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What can we learn from Apple and Coke’s mistakes regarding customer experience?

The Apple brand name has long become synonymous with innovation. Steve Jobs acclaimed this success to his mantra "the user is king". But has the company stepped away from its founder's philosophy? More crucially, can leaders learn from its most recent mistake?
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Jobs’ user-centric approach has undoubtedly been adopted by the company, but CEO Tim Cook may be leading it off the road previously paved by his predecessor.

“While Apple remains a top performing brand, there is a growing perception that it is no longer redefining technology for consumers,” claimed a 2014 Milward Brown Brandz report.

It’s not the first time that such concerns have been raised. 

In 2013 it was reported that Cook was feeling increased pressure from Apple’s board due to a perceived lack of innovation under his tenure. Apart from the iPad mini, its products have been refreshes of existing devices.

Saxonbury & Kent founder Dominic Kichin has been convinced that the proof lies in the release of the new MacBook. He revealed that he was “slightly disturbed” by its features. 

One of the changes to the MacBook was the removal of its magnetic charger, which had only been removed because of its large size.

“But why does the Macbook need to be thinner?” Kichen added. “Don’t we have the MacAir for that?”

Kitchin’s concern is that Apple is simply innovating because they can and that user experience has nothing to do with it. This is something which has toppled many businesses when they were at their peak.

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According to Andre Spicer from the CASS Business School, Apple has lost its title of industry leader and chief innovator for a number of reasons.

He said: “What’s been interesting with Apple in the last few years is that under Cook, the company has moved very much from being the leader in the industry, to following many industry trends.”

Upon unveiling the iPhone 6, 6Plus and iWatch, industry experts were unimpressed as the market had long been dominated by Samsung and Sony. Both companies’ teams had already delved into other areas such as virtual reality headsets, suggesting that Apple is playing catch-up.

Spicer suggested that Apple bosses have fallen behind because they may have forgotten what brought them success. Remember Jobs’ mantra? It seems Cook may have taken a large side step along the way.

In an book written by Scott Berkun, Ten Myths of Innovation, he explained that humans hate change as “conformity is deep in our biology”.

Berkun added: “The history of breakthroughs is a tale of persistence against rejection. Much of what makes a successful innovator is their ability to persuade and convince conservative people of the merits of their ideas, a very different skill from creativity itself.”

Apple’s innovation may have stemmed from Jobs’ ability to not only cater to exactly what consumers wanted, but to entice them into accepting the idea behind the product. Jobs was famous for his pitches and power of persuasion.

Hartmut Esslinger, who worked with Jobs to establish a “design language” for Macintosh, suggested that “Apple is mostly gone”.

He said: “The Apple of today resembles Sony of the 1980s“.

Although the Apple of today still has great design at its core, “it must maintain [its]previous passion to speed up its innovation again.”

But Apple is far from the only company to have fallen into such this trap.

Read on to find out what you can learn from Coke, Microsoft and Samsung…

Image: Shutterstock

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is the deputy editor of Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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