Apple’s 5 Steps of Customer Service Brilliantly Executed

Apple Store China

Something was wrong with my iPhone 4s. It would randomly shut off and reboot itself several times a day.  After 3 or so days of this glitch, I made an appointment with the Apple store Genius Bar.  I actually looked forward to going to 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 5 Steps of Service” model from the super secret Apple Customer Service Training.

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 5 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 friendly 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 only, “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 happened each time. I noticed how she spent a lot of time asking me questions and not only 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 sense of control during the probing.

Present a Solution for the Customer to Take Home Today. 

Apple fiercely focuses on offering 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 indeed 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, address 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 ultimately 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 fierce 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.

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Apple’s Customer Experience Secret: Constantly Improve What Is Already Extraordinary

I was one of the 4 million customers who bought iPhone 4S over the weekend. My iPhone 3GS is fast, fun and it makes it easy for me to work and communicate untethered. Not only did my current phone keep me productive, but it still looks practically new. Still I, like 4 million others, ran out and bought the new iPhone 4s. Why do people drop a couple hundred dollars or more on a new iPhone if they don’t truly need a new phone?

 Taking the already extraordinary and making it even more amazing is what gets Apple customers to come out in the millions to buy yet another expensive phone.

The answer is simple, really. Apple has developed a reputation for taking something that is already extraordinary and improving it. They take the elements that make for an amazing customer experience and they make the customer experience even better. iPhone 4s is twice as fast as its predecessor, boasts an 8 megapixel camera, 1080 HD video and over 200 new features. Taking the already extraordinary and making it even more amazing is what gets Apple customers to come out in the millions to buy yet another expensive phone. It’s the secret to earning rock-solid customer loyalty.

I’m working with a client that has a great customer experience. Mystery shopper reports, customer satisfaction surveys and focus groups all confirm that the company is loved by its customers. My charge for my client is to take the very best components of their customer experience and conceptualize, design and implement a minimum of 14 ways to improve upon the customer experience. We’ve dedicated 24-months to this project and we’re looking at everything from speed of response to surprise and delight.

Next week I am hosting a webinar called the Zappos Customer Experience where I examine how Zappos has mastered the customer experience by making the customer experience the most important thing in the entire company. My attendees will gain tips in this online workshop for constantly improving what’s great about their own customer experience.

Here’s a challenge for you. Identify the best part of your customer experience. That is, what do you do better than your competition? What do your customers love about doing business with you? Take that best thing and find 3 ways to take that to the “amazing” level. When you do, you’ll delight customers, get them coming back and you’ll be on your way to earning rock-solid customer loyalty.

Related post:

How Apple Got the Customer Experience Right

Apple’s 5 Steps of Customer Service Brilliantly Executed