Reports have surfaced that Apple Chairman Steve Jobs often engaged in customer service on a personal basis. The point wasn’t to fill in for an understaffed contact center; his time would be considered too valuable. Nor was it just about injecting himself into escalated situations to patch up customer relations; which, by the way, is a good strategy in and of itself.

Jobs had mastered the art of MBWA, or Management By Walking Around.  It’s a relatively simple — but way underused — best practice that keeps managers in touch with the people paying the bills or making things happen around the company. CNN’s Mark Milian calls Jobs an “outlier” in this regard, noting that few top managers bother to get their hands dirty with the day-to-day doings of companies and customers. Jobs would personally respond to an inordinate amount of customer emails, which often dealt with hardware issues or pricing questions. He also would pick up the phone and call customers about their problems.

If anyone needs proof that CEOs and other business leaders can really change their own perspective, as well as transform the business by relatively simple best practices such as MBWA, just look at Apple’s performance over the past decade.

Steve Jobs never got an MBA (he would have majored in something else anyway), but he attained his MBWA with honors.

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    We are Beverly Jordan, Hannah Kawamoto and Jessica McKean, graduate students at San Diego State University in the Department of Learning Design & Technology. 


    November 2013