Customer Emails to Tim Cook Said to Have Helped Shape Apple Watch Development

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During his time as Apple CEO, Steve Jobs was well known for personally responding to some of the customer emails he received, which has even led to some of his best replies being collected in a book.

Customers who email current Apple CEO Tim Cook also occasionally receive responses, and a CNBC report over the weekend reveals how these emails are processed and often shared with other executives within Apple.

According to people familiar with how the process works, Cook has an assistant whose job it is to read the mail, forward some to him for personal attention, and share others to a group distribution list of executives on the relevant teams. They forward the letters to their reports, and so on down the chain. Many of these "Dear Tim" letters are ultimately passed around by rank-and-file employees, according to one current and two former employees.

In an example of how customer emails can influence product decisions, the report highlights how some of these messages played a particularly influential role in the development of the Apple Watch.

After the Apple Watch launched in 2015, the company promoted a variety of features on it, including communications, entertainment, and health and fitness tracking. But then the missives started pouring in from users, describing how the device alerted them to potentially serious medical conditions and even saved lives. After this, Apple began shifting the emphasis of the watch more toward health features.

One former Apple employee reportedly described the emails as a "surprise," given that the Apple Watch wasn't developed to pick up heart-rate irregularities at the time. Another former employee said similar emails showed Apple that the device could have a more positive impact on health than anyone at the company had previously realized.

The report also goes on to note how the emails often help to maintain staff morale, especially for those employees who don't have an external-facing role and can't talk about the products they're working on. You can read the full full article here.

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Top Rated Comments

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22 months ago

That’s not constructive criticism in which the article is indicating, it’s you just don’t agree with the price points, then simply don’t support Apple or find another product that meets your budget concerns. If you have Feedback that you can provide to make the product line a better experience for the user, that would be totally different than emailing Apple on your opinions on that matter, not the prices.

Every time there's an article like this, we get three types of comments:


* "Cue barrage" type comments—predictions that, gasp, there will be comments on an article. These comments are both more predictable and annoying than the "barrage" that follows. This type of comment is an attempt to preemptively dismiss any complaints that follow as illegitimate.
* Legitimate complaints about recent Apple products, their features, quality, gimmicks, and prices.
* Dismissal of those complaints. "If you don't like it, don't buy it!" As if Apple customers, or would-be customers, hadn't already thought about that, not to mention been told a hundred times.

Just like any company, Apple is not perfect, but dismissing any and all criticism of Apple lately implies that they are perfect. You can like Apple, and still want to buy their products, while complaining about them, wishing they had more of a focus on their customers, and wishing that their products were more reasonably priced. There is a spectrum of possibilities between "Buy whatever Apple offers and whatever price they offer it at" and "Buy nothing from Apple never again."

It's perfectly legitimate and reasonable to want Apple to do a better job, and to complain when they don't. What's unreasonable is to act as if complaining about, for instance, the markup on SSD and RAM upgrades is not legitimate.

Apple's direction lately—and they've almost made this explicit—has been, there's not much more room for additional marketshare, so let's get more money out of our existing customers by charging more for our products. That's a reasonable business approach, at least in the short term. If they're capable of pulling this off, why not?

But there's a few problems with this approach. One, it's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy: If part of the reason for selling more more expensive iPhones, for instance, is because customers replace them less often, customers will replace them less often because they are more expensive. Also, high prices will discourage first time Apple customers, and send prior customers elsewhere. The long term effects could be detrimental to both Apple customers and shareholders.

You can't blame people for wishing Apple had better quality products at more reasonable prices, and especially not for longing for the days when Apple focused on "insanely great" products. That focus is what created a loyal fanbase for Apple, as well as enormous profits. Disappoint the customer base too much and too long, and the profits will disappoint, as well.

Giving feedback to Apple about prices is just as legitimate about giving feedback on the Apple Watch. Hopefully Apple will listen.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago
Article quote:

But then the missives started pouring in from users, describing how the device alerted them to potentially serious medical conditions and even saved lives. After this, Apple began shifting the emphasis of the watch more toward health features.”

I think Apple themselves didn’t realize how the Apple Watch would initially impact lives, and once they realized that the future is more health oriented than it is just a ‘communication device’, it really opened the door for new possibilities like fall detection, EKG, and eventually/hopefully glucose monitoring.
[doublepost=1551098705][/doublepost]

Cool.

I guess he just ignored my emails that told him that iPhones, Macbooks, and the Homepod are way overpriced.

That’s not constructive criticism in which the article is indicating, it’s you just don’t agree with the price points, then simply don’t support Apple or find another product that meets your budget concerns. If you have Feedback that you can provide to make the product line a better experience for the user, that would be totally different than emailing Apple on your opinions on that matter, not the prices.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago
Cool.

I guess he just ignored my emails that told him that iPhones, Macbooks, and the Homepod are way overpriced.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago

So basically this anecdote confirms that Cook doesn't have the innovative product foresight that Jobs had.

Tim Cook isn’t even in the same league as Steve Jobs. One is an innovator. The other is a bean counter riding on his coat tails.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago

Yet, Steve Jobs was the guy behind the Moto ROKR failure and the G4 Cube flop, whereas Cook kickstarted the true wireless earbuds revolution and made the Apple Watch a behemoth.

Sure, by cherry picking examples, you can make Jobs seem like a flop. But he is also the one who oversaw the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, not to mention rescuing Apple from the brink. He didn't bat a thousand, but let's not pretend he struck out every time.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago

I just want to confirm I am understanding you correctly...

Apple in this case listened to their customers and shifted the product towards what they wanted.

You are saying this is a bad thing, yes?

Steve Jobs-

Some people say, "Give the customers what they want." But that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, "If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, 'A faster horse!'" People don't know what they want until you show it to them. That's why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page

Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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