The Redwood and the Apple Tree

A redwood is one of nature’s most impressive sights. It can stretch to over 350 feet tall and its trunk can grow large enough to drive a car through. It garners jaw-dropping looks of wonderment and adoration. In short, people think redwoods are truly remarkable.

On the other hand, apple trees are pretty standard fare. They’re not very big and the branches have a tendency to stretch out in awkward ways. You probably wouldn’t even recognize an apple tree unless it was bearing its fruit. The fruit that it bears every fall, right on schedule, in impressive volume.

We like to admire and promote the big and impressive things in our organizations. Sure, fancy retail stores and beautiful buildings contribute to the customer experience, but that’s not where the real value comes from.

The real fruit of a customer experience comes from the little things that separate you from the competition. Maybe it’s a reliable customer service agent that makes people smile. Maybe it’s a boring product that provides a crucial function for many of your customers. Maybe it’s a front-line manager that does whatever it takes to exceed customers’ expectations.

So what’s more remarkable, the redwood or the apple tree?


  1. Great analogy Tim. The little things can make the biggest difference.
    My vote is for the apple tree.

  2. I don’t know. The redwood has some pretty awesome survival strategies. It’s ability to adapt in varied circumstances is a good lesson on how to maneuver when dealing with varied personalities of customers. I have found that when dealing with people it’s best to have a strong core. Like the redwood. Basically knowing who you are…and being happy with that. And that reflects into the customer. The best strategy sometimes is knowing how to survive….in joy.

    Maybe a mix between the two! The redwood apple tree!

  3. While there are certainly great things about each of these trees, what is more important, from a business standpoint, would be the results and the yields we get from the trees.

    Sure, the Redwood is a wonderful and unique tree. It is certainly a magnificent, almost magical, spectacle. The Apple Tree, on the other hand, is quite mundane in the looks department. Even when dressed with hundreds of fruits, it still does not stand a chance against The Redwood in terms of looks.

    This may be crucial in the fashion industry, but it is not in the business world. Results are what matter in business. What good is a fancy interface if its logic is sub-par? What good is a high-tech, flashy office building if the work done inside it is mediocre? And what good is a $1000 suit if the employee inside it has no passion or drive?

    The Apple Tree may not be the most enchanting thing at first glance, but it actually produces something that is valuable. I am not saying The Redwood does not also serve a purpose, but the overall point is that The Apple Tree is just as noteworthy, if not more.

    • I definitely agree with you. In industries such as fashion, where the name and prestige associated with a product are more important than the functionality or reliability of the product itself,the redwood would probably win. Also, in the luxury car industry, we can argue this case as well. Many types of expensive exotic cars ($100,000 and up) are poorly made and often break down. Buyers don’t buy them to have functional cars. They buy these cars for speed, prestige, and/or aesthetic appearance. In cases where the product’s functionality is most important, the apple tree would be your best bet because it’s reliable. However, even with practical and functional products, the redwood concept is needed occasionally to boost the image of the brand and raise “hype” about the brand to attract more potential customers. In the end though, it is the apple tree that keeps the brand alive.

  4. Very well written. I think customer service is such a dynamic thing, and Suppliers need to pull out the stops to keep Consumers happy. On the other hand, Consumers need to communicate more and also be more open to give compliments where they are due. I’ve found a website which allows me to write reports about my Suppliers, and they then have the opportunity to respond to me -

  5. This is well said. You could extend the analogy to point out that most mature forests provide less forage and support for animal populations. This is one reason that periodic natural forest fires are so useful to the renewal of wild areas. It’s all very connected, but the prettiest or most awe-filled pieces are not necessarily what you take away from the experience.

    I know from spending summers hiking in the mountains that bad weather or overwhelming insect swarms can all but ruin the best views. The little things matter in even the grandest panorama.

  6. Upon visiting Cleveland to finally see the Rock n Roll Hall of fame, we stayed at a downtown hotel. Yes they had redone an old building over – pretty hardwood floors, furnishings that looked like Crate and Barrel, but their staff couldn’t recommend a “better restaurant” for dinner. instead the told us to walk to 4th street, which would have been great, if we were 40 but we are 60 and prefer something quieter and more refined so we can “talk”. After walking about 4 miles we finally found a nice little restaurant near the theatres and on the way back to our hotel noticed that had we gone the other direction there was a fabulous steak and seafood restaurant almost across the street. Details folks.

  7. That is a good analogy!
    IMHO the Apple tree wins.

    You don’t need to be a giant, you need little but proven tools.

    For a great customer experience you need (1) a motivated customer service team and (2) a good (and free) customer engagement platform like

    Little things for big achievements

  8. I love the analogy of how you put customer service in a nutshell. It’s better to branch out like an apple tree ready to reach out every one.

Leave a Reply