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In the age of the empowered customer, the cost of an unhappy customer can be astronomical.

All it takes is one tweet, one YouTube video, or one reddit thread to spark a social-media PR nightmare. That's why engaging with your customers has never been more critical.

This is something that Tim Cook knows, according to a recent reddit thread. The thread reports that Apple's CEO recently asked for improvements in the company's customer service "on hold" music after an Apple user emailed Cook about the quality of the music.

Reddit user lerde wrote:

I once sent Tim an email about the quality of music while on hold with Apple. It was super low quality, therefore an upbeat rock song sounded like pure distortion and really aggravated me because I was on hold for 20+ minutes for something so simple (iPhone didn't turn on, needed to set up a repair as in my country no Apple Store = have to send it to another country).

Much to my surprise a lady from Cupertino called me up the next day, saying she'd received a concerning email from Tim about ugly distortion hold music while on the phone, that Tim had tested this himself and agreed that something had to be done. She assured me that the hold music would be tested to make sure it sounded pleasant on all types of phones and connections.

The next time I called Apple, the hold music was indeed very pleasant.

Many CEOs talk about the importance of being customer-centric, but it's very rare to hear about top executives actually responding to customer complaints. What's remarkable about this story is that Cook didn't just reply to an unhappy customer; he took action. Cook has said previously that he welcomes customer complaints.

"I get hundreds, and some days thousands of emails from customers," he once told NBC, according to Apple Insider. "This is a privilege, because they talk to you as if you're sitting at their kitchen table. Because they care so deeply about Apple, they want to make a suggestion, or want to ask for help on something, or want to tell you how much they love the product."

Cook also revealed to Bloomberg Businessweek that he listens to all types of feedback. "Not allowing yourself to become insular is very importantÛ_Between customers and employees and the press, you get a lot of feedback. The bigger thing is processing and deciding what to put in the distraction category vs. where the nuggets are."
As Apple prepares to launch bigger iPhones and smart watches, Cook and his team need to get closer to the customer voice to fend off competitors. In the increasingly competitive tech industry, some companies are mining customer data on social to understand people's frustrations with competitors. A holistic customer-intelligence program - one that involves engaging directly with customers on a consistent basis - will be key for companies such as Apple as the tech industry becomes even more competitive.
Apple is already known as an innovative company, one that obsesses over seamless customer experience as much as possible. So perhaps the reddit discussion about Apple's on-hold music (whether true or not) shouldn't be a complete surprise. And yet, people and media outlets are talking about it. In the same way that unhappy customers can cost your company a lot, supportive customers can benefit your business by amplifying your customer-centricity on social.
Photo credit: Mike Deerkoski
A version of this article first appeared on the Salesforce blog.
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