Carmine Gallo’s “The Apple Experience” matches reality

This is a funny post because it combines a book review as well as my shopping expereince.  Last week I finished reading Carmine Gallo’s new book The Apple Experience. The book deals with the a lot of the “hidden” or little things that makes up Apples Retail customer service. Key elements revolve around listening to the customer and building a relationship. Not every customer will buy something in that trip but they may in the future. That initial visit to the store could be very important.

Today I went to the Apple store to drool over the Retina MacBook Pro as well as the revamped 11“ MacBook Air. I was planning on making my decision but I needed to see the Retina for myself.  A woman walked into the store at the same time I did. She was in her early to late 50’s early 60’s. We were both greeted and specialists were assigned to both of us. While we waited we went to the same table to begin looking at the new 15” Retina MacBook Pro. She was in the store first so the employee went up to her and asked her how he could help her today. This is an almost verbatim dialog that occurred:

Apple Emp: My name is Fred. How can I help you today?
Woman: Hi I am Carol.  I need a new computer, for home. I work at a University and the guys there told me I should get a mac and gave me these specifications.
Apple Emp: Carol may I look at what they recommended?
Woman: Here you go. (She passes the paper to the employee)(I see this and it is the MAXED out 15″ Retina)
Apple Emp: (Laughs) Well they have great taste ! Is this for them or you?
Woman: It is for me and they told me I should get as much as I can.
Apple Emp: I understand. May I ask what you do with your computer? What programs you use most, how you use your computer, do you travel with it?
Woman: Well I use email and the internet to get recipes, I print things and occasionally I get a picture of my grandkids that I would like to save. We do go back and forth to Florida and trips to see our grand kids. Will this computer do that for me?
Apple Emp: Why yes it will.

And with that he could have stopped there and handed her the new machine. But he knew it was overkill. This is a classic example of using a bazooka to kill a mosquito. He helped to educate the consumer on what she was buying. This sale would have been upwards of $3799. I am sure if he was commissioned from a big box store the sale would have ended.  But Apple retail employees are not and the goal is deliver a happy customer.

Apple Emp: Carol if I heard you correctly you do email, photos and 3 or 4 things a lot with your computer. This computer will do all of those things and more. It is an excellent machine and geared toward high end professionals. Would you be interested in looking at some other models that are less expensive and would also fulfill your computing needs?
Woman: Sure

With that he took her to see both the 13, and 15 MacBook Pros and then to the table to show the MacBook Airs for her. I was glad the store was busy and my specialist was delayed a few minutes because it allowed me to watch the ongoing interaction.

Fred explained the difference of the lines and the models. Pro first and then the Airs. When she saw the 11″ Air her face lit up and smiled as if she has see a new dawn.

Woman: I wish this computer would do what I need – it looks amazing. So small and beautiful.
Apple Emp: This will ! and more. This is a very powerful machine that will fit your needs now and still allow you to grow should your computing needs change. Do you like to rent movies?
Woman: Yes we do from Netflix online and the iTunes store. Can I watch a movie on this?
Apple Emp: Yes

She then went into a litany of little questions. Can it… Yes Can it… Yes Can it… Yes

Her face changed a little. She then became a little wary. Thinking how can she afford this tiny powerhouse that can do all these things AND print recipes. (one of the goals)

Woman: How much is this one?
Apple Emp: This model is $999 and the one with double the space is $1099.
Woman: Really?
Apple Emp: We have both models here when and if you decide this is right for you. Woman: I will take the $1099 model.
Apple Emp: I think this is a wonderful choice for you and you will save more than $2400.
Woman: Hmmmmm
Apple Emp: Is there a problem that I did not address?
Woman: Can you help me prevent my husband from using it? Or should I just get him one as well.
Apple Emp: I am sorry I don’t have a device that will prevent his use. But you should bring him in if he likes yours and I can show him some options.

Again a commissioned sales representative might have got her the second computer to line their pocket with money.  But instead Fred invited her to come back with her husband and make a decision then.  Watching this type of customer service mirrors exactly what Carmie talks about in his book. Needless to say my time at the store was equally pleasant and productinve. I walked out of their with an 11″ MacBook Air loaded up.

These ideas are not really earth shattering, to me it is common sense.  This type of service is what other companies should strive for as well. It just makes sense. If you have any interest in learning how to deliver an exceptional customer expereince you should read this book !

Verizon Wireless To Charge You To Conveniently Pay Your Bill

Verizon has already changed their mind about this decision – but smells so much like banks trying to make up the extra credit card charges they lost over the federal regulation changes.

Lets charge our users to pay their bills.  Pathetic.

Verizon Wireless To Charge You To Conveniently Pay Your Bill:

Marguerite Reardon:

Verizon Wireless plans to charge subscribers a new $2 fee every time they pay their wireless bills online or directly over the phone.

Can you hear me now?

