Two examples of stunning customer experience

I was in downtown San Francisco today and had two outstanding experiences – coincidentally at stores across the road from each other Virgin and the Apple store. In Virgin I was browsing CDs (to kill time before my Genius Bar appointment) and picked a few out. When I went to the cash register, the guy asked if I wanted the original version of ‘Je Taime’ or the one I had picked up? Actually I wanted the original (the one banned by BBC radio all those years ago – an attempt to capture lost youth!). In the process he introduced me to two more CDs that I ended up buying. Why? Because he engaged me, introduced new thoughts and checked that I had what I needed, all in a conversational style with no pressure. I’d tell you his name, but his name badge said ‘Maria’ and I’m guessing that wasn’t his name.

So across the road to Apple. My new MacBook wouldn’t synch with my Treo 650. We had had a go earlier in the week and I went away to try getting the Palm Desktop as well, that made things work, so I went on the web to book a slot for Monday – except the Genius Bar (Apples in-store support folks) are there Sunday, so I book my slot and head out.

These folks are organized, know there stuff and did fix my synch problem (it took a good natured fun hour, but it FELT great). In the process I was seated next to a young woman who couldn’t get her iPod to work after an upgrade. I joked with her that it would work here as soon as they were placed in front of an expert. She had carted her iPod Nano and her Dell laptop. The person helping her plugged them in and lo, they worked. But the computer wasn’t authorized, so he guided her through that and sorted a couple of other things out for her.

We chatted intermittently, in between dealing with our own systems and tech advisors. It was like a small community, all of whom were there with problems. Not a bad word -even when the news was bad – a non-working iPod out of warranty, it was delivered with feeling for the customer. The iPod woman was clearly impressed, she was musing when (not if) she would switch from Dell to Mac and asked how I was doing with the change. I told her, mainly good (apart from Quicken – what an abomination of product confusion, abysmal web and support approach (I called to buy the data transfer service and was asked to have my credit card too pay for the call – needless to say, that software is on the way back to them) – with data transfer – especially mail going well.

So, the conventional wisdom would say, here is a customer (iPod lady) who cannot have spent more than $350 – if that – on her iPod getting tech support in a great, high rent environment from extremely competent people who probably ate up half the total spent on the iPod in the first place. Thank goodness Apple think different!!!!

When was the last time you had any contact with any company for a support question and came away feeling good? For me, it’s so rare I am writing it up here! I’m trying to be restrained in my enthusiasm for the MacBook (not quite waiting for the other shoe to drop, but almost). So far, I have bought a few hundred dollars of add ones, (well maybe a few more) and I’m about to spring for the 3 year extended Apple Care, so without trying Apple have increased their revenue by about 40% of my original purchase price. But more, they have made an advocate of me. An evangelist even.

And in the next week, my expectation is that our home desktop PC will be replaced by an iMac. Do we need a new machine? No, but the benefits have even overcome Barbara’s change resistance (we had just done a winery tour in Los Gatos when she tried it out, but I’m sure that wasn’t a factor) and the ease of use, shared calendars, etc will make us a Mac household. We’ll keep PCs for photo editing (Adobe don’t have an Intel version yet for Mac), but they’ll be used less and less I suspect.

Way to go Apple! Way to go Virgin!