Report: An Amazing Customer Experience with Apple

| Analysis

Yesterday, my wife had a truly remarkable customer experience at the Apple retail store in Park Meadows Mall, Lone Tree, Colorado. The experience demonstrates something very interesting about Apple that makes it unique and hard to compete with.

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My wife, who is now a professor at a local college, was looking for a Thunderbolt (or mini DisplayPort) to VGA adapter for her MacBook Air. This is for in-class presentations with a projector.

She assumed Apple would always have such an item in stock, but it turns out to be an adapter that's been out of stock and on back order for some time. Even on Apple's website. But then the salesman did something exceptional. As my wife explained:

Instead of sending me on my way, the salesman got onto one of the iMacs, went to the Best Buy website, entered the local ZIP code. [There's a Best Buy across the street from the mall. - JM]. He determined that the Best Buy had what I needed in stock and sent me over there. Sure enough, that Best Buy, which has a great selection of Apple accessories, had that adapter. What that Apple salesman did surprised me!

As an added bonus, it was an Apple branded adapter, so Apple still made some money.

When I think about the big picture, I can exactly see how an astute Apple salesperson would do what he did. He works for Apple. Apple sold my wife a MacBook Air. He has a stake in his own company's success. Apple previously made the sale of that MacBook Air, making a healthy profit, and the salesperson wanted to make sure my wife had a successful experience using it. That Best Buy made a US$5 profit on an adapter cable was irrelevant to that experience. But the extra time he took to help was very relevant to Apple's success and customer relationship.

A Different Experience

Just a few days earlier, my wife and I were at a different Best Buy in Denver Metro, and we were looking for a powered USB 3 hub. That store, amazingly, didn't have one, and sent us on our way with regrets. They didn't even offer to look up a product on their own company website and ship it to us. (That's usually a bit of a hassle if you don't have an account already.) I came home and found a very nice one at Other World Computing — where I do have an account. [As an aside, it's awfully nice, and I may review it.] I figured that if it turned out to be satisfactory, returning it to OWC would be a lot easier.

Best Buy sales people sell PCs and Apple products, but they're generally not stakeholders in any one company. (Unless they're getting spiffs.)  If they don't have what the customer needs, it's an unfortunate inventory problem. If a customer is unhappy with an H.P. PC, they'll smile and refund the money, but ultimately, it's Hewlett Packard's product problem. And because Best Buy has competition for just about any of its many different product categories, taking the time to look up a product on a competitor's website and then send a customer elsewhere is self-defeating.

Return Engagement

My wife said that if she needs any more help with her MacBook Air, (that I can't help with), she's going back to that same Apple salesman. And if she can't find him, a brief retelling of her story to any of the other Apple sales people will likely result in the same customer experience. Plus, and this is notable, a repeat visit to the Apple store generates even more good will and possible additional sales.

Taking the time to look up a product on the Internet, determine availability, then and direct a customer to another local store for an accessory so that the customer can be successful with an Apple product is such an obvious thing to do in hindsight. I wonder how many other companies, straining for every penny of coveted profit, can even be in a position to train their employees to do the same.

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Apple storefront image via Apple.

Comments

Lee Dronick

Great story!

skipaq

With several years of experience in retail management I would say Apple stands out as one of the few exceptional retail businesses. The grocery chain Publics ranks very high. The problem with today’s service in retail is gross understaffing. The companies with good service are not understaffed or poorly trained in service. I will not shop Walmart in this area unless there is no choice because of understaffing and poor customer service. It is very difficult for retail employees to give good service when they are trying to do the work of two.

Lee Dronick

And then there are these employees

“Six Apple store employees at the Galleria mall are accused of teaming up to defraud the store out of nearly 600 iPhones worth an estimated half-million dollars, police said Wednesday.”

http://touch.sun-sentinel.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-81073235/

Paul Goodwin

John. It’s the Miracle On 34th Street.

aardman

A lot of companies don’t realize that what they do when their product or service has a hiccup is the greatest opportunity to earn a customer (or a walking, talking negative review) for life.

Several years ago, I got a phone call from a Vanguard rep who told me that they made a mistake on my account and outlined what they are doing to restore the misdirected funds.  He did not wait for my phone call which is sure after the usual reports reach me and I notice the error, he got the fix in motion and let me know right away.

I was so impressed, I wrote a detailed letter to the CEO at the time, John Bogle, commending the young man for the excellent proactive service.  I thought that was that, but a week or two later, I received a letter from Mr. Bogle thanking me for taking the time out to express my appreciation for taking the time out to write.  He said that he just enjoys receiving and replying to letters like mine because it is a great motivator not just for him, as CEO, but to the whole company when he shares it with them.  (I’m fairly sure he penned the letter himself because the customary typist/author initials at the bottom of the page had his initials.)

Needless to say, I am a customer for life at Vanguard.  Similar stories for T-Mobile and Apple.

People are reasonable, they understand that mistakes can happen even with the best intentions. It’s what the company does when mistakes occur that separates the class from the dreck.

cubefan

I’ve had a similar experience in the UK - an Apple shop employee in Solihull directed me to a branch of John Lewis just a short walk away because I was having trouble choosing some new earphones - the selection available in-store didn’t meet my requirements.

Never less than excellent, in my experience, which contrasts markedly with other well know UK stores selling technology products.

Allister Jenks

America needs to take a serious look at itself if this is exceptional. I get this level of service all the time in all sorts of shops in New Zealand. Not all, but it’s quite common.

Maybe that’s why Apple have yet to open a retail outlet here.

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