I didn't think I could become a bigger fan of Mac computers, but now I am. I opened my MacBook Pro on Christmas eve morning to surf the web a bit and I get 15 inches of dead, black screen. Restart. Same thing. Sick feeling. I call tech support and they can't resolve my problem on the phone and refer me to a Genius Pro at the Apple store. [Christmas eve at the mall? No thanks.] I resign myself to try to enjoy the holiday and I will deal with it later.
I called the Apple store on Tuesday for an afternoon appointment. After 20 minutes of troubleshooting with the Apple care "genius,” he can't fix my computer either. He says I am going to have to send it off to Apple Corporation for repair. [Great] I called Apple that afternoon to arrange my shipment. Meanwhile, I check my remote backup service to confirm I am getting what I pay for—money well spent!
Wednesday I received a box from Apple with special packaging for my laptop with a prepaid return shipping label. I box it up. Say a prayer. Sprinkle a little holy water and send it off. On Thursday I received three emails from Apple: the first, that my package was received; the second, that my computer was fixed; and third, that my computer was being overnighted back to me. On Friday, New Year's Eve, I receive my fully functioning laptop with all of my software and files still in tact and a statement with itemized repairs and "no charge" at the bottom. Granted, I am disappointed that there was even a problem at all with my beloved Mac, but the efficiency, speed, and cost in which the situation was fixed just can't be beat.
I just love great customer service. Who doesn't? This story inspires me to look for ways to apply the "Apple model of service" to running my own business as a graphic design studio. There are four key points I walk away with after this experience:
1) Structure an efficient system for troubleshooting;
2) Communicate regularly;
3) Solve the problem to the customer's satisfaction; and
4) Offer a free or value-added service.
I recently had the opportunity to test this model. I am the art director/designer for an association magazine, and I received a request from the new ad sales rep to change the contact information in an ad that will be published in the current issue. Deep in the throes of production, a week goes by before I respond. I sent my reply stating that a) the advertiser can provide new artwork or b) I can revise the ad in Photoshop and bill him for it. The ad sales rep responds, "this is unacceptable,” and that I should send the artwork to him to fix for free, or I should bill the client/publisher (who happens to be cc-ed on the email).
What would Apple do? One thing for sure: My "instinctual, reactive model of service" asserts to just fire off a quick email saying how I don't appreciate being lectured on how to run my business and being scolded in front of my client. However, if this was my "usual model of service," I would not be in business very long.
Just as Apple has an efficient system for troubleshooting, the procedure that works for me is to step back from the problem and let the emotions fade. After an hour or two, I am able to objectively communicate a fair solution. I send an email to the ad sales rep (cc: to client) assuming full responsibility for the confusion and lack of communication. I apologize for not notifying him of the production fee to fix the ad early on and add that I, in good faith, will fix the ad for free (this time).
The situation is amiably resolved with doting emails back to me from both the ad sales rep and client.
This whole experience causes me to renew my commitment of providing my clients with exemplary "Apple-like" service. Hopefully, this commitment fosters long-term customer loyalty like I have toward Apple. Maybe it was a good thing my laptop crashed....No, let's not go overboard.
Lynn Riley is a graphic designer and principal of Lynn Riley Design, Inc.