High Switching Costs

I’ve never really gotten into, nor understood for that matter, the ongoing fight between PC and Mac users. Each has its own features, benefits and drawbacks and caters to two distinct audiences. Neither one is truly better than the other. As things progress, each one is nudging closer to the other, blurring the line that separate them. It’s clear that they are targeting each other’s customers, at least those on the edges.

Apple, though, seems smarter about it.

My sister-in-law is a bit of a technology laggard. She doesn’t have cell phone and has little desire to own one. And for the first time, she bought her own computer. While looking for the right one for her, she investigated both PCs (Dell, in particular) and Macs. She found relatively comparable laptops from each, with similar pricing. Either choice would have suited her needs.

The Macbook, however, came with an additional advantage. For $99 she can take private lessons—limited to one per week—for a year. She’ll learn the ins and outs of her machine and the associated software. She essentially can learn at her own pace. In addition, at the Apple Store, she can attend free seminars. These offerings create high switching costs for Apple users. In other words, people that invest this time and effort into learning about their Mac and far less likely to switch to a PC on their own. At the same time, they are lowering the switching costs for PC users, making it easier for them to buy a Mac. It’s a rather intelligent strategy.

In your business, look for ways to make it harder for your customers to switch to another brand. I don’t mean the kind of extortion tactics mobile phone companies use to handcuff their patrons. I mean through the services you offer and the mutual investments you make with your consumers. That is what creates loyalty.

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8 Responses

  1. Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

  2. I call bullshit.

    There are well-known facts in HCI (human-computer interaction) based on cognitive psychology and testing.

    Many of the same facets that the Mac adopts, Windows ignores.

    You can’t just say it’s all a matter of opinion. You also cannot take two general-purpose platforms and claim they are mutually exclusive in what they do!

    Yes, the debate gets out of hand, but only in internet comments and in forums. And much as the internet *should* simply be another means of expression, it’s not. Why? Because there are plenty of cowards and spoilers who hide in the anonymity the web affords (affordance! one of the tenets of good UI) and act differently to how they’d act if they were communicating in person.

    Nice try, though.

  3. If you had ever used a Mac for any length of time you would know the absurdity of the statement, ‘Neither one is truly better than the other.’

    Most Windows users have never used anything else. Most Mac users have used both Macs and Windows PCs and prefer Macs, especially Macs using OS X.

    There are several abilities my Macs have that I wished my PCs could do as well. I can’t think of a damn thing, other than Solitaire, that I wish my Macs had that is part of my PCs.

    Don’t get me started on security. Zero exploits in the wild for Mac OS X verses over 200,000 descriptions in my Norton AV software on my Windows PCs, says it all. Operating a Mac without the time wasted checking every operation for malware is a real pleasure.

    Even Mac Office works better than Office for Windows, just ask Microsoft.

    The real lesson here is not lowering the cost of brand switching but building a better product, paying close attention to all facets of that product, and having the customers beat a path to your door.

  4. I use both Macs and Windows PCs at work. Macs running OS X win hands down — it’s not even close! Check out Exposé, QuickLook, and Spotlight.

  5. mac’s pssh rubbish clad in fancy-schmancy chassises.

    let me just ask you this how would you be able to live life without a right mouse button? just try to imagine-… no stop because you CANT

    right mouse button ftw

    http://suburbanconnoisseurs.wordpress.com/

  6. If you had ever ‘gotten into’ learning the real differences between Macs and Windows PCs then you wouldn’t write so foolishly from ignorance.

    Mac users have been shown, through many scientific studies, to be on average more productive in their work and happier with their computer. They also learn more applications because the consistent working environment makes it easier for them to do so. Mac users require much less technical support on average than PC users. This also comes from many independent studies. Apple hardware also has a longer life cycle than the average PC – almost double, in fact. Again, check the studies.

    So, with all these substantial factors considered, the total cost of ownership is much less for Macs than it is for PCs, even though the initial price can be a bit higher. And the satisfaction level is much greater for Mac owners.

    You might as well say you’ve never understood anything about cars, and that a Chevy is just as well-built as a Lexus.

    Apple simply builds a better product – hardware, software, and service. If you don’t understand that, it merely means you haven’t checked the facts.

  7. […] and Lessons Learned Posted on June 18, 2008 by cpmccrory On Monday, I wrote a piece focusing on what Apple is doing from a business perspective to out maneuver PCs. My intention was to stay out of the PC versus Mac debate. In fact, I wanted to take a neutral […]

  8. Good article. I also wrote about high switching costs here. Businesses need to take this responsibility seriously, and do what’s right for the customer and not just short-term profits.

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