The untimely death of Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, has brought out many tributes and I would like to add mine.
Steve Jobs ability to innovate new products, new user interfaces and new categories of products (combining the phone with portable music and PC type applications) has left its mark on the world. Jobs didn’t just incrementally improve products, he took major leaps.
In the area of customer service, I believe Apple came up with a new innovative approach. While telephone support is the first line of support for most users with a concern or a question, if a technician needs to work on the machine to diagnose and fix the problem, Apple came up with a winning formula.
Normally, if a customer of a cellphone, PC or other device needs to have it checked out and repaired, it involves sending the equipment in to a central repair center or leaving it at a local dealer for them to send in to the manufacturer (or their designated repair partner). Apple is different.
1. The Consumer can make an appointment at an Apple store (a corporate store, not one that is franchised out using the company’s logo).
2. The customer arrives in the store at the appointed time. One section of the store is devoted to customer service. It is called the ‘Genius Bar’ (what a great name!). Customers register with the Genius Bar representative to let Apple know they have arrived and can relax until their service technician is ready for them.
3. The technician works with the customer, listening to their problems, and running diagnostic tests in front of the consumer, not in a back room somewhere. The customer gets the diagnosis within a few minutes.
4. If the machine needs parts and can still be used in the mean time, the customer leaves with his device and the Apple store will call the customer when the part is in, make an appointment, and then work on the machine overnight, if necessary, to get it back to the customer as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the machine is kept until the parts are available and installed. When the machine is fixed, Apple calls the customer to let them know, the machine is ready for pick up.
5. Apple has a process called ‘Time Machine’ that allows customers to regularly back up their machine in the background, while it is being used for productive tasks. This allows a customer ensure that they have the latest back up of their machine (without taking hours to create it) before bringing the machine to the Apple store, and then restore it to where it was, with all files and installed programs after service has been completed.
Benefits of Apple’s Customer Service approach
Apple is not only efficient at handling customer problems, they provide an emotional experience as well.
1. Customer service is located in a pleasant location, generally in a mall.
2. The customer is surrounded by upbeat Apple employees and shiny Apple products. Apple employees are trained to be friendly and helpful.
3. The customer can explain their problems to the technician in the Genius Bar, responding to questions and showing the technician what they are seeing or hearing. The customer feels like the technician really understands them.
4. The customer feels like part of the customer service resolution process. They can see what the technician is doing if a diagnostic test needs to be run. Most people won’t mind waiting when they can see the ‘action’ taking place (eg running a diagnostic test). They are engaged with it
5. This customer service approach is also excellent marketing. While the customer is getting service, they are surrounded by other Apple products they can buy or learn about. If nothing else, Apple’s marketing messages have an excellent chance of being viewed by visiting service customers and if a purchase of a new product doesn’t take place immediately while the customer is in the Apple store, some of the new products will go on ‘wish list’ for later.
6. Time machine is a real time saver if the machine needs to be returned to its working state. The technique is simple and can run ‘overnight’ unattended. The repair can be fairly painless for the consumer.
Our many thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple for their excellent products and support. We can only hope that Steve Job’s legacy of product and service innovation will continue to prosper in the coming years.
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