Learning from Apple Store's Mistakes
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19 December 2013Bob Meara
Apple is often cited as an excellent example of how bank branches should be – Apple Stores that is. I couldn’t disagree more. Far from a thorough analysis, let me support my disappointment with the Apple Store customer experience. I recently had need for a simple transaction. All I wanted was a new iPhone. What could be simpler? I recently lost an iPhone to an unfortunate (and easily avoidable) vacation accident. It was less than a year old and I had no upgrade credit yet with my wireless carrier. My colleague Jacob Jegher suggested that exchanging it for a new phone at an Apple Store might be the best way forward. The nearest store was 19 miles away and located in the center of a large retail mall. In Atlanta, 19 miles is a long ways away! Early afternoon round trip time was 90 minutes not including time spent in the store. I’m an advocate for lower branch densities – but not this low! [caption id="attachment_4031" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Apple Store – Perimeter Mall, Atlanta, GA[/caption] Wisely, I called the store before making the trip. The extremely friendly and knowledgeable Apple rep on the phone politely reassured me that I could have a new phone for $199 + tax as long as I still had my previous phone and was willing to leave it at the store. All I had to do was make an online appointment and check in at the Genius Bar once there. Simple enough, but why didn’t the Apple rep make an appointment for me while I was on the phone? I strategically planned an appointment on a Thursday afternoon, thinking it best to avoid weekends, particularly for a retail mall based store before Christmas. Arriving at the store, I found it a bee hive of activity. The relatively small store must have had 60 people in it. After checking in, I was asked to sit at an apparently random bar stool. Ten minutes later another Apple employee greeted me, verified my identity, confirmed the purpose for my visit and politely asked me to move to a second bar stool deeper into the store. Why couldn’t the first person meet my very simple need? After another 10 minute wait, a third Genius greeted me and repeated the information exchange I had recently engaged in with his two colleagues. He did this while multitasking - he was also helping a young lady with some technical problem. A short time later, he returned with a new phone and proceed to enter serial information into his system using, of course, an iPad. I was struck at how manual the transaction was. The box was bar coded. It could have been trivially scanned in the back-office. After agreeing to terms and conditions, the chap was ready to part with the phone in exchange for my payment. After three unsuccessful swipes on his separate iPhone based POS terminal, a re-boot was necessary. Finally, I was finished. Total elapsed time: 40 minutes. There is much for banks to learn from Apple: