Senior Strategic Designer, Doug Look, filed this report.
What a compelling, wonderful experience that I had this weekend in my quest for Apple product support.
The situation: our high school student son has been complaining that his Mac laptop has seriously slowed down in the past week -- what's going on? Is it time for a new laptop? Is there a virus or too much crap loaded on the hard drive?
I do a Google search (the standard first step of any research process) for Mac laptop slowing down
After the optimization seemed to only help a little, I finally get a first hand look at the problem laptop -- and immediately I hear that sound that sends shivers up your spine, the shudder and ehhh…ehhhh….ehhhh…sound of a problem hard drive.
Now what? Back to Google of course to start searching for ways to deal with the hard drive problem. Get pointed to Genius Bar support page… and here's how the story unfolded.
Though the Apple web site seemed very slow (perhaps too much traffic due to the iPad launch?), I found my way to an Apple store locator, found available stores in the San Francisco area, selected a time slot from a listing of available openings, and made a reservation for a fifteen minute time slot on Sunday morning at 10:00 am.
I called the SF store to make sure that it would be open at 10:00 am, since the mall hours were listed as opening at noon. I actually got through to a real person at the local store who informed me that in fact the store is open at 8:00 am EVERY DAY for support and training. He checked my reservation and confirmed it over the phone. I couldn't quite believe that after I dialed the store phone number, I navigated through a quick phone tree and was assisted by a real person who knew what they were doing -- amazing! I received an email confirmation as well, with detailed information on how to get to the store.
Arriving at 9:55 am Sunday morning at the Apple store, I was greeted with smiles and confirmed by the maitre d', who assured me that the geniuses would be arriving soon. I waited at the counter, and promptly at 10:00 am the genii burst through the side door and made their entrance.
I looked up at my genius, who had a badge that identified him as Jeremy Genius. Then I noticed Adam Genius next to him, and Bert Genius next to him -- very cool that they even have a nice sense of humor as part of the experience. Jeremy confirmed my reservation and asked, "What's up?"
So, I flipped open the laptop, pressed the on button, and Jeremy put his ear close to hear that tell-tale whirring, crunching sound of a hard drive in the throes of its last days as part of the team. Yup, it's a bad hard-drive. "Yikes" I say, "Now what?".
Jeremy punches in some information on his laptop while explaining that the laptop is out of warranty, that they can replace the hard drive (but not with an upgraded one) for about $300 including labor. They can also replace the keyboard, which has been missing its right Shift key for months, for another $75 or so. Hmmm…I'm thinking, well at least we can fix it for not too much.
Then Jeremy lobs a surprise grenade -- he explains that most of the work done through Apple is for work that's covered by warranty. For stuff outside of warranty, perhaps I might be better off going to a third party specialist, who can perform the work faster, cheaper, and upgrade the hard drive to a larger faster one. I'm a bit stunned when Jeremy even hands me a business card for a recommended outside vendor.
Did I walk into Nordstrom by mistake? Is the official Apple Genius guy really telling me that I'd be better off going to an outside vendor? He goes on to tell me about Carbon Copy Cloner, a free download product that clones an image of your laptop to make it easy to get back up and running after you've replaced your hard drive.
I have to say I was impressed, by a series of cumulative, small but important aspects of this customer experience:
- The online experience of reserving time with a live person in San Francisco who could help me with my problem.
- That someone actually answered a direct phone call to the store and assisted me with good information AND was nice and courteous.
- That I could have made an online reservation for any day at 8:00 am to meet with an Apple Genius.
- That the Geniuses had clever name tags that identified them as part of the Apple Genius family/brand.
- That I received a nice greeting upon entering the store, that the Genius was on time.
- That the Genius was audacious enough to offer information that included suggesting someone else, other than Apple, might be most appropriate for my needs -- mouth agape here, and jaw dropped.
- I was in and out of the Apple store genius meet up within fifteen minutes, had my questions answered, received quotes on servicing my laptop, learned how much it might be to replace with a new laptop, got advice on best ways to access discounts with education vs. corporate pricing, and left this experience thoroughly satisfied.
It definitely seems like there are valuable lessons to be learned from this experience that can be applied to creating compelling customer experiences. I was impressed, especially after thinking about how many aspects of the overall experience were done so well. Wow.
Back in the day, quality guru, Tom Peters, used to tell a story about how poorly he was treated when he ordered a part from his local auto store and how well he was treated when an airline lost his luggage. His point was that each customer issue is an opportunity -- not a problem. Apple gets this. The other day my daughter tweeted:
Apple's Genius Bar pulled through for me two days in a row! They sure know how to make people happy.