Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Client Service Stories Part 2: Apple

As you may have read in our post last week, every once in a while we will take time out from our regular discussions about building business through relationship development and Client Relationship Management (CRM) to talk about Client service, which is a core element of both. After last week's post, I am more convinced than ever about the business development power of Client service, as I have never received so many emails and comments as I did after that post. It just proves how important it is to take care of your customers...  as I recently learned that Apple does.

So after a 3 month wait, I finally got my little computer from HP, only to realize that, unlike the iPad, its on-screen keyboard was basically useless. The buttons were too tiny to press and there was no way to use the keyboard without resting your hand on the screen and inadvertently typing all kinds of crazy stuff. Additionally, trying to manipulate the cursor with the little pen or your finger was awkward. So off I went on a quest for a keyboard and mouse.

Like many technology consumers, I have always been intrigued by the stylish look of some of Apple's peripherals (ok, yes, I know this makes me a bit of a geek) so I decided to investigate further. The Apple keyboard was wireless, light and stylish. The mouse was magic, literally. (It's actually called the Magic Mouse) Again, great design – functional, but with no buttons. To click, you just press on the left or right side. To scroll down the page, you slide your finger from the mouse's head to tail – very cool.

But would the Apple toys play nicely with a Windows computer? The helpful salesperson said he thought they would. If they didn’t work with Windows, I figured I could always use them with my iPad. Besides, I was informed that  Apple has a 14-day no hassle return policy. How could I say no? (Business development lesson #1: make it easy and painless to buy from you).

When I got them home, I needed to connect the new devices to my Windows computer wirelessly via Bluetooth. I was ready for a fight, but was pleasantly surprised. I put in the batteries and fired them up. First the keyboard. Windows recognized it, prompted me to type in a code on it and it worked. Just like that. I was shocked. Hooking up the mouse was... well, like magic. It just worked. Technology is great when it does that. 

Then a few weeks (and a few road trips) later, it happened: the keyboard got a mind of its own. One minute it was working... then it wasn't. Windows found it... then it disappeared. It was connected... then it wasn't. And, of course, this happened at the worst possible time - when I was on the road in a hotel room preparing for a big training session with a Client. Ugggggh. Then I remembered: I had seen the neon glow of an Apple store just a few blocks away. Maybe they could help. I figured it was worth a try.

What I learned is that customer service is not dead (although some would argue that it seems to have taken one heck of a beating judging from the treatment you get from most companies.) But not Apple. As I walked towards the entrance of the store, I was greeted by some really friendly associates who opened the door for me asked me if I had a service appointment. I didn't even know I needed one. Great, now I knew I was doomed to wait for hours, or worse, they might not even be able to help me at all today. 

But I was wrong. Instead, the associate walked me over to a Mac, where he typed my info into their system to put me in the online cue for the Genius Bar upstairs. He said the wait would be about 20 minutes. Well, since I had to wait, I might as well make the most of the situation and check out some of the shiny new Macs. Of course, I knew I couldn't get one because all of my business applications ran on Windows. I mentioned this to the associate, who then asked me if I knew that I could actually run Windows on a Mac. (Business development tip #2: to really develop business, ask questions to determine the Client's needs before you try to make a sale)

Really…Windows on a Mac? But I was sure that running two operating systems would affect the performance and slow things down. He assured me it wouldn’t and asked me if I was aware that the fastest Windows computer for the last few years was actually a Mac? (Business development tip #3: provide information targeted to Client needs, as determined by the questions you asked) Uh... no, I didn't know that... tell me more.

He told me all kinds of things I didn’t know (Business development tip #4 - describe only the benefits or features of your service or product that the Client needs). I learned that I could do everything that I was doing now on a Mac. I also learned that Apple is about to come out with a new operating system that will let the Mac work more like an iPad, which I love. Plus, no more endless virus and spam issues or blue screens of death (if you've ever used a Windows computer, you are painfully aware that this is slang for a software crash that takes the whole computer to its knees and leaves you curled up in a little ball praying that when it comes back – if it comes back - you haven't lost several hours of work just because you had forgotten to hit 'save').

I also learned that Apple calls their tech support folks Geniuses for a reason. Let's be clear - going into that store, I had zero expectation of getting my problem fixed. I was asking Apple to troubleshoot a problem that I thought was almost certainly caused by a Windows driver. Plus, the keyboard really wasn't even meant to be used with Windows computers… and I had purchased it a while ago… and not at an Apple store.

The Genius didn't care. He said he would try to help - and he did. He got it to sync up right away, but it wouldn't stay connected. He said he thought this probably meant it was a Windows issue, but since I was there, let's at least try a new keyboard first. Did I have a receipt that he could look up? No, since I was on the road - and since I didn't even buy the keyboard at an Apple store (please don’t tell the Genius).

Anyway, the Genius opened up a bright, shiny new keyboard and tried it. It worked perfectly and stayed connected. Then he offered to have an Apple business consultant talk me through how  Apple computers could work for my business. What did I owe him, I asked? No worries, he said - and no charge. Then he even gave me a new set of keyboard batteries. 

Guess what? That day that I became an Apple customer. And I don't even care that their computers cost more. I'll pay top dollar for that kind of service.  

Can you say that you are providing this Apple-like service to your Clients? If you aren't, it's ok... someone else will. 

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