Apple’s Advantage Is Not Technology Or Design

Apple’s got a lead. It’s not technology. It’s not design. It’s customer service and customer experience.

iPhone 4S

The battle for dominance in the smartphone market and the consumer “computing” device — including laptops, tablets and everything in between — is being fought over operating system (OS) and device superiority. Apple vs. Samsung vs. Nokia. Android vs. iOS vs. Windows Phone. I see so many reviews and comparisons. Apple jumps ahead with iPhone 5, then Samsung pushes further with the Galaxy S4, and now Nokia with it’s 1020. There is a lot of excitement and jockeying for supremacy. But there’s a big factor that’s not being given its due. My two favorite topics: customer service and customer experience.

I took a trip to the Apple Store recently  to see if they could fix my 2-yr-old iPhone 4S. Sadly they couldn’t, but it was an illuminating experience which gave me insight into just how much of a lead Apple has in this market.

A Well Oiled Machine

The system worked like a well-oiled machines. Everyone in the genius bar walked around with an iPad mini and an iPhone. They asked me if I had an appointment (which I could have made from my Apple Store app). I didn’t, so they asked me if I could wait as the next available appointment was about 30 minutes. I said ok and they walked me over to a table where there was a MacBook Pro just sitting, waiting to be used while I waited.

Managing Expectations

They were right on time with the appointment. This was impressive considering the volume of customers in the store (in Grand Central Terminal in NYC).  The tech was able to come to the desk, look up my iPhone serial number on his iPad mini and get everything he needed to know about it (out of warranty, almost 2 years old).

I had a damaged lock button. He explained it was not something that normally could be fixed, but he would try anyway. He took my phone away to try to repair the damaged lock button. He came back with a picture of the inside of my phone that he took with HIS iPhone to show me where the broken part was. Alas, it couldn’t be fixed but he offered me a replacement at the same cost it would be for the deductible with my Verizon insurance

And there was no charge for any of this.

Customer Service and Customer Experience

I am admittedly not a big Apple fan, but this experience gave me pause to consider the experience Apple provides to its customers.When you have a problem with a product you just want it resolved. How many other companies can deliver like this? How many of my other devices can I expect such a simple, comfortable and predictable experience?

When it comes to usability of technology I generally use my mother as a litmus test. I want to recommend for her a product that is reliable and easy to use. But most important, I want to recommend something that she will be able to get help with if she has problems. It’s hard to say no to the Apple experience.

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