Apple is the poster child of customer experience. At most conferences you’ll hear its name amongst the other greats of Amazon, Virgin and Zappos. Even in the world of NPS people are consumed by its high score of 75 (it doesn’t seem to ever have moved).
As an Apple customer of nearly 10 years with the iPod, iPhone (x3), iPad and now MacBook Air in my portfolio it’s time to question Apple’s customer experience credentials.
Firstly let me tell you about my own experience?
With my recent MacBook Air purchase I took the gamble of leaving Windows and moving to Apple. The process was as laborious as expected and learning Apple’s idiosyncrasies will take me many more months. You can’t deny the beauty of their products but their customer experience leaves a lot to be desired.
During the first few weeks of using my MacBook Air a number of problems emerged. These included everything from sudden black screens, slow updates and most frustratingly and worryingly of all a track pad that couldn’t click. On paying to travel into the London Apple store I was greeted with a shrug and told that technical appointments would be available in 7 days time. I needed to remind the sales assistant that I expected a £1300 laptop to come with some form of specialist support. It was after all 3 times the cost of my old trusty Asus.
On several attempts to find self-service solutions I was amazed to see entire forums of customers complaining with hundreds repeating the original post but no one from Apple responding to answer the query. Some forum users pleaded openly ‘will someone from Apple log onto this site!’
Colleagues have often asked why the likes of Apple haven’t bought a major telecom operator or other significant customer facing business. It seems the answer is clear with their thinly spread stores across Europe. Engaging with customers is not their strength. Marketing and selling is.
During my visit to the Apple store I joined a queue to discuss my laptop failures. I was soon informed that I was in the set-up queue and if I wanted support I’d need to book an appointment. The classic business thought of ‘looking after your existing customers’ sprang to mind. I left the store with the advice that every time my laptop freezes I should just do an emergency reboot. Not exactly a long-term solution.
So where could Apple improve?
The biggest trick Apple were missing was personalisation. I wasn’t asked my name and with everyone having an Apple ID, it was even more surprising that my support wasn’t tailored based on the information Apple had about me. Apple had no idea that I ran a consultancy business and used technology every day in front of clients. It wasn’t that this information wasn’t to hand on an iPad linked to their CRM – they just didn’t ask.
As a customer journey and service design expert I was already thinking of the multitude of ways that Apple could have improved my in store experience. A simple solution would have been to ask me some questions the minute I installed my MacBook Air. Apple will have known my history over the last 10 years. From my first iPod straight through to my most recent purchase. Never once have they asked me anything about my personal circumstances.
There’s no doubting Apple’s credentials in product design and marketing. I even find it hard writing this blog post without wanting to give them a second and third chance. However, for all their skills in branding and product innovation they are not experts in customer experience. The lack of service support was striking.
So please, to all customer experience professionals out there – don’t confuse product innovation and beautiful design with good old fashion customer experience!