Apple: Branding from Cradle to Grave

Yep… I’m a “fanboy” of Apple products.  Ironically, I don’t have an iPhone at the moment.  I wasn’t able to make phone calls from my home on the AT&T network with my iPhone when I did have it.  It became too frustrating, so I dropped it.  Even though Verizon is about to roll it out, I’m going to wait until the iPhone 5 releases (hopefully) this summer.

But that’s not what I’m here to write about today.  Today, I want to discuss how amazing the brand consistency is with Apple from cradle to grave.  Last December, I accidentally shorted out the logic board on my Macbook pro.  My experience with sales, support and later on, licensing was so fantastic, I have to share it.

So there I am trying to plug-in an external blu-ray burner to start to export a video project I completed for a client of Right Here Interactive when all of the sudden my Macbook pro shuts off in an instant.  I can’t restart it for the life of me.  “Holy crap, this is a nightmare” I thought to myself.

My first thought was to cry and whine as I thought about the very concept of technical support.  Visions of me on hold for 2 hours to speak with someone in a call center 3,000 miles away.  Ugh….I was not looking forward to it.  But then a smile came across my face.  “This isn’t Microsoft, this is Apple, it won’t be that bad.”

I was right to think the way I did.  I called Apple’s support number and was speaking with someone out in Curpertino, CA (Apple’s headquarters) in less than 2 minutes (Yes, I timed it).  They hooked me up with an appointment for my local Apple store to talk to one of their “geniuses” who would troubleshoot and/or repair my problem.  I had an appointment within 2 hours of the incident (and this was during the insanity that was about 5 days before Christmas).  When I arrived, the store was indeed crowded to the point of having a long line.  I walked up, told them I had an appointment and they let me walk through the rope like a VIP at a hot NYC nightclub.  I actually felt pretty cool (amazing, given the fact that I’m a married dad of a 3 1/2 year old whose life is fairly unexciting).

It only took a few moments with my Genius Frank and he confirmed that my logic board had blown out.  He gave me a flat rate price to send it off and fix it and packed it away for me.  I was sad and grateful all at once.  Frank said it would take 7-10 business days to ship it out to Cuppertino, fix and ship back.  that definitely scared me a bit, but what choice did I have.  Frank also took some time to run me through some of the 3rd party software that they were selling in the store, which led me to daylite, a CRM and Project management system I have since implemented.

So to recap; in the same morning that I blew out my Logic board (completely my fault, not the computers), I called Apple, got an appointment, had the appointment and the computer was being packed up for the same day shipment to be fixed…. oh and on a flat rate fee.  Could it be more straight forward?  Could I have been more satisfied with the experience that Apple gave me?  No and no….

Oh, did I mention that my computer was back in my hands in 4 business days?  Damn.  One last part to share with you.  After I got the computer back working fantastically well and my data in tact, I did run into one small issue.  I sometimes use Apple’s Final Cut Studio for certain video campaigns I produce at Right Here Interactive.  When I opened the video editing program for the first time, it asked me for my license key (somehow, the software must tie the license key to the logic board).  I actually couldn’t find it.  I called support yet again.  I told them I lost it and that I didn’t know what to do.  I had a digital copy of my receipt, which I emailed to the support person on the phone and he promptly issued me a new serial number.  The whole process took under 20 minutes.  Again, just a fantastic experience.

So what did I take from all that?  Whether you are a fan or not of Apple, these guys do an unbelievable job branding the “Apple experience” from cradle to grave.  From online, to retail, the experience is positive, fresh and quite frankly, fantastic.  I am more loyal to Apple now than I was 2 months ago and while there wasn’t really a question about whether my next computer would be (as my friends and several colleagues suggest) “an overpriced computer,” I’ll be a loyal customer and fan for a long time to come.

It seems too often, particularly with tech products that the companies forget that a customer’s experience is judged not only by the purchase, but from the on-going relationship with the customer at every connection point.  How’s your experience with your customer’s from cradle to grave?  Are you like Apple, or like gazillion others that have no real brand management beyond the purchase?  Ask yourself every day where you should be.

Keep it interactive….
Marc Pitre

P.S. – My best to Steve Jobs with his most recent medical leave.

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