Apple Really? ….Ya Really!

So, exactly a year ago today I paid my first visit to the Apple Store in Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket, Ontario. I had been trialling an iPhone 4 for a few months to replace my Blackberry and since my “must have” app, ToDo Matrix from REXwireless, had been recently launched on the iPhone, I decided to take the plunge. This was my first experience with Apple directly. It was fabulous, I lined up outside the store and quickly (about 10-15 minutes) was greeted by one of the Apple clones. What transpired from there was magic. Arthur C. Clarke said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, therefore I saw magic. The clone was very friendly and immediately was able to tell me that the 64Gb model was not in stock but I could get 32Gb model in black right away. The beautifully, if not very “green”, package arrived at whatever random location we were at in the store and the clone typed a few things into the partially charged new device. It then connected to the WiFi network in the store and everything… and I mean everything from my iPhone 4 started appearing on my new 5! In no time at all, I was fully functional. It even paused the downloads when I left the store and resumed them when I got back on my home WiFi. Totally painless.

Fast forward 1 year. I went into the store the 2nd time today as my earpiece had stopped working. There was a sign on the store saying that it was presently closed for 1-on-1 training which I could see was in progress. I flagged a clone and said that I had pre-scheduled an appointment on-line yesterday but I can see that the store is closed. He said that, “if you scheduled an appointment then we will see you now… is your name Jason?” He then directed me to one of their “geniuses” at the bar at the back. He greeted me by name and started doing diagnostics right away. He then asked if I was having battery issues. I was and I had assumed that I had too many things running sometimes charging the phone 2x in the same day. He told me to come back in 50 minutes and both repairs would be complete. When I return, another clone recognizes me and asks if I am here to pick up my phone. Magically, the technician that actually fixed my phone comes out to explain what was done and that it has been tested and working fine, but there is no screen protector now. She then selects the the proper protector and engages another one of the multi-tasking clones who actually installs the screen saver in addition to allowing me to pay for it. I think I have now travelled 12 feet in the store and spent a grand total of $15.

I’m not talking about the magic of technology here. What I see is the physical embodiment of the company’s belief system. In his excellent book, Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, he outlines how great companies and great leaders inspire great outcomes. His inspiring TED talk is here.

Sure technology has enabled the experience but it hasn’t created the experience. That was done by the the “How” and the “What” to deliver on the “Why”: Products and service in-line with the corporate philosophy. With Steve gone I pray that Apple sticks with its fundamental belief system.

It is not the technology that creates the magic. It is the firm belief that each customer’s experience should be spectacular, not just good. Its why people line up for untold amounts of time to get the next Apple magic box.

I don’t even remember that I paid premium prices for all of this gear…

Top drawer Apple…. top drawer!

Yours truly,
An Apple Convert

AMEX: More Credit Where it’s Due

Whoever took over the responsibility for Customer Service, or Customer Advocacy in management- speak, at American Express deserves a Gold Medal Ribbon (that’s not redundant… just ice cream).

A short decade or so ago, calling American Express was an intimidating event. If you could get past the language issue, a fact that has been beaten to death, you were invariably treated like you were coming in to a bank at the turn of the century to apply for a loan with no collateral.
“Mr. Stilwater, will you proffer your soul should we decide to grant your loan request?”

A great thing happened. About 4 yrs ago, or maybe double that, magically you called into the Amex help desk and got an agent whose first language was your own. Low and behold, the agent was genuinely interested in helping you solve your problem!

If I need to call in now, I kinda look forward to it instead of dreading the call. What a change!

What’s more, I have a friend who shall remain nameless that has one of the Holy Grail cards pictured below, and is blown away by the level of service. This card couldn’t have been offered without a fundamental remake of the service organization.

Kudos to the powers that be at Amex who thought that great customer service might actually be a differentiator and NOT a necessary evil!