer is no,” Aric Winton writes for Blackfriars’ Marketing.

Winton writes, “The truth behind the scenes is not that Apple has a large group of customers that are too dedicated and passionate about their products, or the company as a whole. The reality is far more simple and obvious: Apple simply has a large group of very satisfied customers — and that’s the secret ingredient left out of nearly every analysis or op-ed piece that mentions these ‘zealots.'”

“The obvious side to Apple’s customer satisfaction lies in their attention to detail in every facet of product development. All their products are designed, at every stage, with the customer clearly in mind and each product is tailored to make it as easy to use as possible for the customer, regardless of how technically savvy or not they may be,” Winton writes.

Winton writes, “The less obvious side involves two keywords: freedom and choice.”

Full article – highly recommended – in which Winton explains that “too much choice” in both hardware and software “leads to less satisfaction” and that Apple understands that idea very well, here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “MacUser” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Apple again leads Consumer Reports’ survey for notebook, desktop computer tech support, value, more – October 16, 2006
Apple Mac desktops, notebooks top PC Magazine’s Annual Reader Satisfaction survey – again – August 22, 2006
Apple far outscores all other PC makers in Consumer Reports Computer Tech Support Survey – May 05, 2006
Apple Mac desktops, portables top PC Magazine’s 2005 Reader Satisfaction survey – August 24, 2005
Apple Computer products top PC Magazine’s annual ‘Best of the Year’ survey – December 16, 2004
Apple Macs top PC Magazine’s ’17th Annual Reader Satisfaction Survey’ – August 10, 2004
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65 Comments

  1. I agree, he does get it…Interesting how something so simple can be so effective. Although I suppose it could be considered a risky strategy ( before it proves itself), and not everyone could pull it off.

  2. It’s so obvious. Apple’s “zealots” and “fanboys” exist because Apple makes great products. Apple doesn’t pay us to be “loyalists.” The only company that can afford to pay people to be fake fans is Microsoft.

  3. Dam right. I’m a happy, vocal Apple fanboi!

    Although I can be extremely tough on Apple sometimes, it comes from just over 20 years of expecting the very best computing experience possible and demading even more perfection.

    By the way, BlueRay is kicking HD-DVD’s a$$$

    Make sure you download the PDF and see the chart, HD-DVD is nearly dead.

    http://www.dailytech.com/Sony+Releases+Report+on+Bluray+vs+HD+DVD/article6841.htm

    http://www.thedigitalbits.com/files/sonyhdreport031807.zip

  4. Great article. I think a lot of us have been saying this. This mainstream recognition is something to behold, though. In a year or two, things may be even better. Hard to imagine, but I can’t wait.

  5. That was indeed a great article.

    But do you know why Apple’s competition has to offer “more choices” than Apple. That’s the only way they can distinguish themselves from Apple. “We have inferior products, but we offer more freedom for the customer than Apple.”

    Remember when Apple used to offer a few dozen Mac models called Performa, Centris, and Quadra, followed by a 3 or 4 digit number. Then Steve Jobs returned and chopped it down to the four quadrants (with one initially missing). What was left… Power Mac (in two body types), PowerBook, and iMac (iBook came later).

    It’s not Apple that understood this philosophy. It’s Jobs.

  6. the tyranny of choice has operational impacts as well….we support windows at work and the “tyranny of choices” when configuring and operating a windows box compared to the macs just leaves me shaking my head. i don’t see how any casual user can deal with it or needs to deal with it. apple hides the choices – go to the command line if you really need it.

  7. There are two things going on in this article. The first is a discussion of Apple “fanatics” and the second is the “paradox of choice”. Let me just address the first issue.

    It always annoys me when I hear analysts and others say something like: “Well, I don’t know if there are enough Apple Fanatics to make the (Apple TV, iPhone, whatever) successful. In fact, I heard a soccer dad say that very thing about the iphone today.

    This argument attempts to make Apple’s incredibly loyal customer base a liability rather than an asset. Yes, they concede, these mentally deficient worshipers of Apple will buy anthing Apple. But what about “the rest of us”.

    Consuers do not buy products because they are made by Apple. They buy Apple products becasue Apple makes them with the consumer in mind. Instead of viewing Apples loyal customer base as some kind of liability, analysts shoud be asking: “Just how good are Apples products that they can count on a million people buying them sight unseen?”

  8. “…large group of customers…”

    Huh?????

    An estimated 22 MILLION Macs in use and we’re described as a large “group”?

    Awwww, c’mon – that’s more than one Mac for every person in the entire state of TEXAS.

    Couldn’t he do better than “group”?

  9. @ken1w said: “But do you know why Apple’s competition has to offer “more choices” than Apple. That’s the only way they can distinguish themselves from Apple. “We have inferior products, but we offer more freedom for the customer than Apple.” “

    Falkirk: I disagree with you but only in degree, not in principal. I think you can easily document the fact that many of Apple’s ipod competitors had “more choices” before the ipod existed and before the ipod became dominant. And analyalys continue to skewer the ipod for not having a laundry list of features (like a radio). Those criticims have been muted becasue of the market dominance of the ipod, but if you want to see the analysts true colors, read the reviews of the Apple TV. Much of these reviews talk about what the Apple neglected to add – DVR, DVD playback, etc.

    I will agree with ken1w on two things. The Ipods competitors are really stuck on the horns of a dilema. The ipod is so strong in the core functions that the competitors are left scrambling for fringe features to distinguish their products (like “squirting”).

    Also, I agree with you that it is Jobs – not Apple – that is responsible for this fanatical devotion to simplicity. I read a book on the ipod (“shuffle”) that talked about Jobs fanatical insistance that the original Ipod only have 4 buttons. They said it was all they could do to force him to accept the fifth button that is now in the middle of the Ipod “wheel”.

    I mean, c’mon! The thing doesn’t even have an on off switch (which received criticism). Amazing.

  10. The problem is not with choice per se, or even with numbers: as the article so clearly demonstrate, it is only better to have fewer “choices” as long as there are sufficient opportiunities to >customize<. When choice is clear and simple, even if plentiful, there is both freedom >and< satisfaction. In fact (and despite the story of Henry Ford’s “any color as long as it’s black”), the thought of increasing satisfaction by limiting choice is like Orwell’s “War is Peace.” It’s not the choices that are wrong, but the way they are presented: clearly or confusingly.
    There are many individual models of iMac, for instance, in addition to screen size, but those secondary choices do not distract from the iMac “family name” – the customer is helped rather than confused, and the company’s reputation for customer-focus is enhanced.

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