What Made The Apple Store Experience a Memorable One?

It was early on a Saturday morning when my daughter and I turned up at the Apple store in Reading. What grabbed my attention? The store showed up as clean, bright, open, uncluttered, and spacious. I also noticed that there were many customers there.  Amongst each group of customers there was an Apple employee demonstrating the product and answering questions. I did not notice any customers walking around looking for an Apple employee to help them, serve them.

Whilst I was taking this in, a matter of seconds, Andy approached us to see what we needed.  I shared the reason I was in the store, “My daughters iPod will not charge”, and handed over the iPod to Andy. Then we followed Andy to the side of the store. He found an iPod station and proceeded to mount the ‘faulty iPod’ on the stand. Then I heard that familiar sound when the iPod starts charging. I was delighted to find that this was the case , and said “It must be the cable then!”.

Andy went to get a new cable and within a minute he was back.  He tried out both cables and determined that the existing cable was faulty. In his gentle and non-critical way he explained that the cables did not take too well to twisting: it was the twisting of the cable that had damaged it.  Then he showed my daughter how to take care of the new cable.

I was expecting and ready to pay for the new cable. I did not have to. Andy took the old cable and gave us the new cable free of charge.  We thanked Andy and left.  As I walked away, I asked myself what had made this experience a memorable one.  Here is my answer:

1. It was easy to find/get to the Apple store.

2. I felt comfortable being there.  The store showed up as clean, bright, open, uncluttered, and spacious.

3. I did not have to find someone to help us or to wait around for someone to become free. There were plenty of Apple staff members in the store and Andy approached us as soon as ‘we came through the front door’.

4. I felt trusted. Andy, who helped us, did not ask to see a proof of purchase even though I had it on me and offered to show it to him – I felt trusted.

5. Apple did the job that ‘we hired Apple to do’. Andy figured out what was wrong and solved the problem that had brought us into the store.

6. Education without any blame or criticism. Andy showed my daughter where the cable was weak and liable to get damaged. Then he showed her how to use it so that it did not get damaged.  There was no hint of blame or criticism and this was well received by my daughter.

7. The free cable showed up for as a gift. I am clear that Apple could have charged for the cable and I appreciate that Andy did not charge us. My daughter appreciated it as well!

8. It only took five minutes.  From the moment we arrived in the store to the moment we left with our problem solved, the job done, it only took five minutes.

Why does this matter?  It matters because my daughter walked out of the Apple store delighted.  Which means that she has positive affinity towards the Apple brand – not just the Apple products.  And in turn that means she is that much more likely to buy more Apple products or ask me to buy them for her!  She is only 12 years old. What is her potential lifetime value to Apple?

Why Stop at Satisfaction When You Can Generate Happiness and Gratitude?

Are you present to the big difference between a satisfied customer and a happy-grateful one?

There is a satisfied customer. There is a happy customer. And there is a happy-grateful customer.  Too often we are not present to these distinctions. You and I can create satisfied customers simply by taking care of the functional aspects of the customer experience. To create a happy and grateful customer requires the human touch that evokes positive, life affirming emotions.  And, I say that the human touch makes all the difference when it comes to repeat business and customer advocacy in a services centred business.  Allow me to share a story with you.

“I like Hussein.  He’s friendly, kind and genuine.”  That is what my daughter said to me, with a big smile on her face, as we were leaving The Daruchini, our local Bangladeshi restaurant in Binfield.   I found myself feeling the same way.  What had turned a usually satisfactory experience, at this restaurant, into a happy memorable experience this time?

How do you create a memorable customer experience? 

On a cold windy rainy day, my daughter and I had turned up at The Daruchini, a Bangladeshi restaurant, to pick up the takeaway meals that my wife had ordered.  Walking up to the bar, a young man greeted us with a smile. We did not know him, yet he seemed to know us.  He confirmed the order and the price with me. Whilst he was doing this his colleague spoke to him in a language that I did not understand.

To my surprise, this young man turned to me and apologised for speaking his native language.  So I asked him what language they were speaking. “Bangladeshi” he told me.  Then he asked me where I came from, originally.  I told him that I came from Pakistani administered Kashmir.  At this point, he turned to my 12 year old daughter and asked her, in a friendly way, if she had ever been there.  My daughter shook her head. I said that I had not been willing to take her there as I considered it too risky. The young man agreed with me and told me that I had made a wise choice.  Right there I felt accepted, acknowledged, validated, understood. I noticed a connection and found myself asking for his name.  He told me his name (Hussein) and I shared my name with him.

Then our takeaway food order arrived. Hussein opened the refrigerator where the drinks are kept. And he asked my daughter if she drank Fanta (fizzy drink).  She smiled and said “Yes.”  Hussein hand her a can of Fanta.  I noticed that I was surprised.  I noticed that I was feeling happy. And I noticed that I felt gratitude toward Hussein for his kindness towards my daughter.  I thanked Hussein and we left the restaurant.

We got into our car and were about to drive off when Hussein caught up with us.  He told us that it was likely that our food order had been mixed up with another food order. So he asked to take the food order away so it could be checked. He apologised for the mix up. And told us that he would be back in a couple of minutes with the correct order.

Shortly, afterwards Hussein was back, walking across the car park in the rain.  He apologised for the mix-up and for keeping us waiting. Then he told us that he had given us an extra dish, free of charge, to make up for keeping us waiting.  Once again, I found myself surprised and feeling happy.  This is when my daughter said “I like Hussein.  He’s friendly, kind and genuine.”

What is the lesson here?

It occurs to me that how Hussein showed up, his attitude and his little acts of kindness, cannot be scripted.  They cannot be turned into process . It occurs to me that your organisation will either create space for these qualities to show up or will suppress them.  With that in mind I have three questions for you:

1. Does your organisation recruit and retain people like Hussein?

2. Does your organisation create a space for your people to be genuinely friendly, responsive, and kind with your customers – to respond to the unique customer situation?

3. Does your organisation call forth the best of your people – their humanity, their ability to connect with your customers?  Or does your organisation suppress the best of your people through rules, scripts, process and fear of breaking the standard rules?