Steve Jobs is famously not transparent or flexible; he violates every principle we ClueTrainy advocates of customerism hold dear and he can get away with it because we hold his products dear. He’s good, that good. So I find it interesting that when he dissed his most loyal customers, the fools who stood in line for that beautiful iPhone, by lowering his price for the masses (a good move, by the way), he wasted no time apologizing and giving them a $100 store-credit rebate ($200 would have been the purer gesture). I wonder whether Jobs would have done this five years ago. I wonder, too, how long it would have taken for Apple to realize that there was a problem, all the while their customers’ anger would have been festering.
But now the process is instantaneous. Apple could see the reaction in not only the emails Jobs refers to in his apology but also, obviously, in blog posts and forum discussions (not to mention the stock price). All you have to do is listen. And act quickly.
It’s the same lesson that Dell learned about the customer in control. Only now add the element of speed. (Amplified by the fanaticism of the Apple customer cult.) I think we are seeing a permanent change in customer relations and our empowerment: If enough customers think you made the wrong move and you hear them quickly enough, the cusotmers will win. If you’re smart.
But then, of course, Apple people are different. Get a load of this post from Lisa on the proverbial knitting blog — really, a knitting blog! — telling Jobs that she doesn’t regret paying the higher price for the iPhone and asking that he give his $100 to a charity. That’s the Apple cult for you — that’s a brand cult: ‘Please charge me more.’ But the cult won’t make the iPhone into the life-changing device Jobs believes — and I’m coming to believe — it will be. So that’s why he had to move past the cult — while not losing any cultists along the way.