May 14, 2012

What You Can Learn From Apple’s Insanely Great Customer Service

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve been on a customer service tear lately. That’s because we’ve been scaling up customers at Speechpad at a record rate and interacting with a lot of them in the process. I’d read Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, but our recent growth rate has given me a new found appreciation — and involvement in — delivering great customer service.

This weekend I did the unthinkable and dunked my iPhone in water. Not a few drops of water but a full on bath. In other words, I needed a new phone. My first stop was I know — what was I thinking? I reached a customer service rep on the web site who duly had me log into the web site to figure out that my next upgrade date was January of 2013. I inquired about other options and the rep suggested I buy one of their cheapest feature phones. A no-go.


I had heard and read good things about Apple store service so I headed over to the downtown San Francisco store to see what they could do. From the greeting at the door, to the service check-in, to my new phone, my total in-store time was under 40 minutes.

Most memorable for me was the Genius Bar. What a great concept – turning the idea of service into a bar with stools, a long counter, and service techs taking the place of bartenders. But first I was walked up the stairs to an Apple rep who checked me in for an appointment that would take place 10 minutes later. There’s something awesome about finding out you have to make an appointment and then having that appointment be 10 minutes later.

I browsed the web and time flew by — about 15 minutes later a tech arrived to take a look at my phone. He returned a few minutes later and told me the replacement cost: $149. I was overjoyed. No shipping, no return process, no paperwork, just a few checkboxes and a signature on an iPad and voila: a new iPhone.

The toughest part was getting it registered on the Verizon network. Even the Apple Genius couldn’t get that part to work until he consulted with someone else who showed a way to work around the Verizon registration system! Go figure.

And of course there was the wireless credit card swipe that let me pay right at the Genius table.

Some key takeaways:
- Personalized service, using my name
- A great environment that turned something usually dreaded (customer service) on its ear by converting it into a luxury experience — going to a bar
- Immediate exchange
- Low friction – no paperwork (just some electronic forms)
- An apology that things were “taking so long” (e.g. a whopping five minutes) when dealing with the Verizon registration issue

All in all, an insanely great customer service experience.

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