Fortune recently released their list of the 50 “ World’s Most Admired Companies” and on it, Microsoft Slips to 24 from 17th just last year. Honestly I am not surprised by this downward trend.
I am part of Microsoft’s problem. I don’t admire Microsoft, but I do admire the #1 company on the list: Apple. Their place at the top of the list is no surprise to me at all. Nor are the 2nd and 3rd companies on the list, Amazon and Google. But since Apple is the most like Microsoft, let’s compare the two companies from a Customer perspective in a little more depth.
Why I Admire Apple
Apple is just a superior experience. Yes it is more expensive but I don’t mind paying more money for it. I spend my life in their interface.
When we work with companies. They always say to us that price is the key issue. In most cases it never is. The experience Customers receive is normally higher. Customers will pay more money when they have a good experience with a brand. It’s worth it to them to part with more of their hard-earned money if they are confident that they are going to get a superior product and customer experience as a result.
I admire how Apple considers the user experience rather than the process. Consider the tracker pad I am using right now to write this post. I use hand gestures to switch between programs, or apps as they are called now. I had to learn this device when I switched, but once I did, I felt like it was a far superior way to work on my computer.
Take the scrolling gesture for an example. On a Mac, you simply take two fingers and push up to scroll down instead of finding the scroll bar on the side and dragging it down with a mouse. The Mac way is natural, simple, and in many ways intuitive. In the training video, the narration even says: “On a mac, it’s like you are actually controlling your content on screen.”
Apple knows how people work. Their software is intuitive, like the tracker pad scroll function that I just described. While using that function is easy, getting the tracker pad to be so intuitive is very, very difficult. It means that when Apple designed the scroll function, they considered the subconscious experience of their users.
In fact, Apple has done such a good job of considering the subconscious experience that they have many admirers that seek to copy them. My mother always said, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” But Apple disagrees. In fact, they have a long running “battle of the rounded corners” with rival tech company Samsung, accusing them of imitating their products. The latest round is regarding the shape of the apps that appear on the screen, but the battle is really about keeping Apple’s brand exclusive.
That exclusivity is why Apple is a club. I am a part of the club and proud of it. There is so much talk about Customer Loyalty in business. But what is loyalty? Consider who you are loyal too in your life. The answer is your family & friends. There is an emotional bond between you. The same applies with Apple for me. I have an emotional bond with them so much so that I just wrote almost a whole post about it. Clearly, I am not alone based on the results of Forbes’ survey.
Why I Don’t Admire Microsoft
Pundits attribute the slide of the brand to the struggles they have had in mobile technology . That could be true, I suppose. But I suspect that the slide is for another reason.
I have always found it ironic that despite being a “new-ish” company, that Microsoft is very old-fashioned. They have a hierarchy in their organization that isn’t on trend with the latest and greatest innovative companies, witness Windows 8. They have entrenched product silos. They just haven’t adapted to the changing times and trends the way other tech companies have.
It could be that they were on top so long that they lost touch with the need to adapt. What they really need is a culture shake-up on a grand scale.
But I fear that their latest appointment of someone from the inside is not going to change this culture the way it should. Satya Nadella, the new chief of Microsoft is a 22-year veteran from the organization. He is slated to chart a new course. But since he is so entrenched in the current way they do business, how “new” will his course be?
Mum said that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but I would add that for Microsoft, imitation might be the quickest way back to the top. In that case, Nadella had better spend some time watching what’s going on at the companies on the top of Forbes’ list. For Microsoft, imitation could be the thing that saves them from a plummet off the list entirely.
|Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the top 150 Business Influencers in the world. He is an international author of four best-selling books on Customer Experience. Colin’s company, Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from our Global Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter: @ColinShaw_CX