I had an interesting exchange with Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs yesterday.
Unfortunately, I felt compelled to drop Steve a note about a particularly horrendous experience that I had in the Apple Store in Farmington, CT.
The note summarized several frustration points that I had endured upon my visit, including:
- Store Design: While apparently Apple’s Management Team feels that the store design is hip and trendy, characterized by various specialty tables, etc. I think of it more like a Montessori School with the kids that work there playing with different gadgets at their play stations. Nonethless the store design is not one that is easily navigated by the typical consumer whom is accustomed to signage, check-out counters and helpful staff.
- Customer Service Model: Once properly checked-in and assigned by the “greeter” to stand at the IPod play station, I was made to wait for over 20 minutes for someone to come over and help me out. While I made eye contact with the manager several times, no one came over until I started waving my hands in the air like a rabid Yankee fan at Fenway Park after A-Rod hit a dinger.
- Lack of Urgency: 20 Minutes is plenty of time to observe. I saw that many customers had two or three employees assisting them — apparently those customers had bigger problems than a single Apple employee could handle. I also saw several emplyees just milling around chatting with each other. Apparently, I lacked the right tatoos or piercings to garner much attention as I waited for help.
- Lack of Management: As my problem escalated, it occured to me that I was caught traveling up the river in Apocalypse Now. I landed at the village and the savages were running the place. Store manager Deb Merck and her regional supervisor Eric Mills had no interest in helping me — but, they could rattle off the store policy “No returns after 14 days — even if the item (as mine was) is unopened and unused.”
My hope was that by sharing this first-hand customer experience, perhaps someone at Apple would care to explore the details. To my surpise, Steve responded within the hour. His note read as follows:
“It sounds like a simple matter of our 14 day return policy,
which you don’t like. We have no plans to change it.”
I guess when you’ve been made to think that you’re God, there’s no need to concern yourself with the opinions of those that should be worshiping you.
I have a different opinion, while already a powerhouse, they’re leaving money on the table. Surely, they have forgotten that they exist only to serve the customer. After ereading Steve’s response again, I know that I’m not the only one that has had this type of experience.
After all, the tone is set from the top. Stevie’s note to me demonstrates that he has a total disregard for his customers — that tone trickles all the way down to Deb Merck and her store in Farmington, CT.
But, I’m not discouraged. Since, I’m old enough to have been one of the first people to have owned an Apple II, back in the day, I’ve seen what happens to companies who lose there way. It won’t be long before Apple realizes that the customer is always right. After all, they’re the ones that control the purse strings!