My ‘Apple’ Experience

It was a few days before Christmas and the malls were incredibly packed.  My eldest daughter needed a new Apple laptop for college and I was going to get her one as a Christmas gift.

Apple’s in-store customer service is legendary and I would soon experience it firsthand. I went to Victoria Gardens, an outdoor mall near my home in Southern California.  I walked up to the entrance of the Apple Store and the first thing I saw was that the place was wall to wall people. No, really – I’m not exaggerating – it was literally wall to wall people.  I think if there were any more people in that store the Fire Marshal would have had to empty the place.

I stood at the door and was dreading the idea of going into this packed store and waiting forever for service. I took a deep breath and walked through the entrance.  I was no more than two steps into the store when I was greeted by an Apple employee. I expected her to instruct me where I needed to go in order to take a number and wait for service.  Instead, she said, “how can I help you?” I was a little surprised but, I told her what I was looking for.  While standing in the middle of the store she paged someone from a mobile device.  She told me he was the expert and could set me right up with what I needed.  After a few moments Chris was standing next to me answering my questions.

Within minutes of walking through the door I picked what I wanted.  Chris swiped my credit card with his telephone and instantly sent the receipt to my email address.   The entire transaction was done in a fraction of the time I expected in a store that was busier than I thought possible.

A good friend of mine, Stewart Emery wrote a book called “Do You Matter?” A major premise of the book is the idea that customer service is all about the “experience” people have in the transaction of business.  I’ve been to the Apple store a few times now and I can say with conviction that each time has been an amazing experience in customer service.

Another thing Stewart talks about in his book, which the Apple company seems to truly understand,  is that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  The Apple culture of customer service is light years ahead of any other computer company I have done business with – period. No computer company has come close to giving me such great customer service (some other computer companies even rank amongst the worst service I’ve ever had).

Well done Apple.  I will be back again… and again, and again.

If you’ve had a similar customer-service experience, I’d really enjoy hearing it.  Please leave a comment and tell me about it.

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16 thoughts on “My ‘Apple’ Experience

  1. It is not often that a brand “EXPERIENCE ” is as impecable as that at Apple. Funny you should call the post “My ‘Apple’ Experience, as Apples who strategy is around EXPERIENCE.

    As a User Experience professional for most of my career, this element of BRAND management is the next frontier. If you enjoyed Emery’s book, do try one of the classics on the topic. Gilmore’s “The Experience Economy”. Although the book is over 10 years old the ideas and concepts are still as fresh today as the element of full branded experiences comes to full expression.

    Design and the science of user experience are bringing brands like Apple, Tom’s and Whole Foods to new levels. The investment in design and user experience for any business is well worth the investment.

    I currently work in the non-profit world and am seeing more and more non-profits embrace the idea of user experience into their strategies for differentiation.

    We are in Exciting times….

    Thanks for bringing this great topic to the forefront of the BNI and business community!

  2. Although I have never been to an Apple store, computers are my hobby, and many friends have echoed your observation. I remember at 2009 BNI international conference, when Stewart was the keynote, he spoke of the company and the importance they put on the “experience”. The other thing they do right is they make their customers feel like they still matter when they have after-sale technical questions.

  3. Absolutely agree, and have had many many similar experiences. It is singlehandedly the best retail customer service experience I have had to this day. They constantly go above and beyond for satisfaction. Any issues with any tech (mainly through user-error) are dealt with very speedily and with no fuss.

    As a voice over artist, I need my equipment to be reliable, and I’ve certainly had that using Apple Macs. Would never use anything else now. Customer for life. Something which in this age is very rare!

  4. Yep! Love Apple store customer service… That’s why I don’t worry about going there during the holidays … It’s fast and products are great!

  5. Great post Ivan. And yes, I agree completely that Apple is light years ahead of other companies in customer service. Guess that’s also the reason why they make products which are very user and user interface focussed. I’ve had some very satisfying experience with the Apple store in India and in Singapore.

    Cheers Ivan.

    Sandeep Nanu.

  6. I am still amazed at the number of patrons continuously in an Apple Store at one time. Not one occasion has anyone left unhappy.

    I perform the stone care duties for the local Apple Store. As a vendor it is a pleasant experience to service the location. Apple employees treat me as well as clients.

    Great article.

  7. Its not just the retail locations.

    I made it a personal goal to be an Apple employee years ago. I had heard so much about the corporate culture there and truly wanted to be a part of it.