(Via The Brooks Review)

Delighting customers with bad news

After ordering my new computer case from Tom Bihn and loving the product I decided I wanted to ordered a few other small things from them to round out some of the storage needs I had.  I received the shipping notification that it should arrive on later this week. Yesterday I received an email from Katy at Tom Bihn with the following message:

To our amazing, patient customers:

UPS has alerted us that a tornado derailed a train on the tracks that UPS Ground packages travel on from the West Coast to the East Coast. UPS is working hard to re-route the packages on to their original destination as soon as possible; this could mean that your TOM BIHN order may take a little longer to get to you than originally planned.:(

We’re sorry for the delay and will update you again if there is any further news. If you have any questions, be sure to let us know.

I was a little bummed but I was amazed about the notification.  Who does this?  I was trying to think of another company in recent years who is this proactive in their customer service offerings.  I wish more companies did this and is should be a model for others to follow.

Moving the problem to the consumer

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With the release of Lion one thing that had to be done prior to upgrading was to confirm that your favorite or commonly used apps were all Intel based and did not rely on the Rosetta software translator.   The only one I had on my machine was Quicken 2007.  I have been a Quicken user since version 2.  Originally on PC and then switching to the mac. Using Quicken to reconcile my accounts is now pure muscle memory – I equate this to a programmer or designer using TextMate or BBEdit. You just know how to do it and it is instinctual.  I can reconcile my checking accounts in 2-3 minutes using Quicken.  It is no longer the difficult back of the statement approach.  I also have been using the Quicken BillPay service for some time.  While there is a monthly charge for this service, the integration with the checkbook register was brilliantly executed making paying bills electronically very very easy. For me the convenience outweighed the cost.

In order to be able to continue to use Quicken, Mac users were forced to upgrade to Quicken Essentials.  The name should tell you a lot about the application. Quicken has removed many of the features that made the application so nice.  The application user interface has also changed–drastically.  The application feels more like Quickbooks then Quicken.  I consider myself an experienced user and it took me a very long time to figure out how to use the application in the most basic way. The checkbook register view is dreadful. What you would consider to me normal application functions or buttons are buried under menus and not easy to find.  Last night I had the first opportunity to reconcile my account.  What normally takes me a few minutes was an hour long process.

Rewriting an application, especially a well established and mature application like Quicken can be difficult and time consuming. Quicken 2007 for Mac was actually released in 2006.  So we are 5 years into the application with only minor bug fixes and nothing new.  Quicken Essentials is no where near an upgrade – it is clearly a downgrade.  Key features have been removed, bill pay service is gone and many key features have been left out.

When Intuit posted options on how to handle the transition from 2007 to something that will run on Lion one of the options was to switch to Windows versions of the application.

Move to Quicken Windows

  • You can easily convert your Quicken Mac data with the exception of Investment transaction history. You will need to either re-download your investment transactions or manually enter them.
  • This option is ideal if you use Quicken to track investments.

I am surprised that someone from marketing would allow this included in a response to users. It is hard to think of any examples where moving the vendors problem to the user is ever a good solution. I know of a lot of Quicken for Mac users who were infuriated by this careless statement alone.

The support page does go on to say they are committed to supporting Apple.  But it mentions working on an iPad application. While having an iPad app would be nice thing to have, personally I am more concerned about having the core program working at its full potential.

What are your plans related to personal finance solutions for Apple customers?
We are committed to supporting Apple products and our Mac customers. We are actively working on a personal finance solution for the iPad, as well as continuing to deliver the highly rated Mint.com iPhone application. In addition, we are evaluating options for Quicken Essentials for Mac.

As a Mac user do I feel abandoned, yes.
As a long time Quicken user am angry, yes.
Do I feel Intuit had substantial time to plan and make a new version for the inevitable removal of Rosetta, yes.
Do I feel like the Essentials upgrade was a waste of money, yes.
Will I be looking for alternatives that offer better support and user experience, yes.
Can I recommend Essentials to anyone, no.

Setting up bill pay

Online banking call to setup bill pay

Me: hi I just tried to register online for online bill pay and it says I am already registered but it is not working
CS: please verify your account and user I’d for me
Me: account is xxx-xxxxxxx-xxx and the userid is zzzzzz
CS: thank you. Are you using online banking now?
Me: yes thats why I have a userid
CS: let me speak to the online banking group
Me: ok but isn’t this the number for online banking customer service
CS: yes but I can’t do that. One minute while I put you on hold.

Hold

CS: you were not active so they are activating you now.
Me: thanks when will it be active.
CS: not sure I think 24 hours. Try back then if not call and we will activate you.

Substitution Customer Service

Tonight on the way home I stopped at a fast food chain and ordered a simple request.  I got my meal and something told me to check it tonight.  It was wrong.  I backed up to the window and told the gentleman who took my order.  He told me they were out of what I wanted so they just gave me what he thought I would like.  I was not notified that they were out of my choice, I was not notified of other choices that I might be interested in. I was given what ever he had at his discretion.  So instead of going the extra distance to talk to me they substituted my meal with bad customer service.