AirPods and AirPods Pro: Delighting Customers by Exceeding Expectations

September 8, 2021 / Ben Bajarin
  • AirPods and AirPods Pro Exceeded Customer Expectations
  • Both Product Had High Product Recommendation Scores
  • Benchmark Features Scored High

AirPods

AirPods Pro

In a first for the Delight Scale, we are publishing the scores for two products by the same brand in the same family. Our product research on AirPods and AirPods Pro yielded some consistent insights across Apple hardware products. One of the staple benchmarks of the Delight Scale is the ability to measure product performance in relation to customer’s expectations. Users are first asked about their expectations prior to using the product and then how that product faired against those initial expectations. What makes Apple unique, compared to other brands we have measured, is the high expectations Apple buyers have for the products they are purchasing.

Expectations Exceeded
One of the primary reasons for AirPods and AirPods Pro’sPro’s high Delight Scale scores is to be found precisely in the high number of users who started to have had high expectations for the products prior to purchase, and yet the products exceeded their expectations. With AirPods (Gen1 and Gen2) over 90% of owners said AirPods met or exceeded their expectations. With AirPods Pro, 86% of owners said AirPod Pro met or exceeded their expectations. The number of AirPods and Airpods Pro owners who stated the products exceeded their expectations is impressive. Yet what set these products aside is the fact that over 90% of owners stated they had high to somewhat high expectations for the product prior to purchasing.

Satisfying customers who have low expectations does not set them apart as a brand. All the Apple products that we have run so far through our Delight Scale have shared this common trait of having owners going into their purchase with high expectations and feeling their expectations were met or exceeded. Marketing might be responsible for the high expectations buyers have for Apple’s products, but it is product design and execution that make sure those expectations are met.

Strong Recommendation
Another standout data point from our AirPods and AirPodsPpro research was the high recommendation score both products received. AirPods and AirPods Pro had some of the highest levels of recommendation we have seen in all the products we have measured using the Delight Scale. We believe a key measurement that separates great products from average ones is that great products get talked about. And our research has validated that AirPods do indeed get talked about.

Both products also received extremely high scores for an unprompted recommendation of the product to friends or family.

Highest Rated Features
When we dove into the features of AirPods and AirPods Pro that consumers consistently rated the highest, a few features stood out. The highest-rated features were battery life, sound quality, comfort, design, initial setup/pairing, and time to charge. Each of these features had over 60% of owners ranking the feature excellent or very good.

Returning Customers vs. New Customers
Lastly, a question may be asked as to why AirPods Pro did not score as high as AirPods. For this, we have a few theories. The first is that AirPods Pro is a bit more pricey than AirPods. We have noted a relatively consistent pattern where higher-priced, more “Pro” products tend to see slightly lower recommendation scores. A reason for this is their owners tend to self-identify as more premium buyers and understand that it’s not for everyone in their social circle.

Another theory is that AirPods Pro owners were almost universally owners of the original AirPods. This means that while AirPods Pro still exceeded their owners’ already high expectations, these were not new users for the product family. AirPods Gen 1,2, in general, saw even higher expectations exceeded because it was their first exposure to the product for many.

As with all the products we test, we will continue to track the journey of AirPods and AirPods Pro owners to see if their product experience changes in any way over time.


The Delight Scale is built on the ten best questions prepared to capture product experience across a series of products from hardware to apps as well as services.  It captures willingness to recommend the product prompted and unprompted, customer satisfaction in relation to expectations, sentiment on price, intention to repurchase, and more. The results are scored, weighted, and aggregated into a product’s Delight Score.

The Delight Scale utilizes questions with a 7-point satisfaction scale that ranges from one extreme attitude to another with one neutral option. The Likert Scale is a popular and well-known question format used to measure opinions and behavior. Likert-type questions provide more granular feedback about a product compared to binary questions with their two answer options.

The maximum Delight Score a product or service can achieve is 1200. In order to achieve such a score, respondents would have to select the top 2 boxes for all the scoring questions. Rather than allocating a score to all possible answers, the Delight Score uses a Top 2 Box score (sometimes called T2B) in the way of summarizing the positive responses from a Likert Scale. The Top 2 Box score technique is used across research to help with ad testing, product development, and brand tracking. This approach has proven to lead to a much more holistic measurement of customer experience, actionable product insights to truly separate great products from average ones. Selecting the top 2 boxes for 60% of the questions would place a product or a service on a Delight Score of around 700.

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