Apple and its unmatched retail experience

With the deterioration of customer service, it was a welcome experience to visit my local Apple Store in Carlsbad, CA last week to replace the battery on my two year old iPhone X.

(You can easily tell an iPhone battery’s health condition by going to Battery Health to see the percentage of capacity remaining compared to when it was new. When it falls below 80%, a replacement is recommended. The degradation is actually quite predictable. Usually after 300 to 400 full recharging cycles, the battery loses 20-30% capacity. It’s the nature of the chemistry in the cells.)

When my phone’s battery fell into this territory, I made an appointment for the next day to bring in my iPhone. While they were out of batteries, they took my name and said they would call me within the next few days when one came in. The next day they called to tell me one arrived and to bring my phone in, which I did later that day. I had to wait around the store for two hours while it was being repaired – apparently in line behind others, and it gave me a chance to observe others in the store, both employees and customers. Like most times I’ve visited, this or most any Apple store, they were crowded with both customers and employees.

While waiting, it  was interesting to see how happy and pleasant everyone was to each other, especially in these times of anger. Customers with repair issues encountered employees that knew their products, had well-established procedures to follow, and, even when the customer had an expensive repair, the employee made the transaction informative and pleasant, offering a variety of options. Never once did they hard sell or try to talk the customer into doing anything. They simply provide the factual information for the customer to make an informed decision.

What I experienced and what I saw, both took a huge amount of effort. From creating the computer systems to taking my order, ordering and tracking parts and notifying me when to come in. (Of course, it would have been better if they told me when I made a reservation that the part needed to be ordered.) Even within the store, Apple apparently applies some means of technology to know where a waiting customer is. I queried one of the sales people about it, but he was elusive, and said they would find me when the repair was ready, even if I wandered from the designated area. And sure enough when the repair was done, a smiling employee walked right up to me while I was elsewhere in the store, almost ready to buy a new watch.

The Apple stores are another reason why Apple retains such loyalty. Where else could you take a malfunctioning computer or phone to get help? And it’s needed. No longer are Apple products the most reliable out there, so they need occasional repairs or help. The keyboards on their entire line of MacBooks are troublesome and unreliable, phones endure a huge amount of rough handling, and all batteries will wear out every few years.

While every other competitor requires that you use a call center and usually send in your device, with Apple you can meet with a person that helps and provides a little sympathy.

If there’s one criticism of Apple stores, it’s that they have become boring. There are much fewer third party products that Apple used to showcase, including audio Internet of Things, and software. Now it’s mostly walls of cases, watch straps, adapters and cables.

Nevertheless, in the world of shrinking retail and shoddy customer support, the Apple store provides a welcome respite from both.




by Phil Baker