1.31.2015

Lost Opportunities through "Improved" Customer Service: Apple Store

Dear Angela Ahrendts,

You don't know me, but I'm one of your customers. In fact, I'm one of your most important customers...because I've been an Apple customer - and devotée - since 1984.

What that means is that I've lived through the askance, side-eyed looks from business colleagues and clients wondering why I wasn't "smart" enough to prefer a PC.

I lived through being called a MacHead.

I've defended the company's vertical strategy when friends and colleagues spoke of being held hostage by Apple.

I believed in Steve Jobs - and awaited his return when the Apple Board turned on him. I also believe in Tim Cook and what he's bringing to the company - including defending him to colleagues, clients and analysts when he was first appointed and they asked me why I thought he could do what Steve Jobs did...and more.

I've been through it all - and, throughout, I've held firm that Apple knows what it's doing...until I visited an Apple Store recently and found out about your new, "improved" customer service policy for the Genius Bar.

The idea is good: Staff the Genius Bar so that the stores can handle walk-in customers' needs.

What isn't good is that it has had a knock-on effect on the rest of the staff working the floor. They've turned into salespeople.

One of the great joys of the design that Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson incorporated into the Apple Store (and, yes, I was positing from the first that they were revitalizing and redefining the retail experience - which they did) was that the Apple Store was a place not just to see and touch these "magical" products. It was a place to play.

What that meant was that the folks on the floor not only answered customers' questions. They shared their own excitement about and experience of what the technology can do.

As a result, they were like mini-Geniuses. It wasn't uncommon for staff members to try to answer customers' questions. Not technical questions. And definitely not fixes when something was mechanically wrong. But User questions.

And that's what's gone. Somehow, as you conveyed the new policy about Genius Bar support for walk-ins, what also got conveyed was that the floor staff weren't supposed to answer questions anymore - at least not unless the questions were about product specs and price-points.

They've become salespeople - and that's a terrible thing.

There's no give and take. There's no shared excitement. There's no fun and sense of possibility - from the "I didn't know you could do that!" wow factors to the "Oh, is that how I fix that problem!" relief that came with talking with someone who shared your experience and had greater knowledge to offer.

I've visited - and purchased items - in Apple Stores in multiple countries and the experience was always the same.

This, too, has been the Apple Experience. Not just the technology. It's the feeling Steve Jobs engendered from the first that, as an Apple user, you were part of something more. Something big.

You could Think Different.

Evidently, not so much anymore. At least not amongst your floor staff.

This is a quick and easy fix, Ms. Ahrendts, and I hope you take care of it. Soon.

After all these years, I don't want to be proved wrong.

Yours sincerely,

Leslie.