Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Apple Store lavishes service on disgruntled iPhone 4 user

The customer enters a teeming Apple store one week after the release of the new iPhone with a head of steam built up over a seven-day period of unalloyed product frustration.

“I want my money back,” the customer says to the first associate by the door. “This phone is a complete failure on every level. And don’t even try to tell me I’m holding it wrong.”

The associate in harm’s way, a maybe-at-most-23-year-old woman, changes her bright smile into a look of sorrowful concern.

“That’s terrible you’ve been having trouble. I’m so sorry. Let me help you right here if you want to return it and get your money back,” she says. “One thing, though--you don’t have to, but would you mind telling me what’s been going on with it? I’d really like to know.”

This initial rejoinder is a pitch-perfect response. She apologizes before doing or saying anything else. She is immediately acknowledging there is not going to be an argument or hoops for the customer to jump through to get satisfaction—in this case wanting his money back. She then does a quick verbal pirouette to express genuine interest in what the problems have been.

After the customer finishes his description of dropped calls, email issues, lost data, and more, the associate again apologizes, sympathizing with the customer’s plight. “I know that must be really tough when you’re on a business call or sitting waiting for an important email,” she offers. “If you have a minute, there’s something I can do that might help quite a bit by just resetting the connection—you won’t lose any data—want me to give it a try?”

The customer, now not wanting to be an impediment to a sincere attempt at correction, agrees to the idea, and at least has temporarily abandoned the idea of getting his money back. The associate returns a few minutes later with a manager—he’s maybe all of 24 years old.

“I’m Andy,” he says. “I hear you’ve been having trouble. We’re going to do a couple of things.”

He tells the customer they’ve done the reset, explains how some of those people who bought the phone in its first few days have experienced connection issues (“it’s about one in 20”), that he wants to give the customer a complimentary “bumper” to surround the outer antenna (“should you want to give the phone another chance”) and that he’d like to do a phone call and email test. The customer obliges and the phone performs perfectly in both sets of tests.

As the customer departs, happy, Andy tells him he still has 21 more days to return the phone, but to watch it carefully over the next week to see if it’s performing as it should.

There are plenty of amazing lessons here. It’s possible the customer happened upon the two greatest sales people in the known universe, but it’s unlikely. It’s also unlikely these two 20-somethings had the years of experience to know exactly how to handle this difficult situation. More believable is an unequalled set of training protocols and logical steps in a selling model that have made Apple stores the envy of retail.

Getting these glimpses into customer and associate interactions is critical to success on the sales floor. One of the reasons we are brought in is to give our client partners the full measure of activities and actions within the environment, and to help them understand enterprise-wide opportunities and persistently occurring barriers to the sale. Video and audio enabled behavioral analytics is our prime methodology for doing so, and it’s often a fascinating way to see how loyalty can be built or ruined on one turn of a phrase.
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  1. A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.

    He is not an interruption in our work - he is the purpose of it.

    We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to serve him.

    - Mahatma Gandhi

  2. Our Apple store is a half block away by the Clyborne/North station Apple paid to renovate and the fountain and plaza they built. The quality of their sales and service and free training is exceeded only by their magically powerful products. (The iPhone in my view is the most dramatic technological achievement ever.)
    But that's just me. Marks put his finger on the process, which may involve some training done in a non- pedantic way where the customer "discovers" a neat way to do something. GGRM