    After experiencing it in reality, I decided that I would never be involved in an organization that did not have a culture that I wanted to be a part of and promote.

    Happily, I can say that I’ve been able to stick to that mission. Thank you, Ivan.

  8. Reminds me of the book “Raving fans” which is basically just thinking through your customer’s experience and trying to make it better.

    I have been using my ipad extensively and it had some minor damage because I had dropped it and took it to the apple store to see I they could repair it. They couldn’t there at the store so they traded me free of charge for a new one. This far exceeded my expectations and makes me a loyal customer!

  9. I’m glad that you had such a great Apple experience. While I am a huge Apple fan and currently use many of their amazingly intuitive and well built products, sadly, my experience with the threeocal Apple stores ( Fashion Island NPB, South Coast Plaza, and Irvine Spectrum, has generally been maddeningly frustrating.

    The general issue is that it is next to impossible for me to get service unless I physically grab one of the employees, hover, or fow them around, eventually cornering them. I have waited in line only to be told to stand next to the counter while they help others behind me ( when I finally reached the front), etc.

    I had a Manager once have the audacity to tell me that it ” wasn’t her JOB” to help me ( to which I lucky was able to restrain myself from regrettable action), etc.

    I have spent hours on he phone with technical customer service, had the genius bar rep tell me to swap my own phone contacts into my new iPhone, etc.
    So, as a former corporate employee myself, I saw not lack of ownership in the employees, I believe the employees really admire what Apple is all about. That said, the stores are disorganized and the general picture I get is overwhelmed employees and poorly thought out customer experience execution. They are sorely in need of real experts to get the concept executed well consistently.

    That said, their produces are second to none and Apple care guaranty is fabulous ( $800 motherboard replaced on my macbookpro just prior to the 3 yr plan expiry saving me thousands in new computer costs), amongst other saves.

    The practice of being able to make an appointment and go directly to the Genius bar is unparalleled as is the generally highly invested level of attention one gets once there.

  10. As a long-time PC user, administrator, and system-builder, I spent a lot of time trying to convince my organizations that customer service should always be a priority. Most of those organizations are out of business now, and I am a happy Mac convert… the only reason I use an android device instead of an Iphone is because of the phone service (ironic, that…the computer company with the best service would partner with the communications company with the worst service rating…). As soon as the Iphone is available on Verizon, I’m there. Apple has been right behind their products, and their customer, from the day I made the first purchase. Their is most certainly a lesson to be learned, especially in this economic climate. Everyone is tightening their belts, most people will still be willing to pay a premium for a great experience.

  11. Sort of similar experience… when buying something at the store. My daughter purchased a new computer and the experience was great. They offerred to transfer her files from her old computer to her new one. Fantastic, except that is where the wheels came off. They lost the password, they needed another cable, they needed two weeks, the ‘service’ took 3 separate 80 mile round trips to get it done and lots of phone calls with surly agents. Not pleasant.

  12. I have had nothing but exceptional service at our local Apple store, as well as on-line. One service rep on-line spent nearly half a day going back and forth on the phone until my issue was resolved. Ironically, it was an issue caused by my cable company and Apple still resolved it.

    Another fine customer service experience was when I returned a reading lamp to Barnes and Noble. I had the lamp about a year and came home one day and it had cracked at the hinge. Fortunately, I still had the box (with the sticker 30% off), but no receipt. I took it to the local B&N store and they issued a store credit for the full purchase price. When I pointed this out to them, they said it was the least they could do since they could not get another lamp and had inconvenienced me.

  13. I am from Australia and on a recent trip to the US I bought an item at the Apple Store in San Francisco. When I went to pay, I found they already had all my details on their handheld device from previous transactions in Australia and all I had to do was pay!

    Impressive.

  14. It must be a regional thing, because I have never had anything but a maddening experience at an Apple store, for both sales and support. For our dwindling stock of Mac systems, we never go to the Apple store either to buy or to have service done any longer. We order online from 3rd-party Mac suppliers, and use local Apple-authorized third-party service outlets.

    We routinely had to wait well over an hour to talk to anyone, and our local store was never so busy as the ones noted above seem to have been. For sales, once we got a person, things went smoothly enough… but it was maddening to have to wait an hour to give someone our money.

    For service; we have repeatedly had issues with our Macs batteries, screen hinges, and disk drives. Every single time, we called in first, and were told “just bring it in to a store”. After waiting for someone to help us (one time nearly two hours), we almost immediately were told, “We can’t do anything with this here. We’ll have to send it away to see what can be done.”

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