Today, Apple regularly tops lists of companies with the best customer experiences and the most innovative products. But that hasn’t always been the case.
When Apple was founded, few companies even considered customer experience. As the company was first gaining traction, Steve Jobs brought on people who understood customers to take risks and prioritize experience when few other companies were. One of those early leaders, John Sculley, went on to become CEO of Apple.
The goal of Apple under Steve Jobs was to create beautiful products and an experience so wonderful that everyone would want a computer, even people who weren’t tech-savvy. Instead of focusing solely on the processing power and technical aspects of the products, Jobs, Sculley and other Apple leaders prioritized the design and experience. They understood far before many other companies that without a great experience, customers wouldn’t be loyal, no matter the quality of the product. When all other tech companies were run by engineers and focused only on harnessing processing power, Apple realized that computers were for everyone and that great technology could also be combined with a strong experience.
In order for customer experience to permeate through a company, Sculley says it must become a core principle of the organization. Leaders set the example of the importance of experience. This is best done when founders see the value of customer experience and make it a foundational principle of the company.
Sculley says experience has always been relevant, but how it comes to fruition is different now than it was decades ago.
As an executive at Pepsi, Sculley was faced with the problem of being heavily outsold by Coca-Cola because Pepsi lacked brand recognition. Sculley created the Pepsi Challenge to immerse customers in the experience and show the quality of the product. Pepsi ran commercials of customers participating in blind taste tests. Without a label on the bottle, customers largely preferred Pepsi. While the commercials ran on TV, Pepsi also hosted the Pepsi Challenge at malls and events around the country, giving customers a chance to let their tastes decide. Putting customers in charge of the experience gave Pepsi a huge boost and helped it compete with Coca-Cola.
Jobs recruited Sculley to work at Apple because he had helped Pepsi outsell Coca-Cola. They shared a love of design and a desire to do something bold for consumer marketing. Focusing on customers helped create a company that today is beloved by loyal customers around the world and known for creating customer-focused products.
Sculley’s experiences at Pepsi and Apple show the power of focusing on customers and taking bold actions to put customers at the middle of the company.