To Apple, you’re the customer. Apple designs, manufactures, sells, and services hardware, so the company has a vested interest in treating the customer– the buyer and user of a product– with care and consideration. Allow me to compare Apple to Google, Amazon, and Facebook.
User? Or Being Used?
Apple’s relationship with the customer is decidedly old fashioned in the 21st century of free technology services. Competition among PC makers, smartphone makers, and tablet makers is intense, and price is an important differentiator.
Apple’s products are designed in such a way as to instill loyalty within a customer, and the company’s satisfaction ratings through the years suggest a measure of success.
Google and Facebook are more alike, while Amazon falls in the middle between Apple’s business model and other services models. Amazon’s customer service is notoriously good. As with Apple, the company knows the value of treating the customer well, and gets plenty of repeat business and loyalty, but as with Google and Facebook, the company tracks what you view, when, where, and collects that information to better service you in the future. As a customer.
The advertising business model employed by Google and Facebook is inherently different. Both give you products to use and they are free. Facebook is free to use. Google’s search engine and various Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS applications are free to use.
What’s the business model? Advertising. To Google and Facebook, you’re a user, yes, but more accurately, you’re the product. You’re not the customer. Their customers are advertisers and what Google and Facebook both sell to those advertisers are your eyeballs, your time, and information about you.
That business model makes you a user of free products which turns you into a product which gets sold by Google and Facebook to their customers, advertisers. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook put it this way.
When an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.
Typical Apple. Simple, direct, and accurate. How did co-founder and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg respond to Cook’s point?
A frustration I have is that a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising business model with somehow being out of alignment with your customers. I think it’s the most ridiculous concept. What, you think because you’re paying Apple that you’re somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they’d make their products a lot cheaper.
Zuckerberg implies that Facebook users are customers (within the Facebook advertising business model). He’s wrong. As a Facebook user, you’re a user, not a customer. Zuckerberg wants to keep you happy so you’ll continued to use Facebook which gives the company something to sell to advertisers, but don’t mistake his response or argument for reasonable logic. It is not. It is self serving.