The Weakest Link or One Bad Apple Redux…

The other day I let off some steam about the extremely poor experience of trying to book an appointment at the Genius Bar. After 8 attempts, each time clicking through the same 6 screens (because there’s no other way), and an ever-increasing level of frustration, I got an appointment for Sunday morning. I got up early Sunday and headed downtown, fully expecting the worst.

geniusbar

Photo by bernardoh

When I told the girl at the front door that I had an appointment, she checked her iPhone, found my name, and with a smile she sent me up to the second floor. There, another color coded girl (the “ushers” wear orange, the geniuses wear blue) checked her iPhone, asked me to take a seat and said it’d be just a minute. A simple but beautifully designed screen behind the geniuses showed me my own name, reassuring me that I was next in line. The smooth friendliness made it rather difficult for me to maintain my irate customer stance, but I set my jaw, determined to give the so-called genius a piece of my mind if he hesitated for even a second to replace my iPhone.

Luckily for Tom, my genius, he didn’t hesitate at all. In fact, upon seeing the missing button on the top of my phone, he said, “let’s get that replaced then, shall we?” I blinked, nodded, and two signatures and 3 minutes later I had a brand spanking new iPhone in my pocket. Tom gave me exactly what I’d been hoping for (but assuming wouldn’t happen) and was extremely friendly through out our brief transaction.

The Weakest Link

Our experience with the brands we love (and hate) is a chain of mini-experiences:

  • Advertising links to…
  • In store or web site purchase links to…
  • The box links to…
  • Unboxing links to…
  • First time use links to…
  • Learning & regular use links to…
  • Customer service links to…
  • Repair or replacement links to…
  • Next purchase links to…

Any brand that can construct a solid chain from beginning to end, has a good chance of linking the end to the beginning and creating a permanent loop of consumption, something that Apple’s become pretty good at.

Expectations

Apple’s advertising, packaging, product design and so many other links in the chain have always been such good experiences for me, so I was shocked at the problems I encountered trying to book a genius bar appointment. If DELL or Microsoft gave me those kinds of problems, it would confirm my opinion of them and would therefore, in a way, be more bearable. But when Apple drops the ball I’m shocked. They’ve trained me to expect perfect experiences as my right as an Apple customer. Tom the genius restored my faith, but the hassle of booking an appointment to see him is now part of the chain in my memory.

Other than that, the repair or replacement link is the absolute worst part of the chain to disappoint a customer. If I have your broken product in hand, my expectation in that moment is that you suck. There’s no other point in the chain where it’s more important to prove the opposite.

A Simple Fix

Keeping all of this in mind, it’s not really a big challenge to improve the appointment booking process without changing anything but the copy. If Apple were to take this “piss of” screen:

AppleFail05

And simply change the text:

AppleFix

…and give me the ability to jump straight to the page and check back – without clicking through six time-wasting screens over and over again – I’d be a very happy customer, and Apple’s otherwise perfect chain would be a perfect circle.