Learn how you can adopt, adapt and apply Apple’s secret customer service model in your business.
Something was wrong with my iPhone 4s. It would randomly shut off and reboot itself several times a day. After three or so days of this glitch, I made an appointment with the Apple store Genius Bar.
I actually looked forward to going into the Apple store for this little problem because I wanted to test out how Apple employees actually executed the recently leaked “A. P. P. L. E. Five Steps of Service” model from the super secret Apple training manual.
A. P. P. L. E. stands for:
- Approach Customers with a Personalized Warm Welcome
- Probe Politely to Understand All the Customer’s Needs
- Present a Solution for the Customer to Take Home Today
- Listen for and Resolve Any Issues or Concerns
- End with a Fond Farewell
So, here’s how Apple employees fared against the A. P. P. L. E. Five Steps of Service during my visit:
Approach Customers with a Personalized Warm Welcome
Literally, before I stepped foot into the Apple store, I was greeted by a warm and enthusiastic Apple employee in khakis and a bright blue shirt. The employee, a confident, upbeat young woman, checked me in for my appointment on her iPad, discretely took my picture with the iPad and then told me an Apple Genius would come and get me when my appointment slot was ready. Clearly, the photo was to help the Genius locate me in the crazy busy store without having to yell my name from the back.
Apple retail employees are trained to approach all customers within 10 seconds or 10 feet of the store entrance with a personalized warm welcome. Being greeted so quickly and warmly, completely removed the risk of me feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or confused as I checked in for my appointment. It also made me feel welcome and in general, good about my visit to the Apple store.
Probe Politely to Understand All the Customer’s Needs
As I played with a 27″ iMac, my back to all employees, a Genius walked up and said, “Hi Myra!” How refreshing to be greeted with a warm “Hi Myra!” and not have my name yelled out. Using Apple’s own devices to take pictures and make customer identification is brilliant. The Genius started out by asking simply, “What’s going on with your iPhone?” While I explained the problem, she listened, facing me squarely and maintaining eye contact, all while smiling. She then asked for permission to take a look at my phone and then held the phone where I could see it as she ran some diagnostics, carefully explaining to me every step she was taking. The employee asked me questions about when the problem first occurred, and what I was doing immediately before it occurred each time. I noticed how she spent a lot of time asking me questions and not simply telling me what was wrong or suggesting that I had caused the problem.
Probing makes the customer a part of the conversation and it gives the customer a feeling of control and ease. Apple employees are highly trained to gently probe and give customers a feeling of control during the probing.
Present a Solution for the Customer to Take Home Today
Apple focuses on presenting a solution for the customer to take home that day. In my case, I got a replacement iPhone 4s at no charge. On another visit to the Apple store when my son’s iPod Touch no longer worked because of water damage, the solution was the offer to purchase a refurbished iPod Touch for $79. His iPod Touch wasn’t under warranty, so we couldn’t simply get a replacement. It was up to me to buy the refurbished model or not, but the employee certainly offered a solution that I could take home that day.
Listen for and Resolve Any Issues or Concerns
Apple employees are trained to acknowledge customers’ questions, resolve their concerns, and help them understand all the benefits that come with the solution. When I made the decision to purchase a refurbished iPod Touch for my son, I had some concerns. Would the refurbished model work as good as a new model? Was there any sort of warranty? Would I be better off getting a new iPod Touch? The Genius during this visit did a great job of picking up on my concerns and completely addressing each concern in a gentle and warm manner.
End with a Fond Farewell and an Invitation to Return
My Genius unboxed my replacement iPhone right in front of me, powered it up to show me it was functioning and then carefully wiped away her fingerprints before handing it to me. When we were done, she stood and walked me to the front of the store and told me it would be her pleasure to see me again. That was most definitely a fond farewell.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, each Apple employee I encountered brilliantly used the A.P.P.L.E. service model. Apple stores are so very profitable and enjoyable because employees approach customers with a warm welcome, they gently ask questions, there’s a strong focus on solutions the customer can take home that day, concerns are addressed head on and customers leave with a fond farewell. Study Apple’s 5 Steps of Service and look for ways you can adopt, adapt and apply the steps in your business, be that a retail business, call center or an online customer experience.
About the Author
Through consulting, keynotes, training and blog posts, Myra Golden helps companies design and deliver the best possible customer experience.