CEO Insider

No Surprise! Apple’s Core Values Don’t Include Us – the Customer.

Apple Inc

Let me share my recent experience at an Apple Store in Connecticut:

The story begins with my daughter giving me a brand new iPhone which she had purchased via a contract upgrade (never used, still in the shrink-wrap).  This was right about at the time when COVID hit the world. Not interested in finding a store during quarantine, I tucked it in a drawer and forget about it.

Last month, I discovered it in that drawer and thought: 

“Now, would be a good time to migrate to a new phone.” 

But, that proved to be easier said than done.  This new phone, right out-of-the-box and never used or set-up, would not take a charge.

So, figuring the battery was bad and needed to be replaced, I decided I would take it to The Apple Store and just pay for one to be installed (After all, I figured the phone must be out of warranty by now). What happened next was not something I would have ever anticipated.

The Apple “genius” (Apple’s term for staffer, not mine)  that I was working with informed me that a battery replacement would not work to restore the phone and I would need to buy a new one. When asked if I could speak to someone else, she informed me that she was a manager and no one would do anything for me.  But, I could buy a new phone, if I liked. 

I tried calling into customer support. I received the same run-around. I even wrote a note to Cook himself (to which I received no reply).

Now, I ask you: 

Is this the type of customer experience that you would expect from Apple?

New phone, never used, won’t power up, and that’s all on me, the customer, for not using it before now?

Nowhere on the box or documentation does it say: 

“This phone will expire, if you don’t use it right away.”

I checked.

Clearly, the geniuses working at the Apple Store are taught to love the product.  As for the customer, well, not so much. A quick glance at any of the Apple support boards, suggest that I am not the only one to have experienced sub-par customer support.

The Customer Is Not A Value at Apple

Core values are a company’s business principles, beliefs and philosophy. Apparently the customer does not matter at Apple because the customer and our needs are not even mentioned.

Take a look at Apple’s core values:

  • We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products.
  • We believe in the simple, not the complex.
  • We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make.
  • We participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.
  • We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us.
  • We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.
  • We don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.

Undoubtedly, CEO Tim Cook’s vision for his company is certainly fixated on innovation. Unfortunately, as you can see, the customer doesn’t fit into his fixation, at all. As a result, the “geniuses” at the firm are taught to operate accordingly – hence, the assumption at the store that my new phone, right out of the box, could not possibly be defective (After all, “we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products”). 

Applying this value, the customer must be the problem because it can’t be the phone!

I share the story to illustrate a point:

A company’s core values count! 

They’re not just “Motherhood and Apple Pie.” They determine culture, define what “right” looks like, and impacts the way your people treat your customers.

My question is this:

Is Apple’s lack of customer focus a reason that Samsung holds the greater share of the worldwide smartphone market?  

Maybe.

After all, Samsung holds “people” and “co-prosperity” as values. This means that people actually matter at Samsung and the company’s prosperity is shared among its employees, clients, and the communities where they do business. 

Read through Apple’s values above and see if you walk away with any feeling that the Company cares about people, at all.


Written by James M. Kerr.

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James Kerr
James M. Kerr, founder at Indispensable Consulting, is a long-time management consultant, vision maker and leadership coach. For nearly 30 years, he has helped his clients re-imagine the way work is organized and performed. His latest book, Indispensable: Build and Lead A Company Customers Can’t Live Without is his 6th business title. Kerr is an expert in leadership, strategy, organizational design and cultural transformation. James Kerr is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.