The difference between Apple and Amazon

Two companies that business pundits love to talk about. But very different indeed…

Have you ever tried to return anything to Amazon? Amazon is obsessed with being remarkably boring when it comes to Customer Service. They are so good at it, so consistent, so eager to do the right thing that people tell other people.

Amazon invests in this Purple Cow. They invest a few pennies per customer per year in customer delight. They create stories about their flexibility–stories that spread. They respect their customers and they show it.

As a result, Amazon is able to milk the cow of their remarkability for a long, long time. The more they follow this path, the easier it is to do, because their systems can handle it and their customers trust them.

Compare them to Apple. Two months ago, I ordered an upgrade to Final Cut Pro. (it’s expensive). It arrived today. Actually, THEY arrived today. Two copies.

Now, there are plenty of pirates who wonder why they even need ONE legitimate copy, but there’s certainly no need for anyone with just one computer to have two.

Anyway, Apple argued with me. They insisted it was my fault. They said I should have read my receipt more carefully. They claimed that I must have had a reason for ordering two, and just because I changed my mind doesn’t mean that they should have to pay to ship it back. I pursued the conversation on behalf of you, my dear reader. Chrissy insisted that I had just ten days to ship it back, at my expense, because if I didn’t the RMA would evaporate. Moreover, I should do it in a traceable way, because if I couldn’t prove it, then, “they won’t be responsible.” Of course, it’s clear that Apple never wants to be responsible.

Apple is in the fashion business.
Apple is Gucci.
Apple is Calvin Klein.

No one returns a pair of Gucci shoes claiming that the heel isn’t durable. Nope. You buy them for the thrill of the hunt, not the process and not the end result. Same is true, it seems with Apple.

The problem, from a shareholder’s point of view anyway, is that this is a very, very hard cow to milk. Every time they annoy a customer or call a customer a liar, they spread a negative ideavirus about the company, and make it harder and harder to sell a productivity solution. Sure, they can continue to be fashionable (acting like Gucci is good for that niche) but they are finding the contradiction that many companies in a world of fashion find–that fashionable gets you in the door, but it’s respect that lets you build a profitable business.

Given the choice, I’d model a company after Amazon. Great growth. All built around respect and remarkability, not the sneering contempt of a fashion house.