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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Starbucks Surprised & Delighted Me…Again

Starbucks on my Patio by Myra Golden
Starbucks on my Patio, a photo by Myra Golden on Flickr.

I went to Starbucks one afternoon last week. I ordered a Pumpkin Spice Latte and the Roasted Tomato and Mozzarella Panini. Yes, it’s an odd combination, but I like the two. The friendly voice over the drive-thru speaker said, “I’m sorry. We’re out of the Roasted Tomato and Mozzarella Panini sandwich. I can give you any one of our breakfast sandwiches on us though.”

WOW. Without even a second of hesitation, the Starbucks employee made things right by not only offering a substitute sandwich, but by giving me that sandwich for free. This immediate offering ensured that I, the customer, didn’t have time to feel upset or disappointed. The fix was offered immediately and resulted in my surprise and delight.

Are your employees equipped to fix problems this quickly? When I’m designing a better customer experience for my clients, one of the things I insist on is empowerment of the front line. The front line has to be empowered with the solutions, dollar amount, and total freedom to take care of customer problems on the spot.

Empower your frontline to be able take care of problems on the spot. When you do, you’ll surprise and delight customers and you’ll keep customers from even thinking about going to the competition (or spreading negative word of mouth advertising, tweeting, blogging, etc.).

Related Articles

Aubrey at Starbucks Impressed Me This Morning

Telephone Call Flow/Strategy for Contact Centers

Starbucks Customer Service

Identify Customer’s Needs by Asking “What does a man in the desert need?”

How to Establish Rapport with Callers in 6 Seconds Flat


Female customer service representative using headset and laughing

I just got off the phone with a call center agent who is in fear of losing her job because her supervisor says her tone, attitude and approach with customers is unacceptable. she has exactly 90 days to improve — or she will be fired.

She said she found my blog when she googled how to improve your customer service skills. I wished I could be there sitting across from this young woman, who I imagine is in her early 20s, and coach her. But she’s in Los Angeles and I have a plane to catch this afternoon, heading to the east coast.

I did coach this young customer service representative, over the phone, on how to soften her approach by making sure she doesn’t over-talk customers, by using what I call a “lead-in” and by listening with the intent to understand.

We talked for nearly an hour and then I gave her a complimentary enrollment in my online learning suite. She touched me with her proactive spirit and now I am determined to help her.

After coaching this young lady, I thought it might be helpful to share with you 4 of the tips I shared with her today. Maybe these tips can help your own employees deliver a better customer experience over the telephone.
Continue reading “How to Establish Rapport with Callers in 6 Seconds Flat”

Pappadeaux Delighted Me with an Amazing Customer Experience (and heavenly key lime pie)

Last week I had a 2-hour layover at Houston Hobby airport. It was only 10:15am, but I was in the mood for lunch. I had breakfast before 6am and I was hungry. I walked up to the hostess at Pappadeaux and asked if they were, by chance, serving lunch. The hostess greeted me with a contagious energy and said, “Yes, we are! Can I get you a table for one?” She then asked what time my flight departed and she wrote the time down. That little gesture let me know that this restaurant understood the urgency of busy travelers who need to both eat and make a flight. The lovely hostess made small talk as she walked me to my table. At my table, she told me the bench had plenty of room for my luggage and that an electrical outlet was just inches away, should I need to charge my cellphone or laptop while I dined.

Lunch was an absolute delight. I enjoyed pecan-crusted tilapia, perfectly steamed green beans, and creamy mashed potatoes. I topped that delight off with key lime pie. Felt a little guilty about the key lime pie since I haven’t been real consistent with my running lately.

You know customer service is my “thing.” And since you know this, you also know that I don’t miss moments of magic like this. The hostess at Pappadeaux was freakin awesome! By blessing me with her energy vibration, writing down my flight time, and pointing out the electrical outlet, she conveyed that Pappadeaux was all about the customer experience. The hostess brightened my day, gave me a refreshing customer experience, and gave me a story I could share with my clients and blog readers. In fact, the next day when I delivered a full-day workshop at Johnson & Johnson, I shared my Pappadeaux story and had my attendees discuss ways they could create similar moments of magic with their customers.

The bottom line: Psychologists tell us we only have 4-6 seconds to make a great first impression. The hostess at Pappadeaux seized that opportunity in just about 6 seconds. How can you WOW your customers or clients within the first few seconds like Pappadeaux wowed me? Seriously, give this some thought. And then go for it!

Interested in having me deliver a customer service training or a customer service keynote at your company? We need to talk. Visit my website and take a look around. Then call my Assistant, Jamal, and we’ll see if I’m a good fit for you.

Managing the Customer Experience for Big Customer Events

Yesterday I took my daughter to a sporting goods store for her cheerleading fitting. I was dreading going because the store is always crazy crowded on fitting day and of all days, yesterday was the kick-off for the store’s annual Tent Sale.  As we approached the parking lot, I saw masses of people and I quickly decided to drive past the store and park in the next lot. Much to my surprise, Midwest Sports had parking lot attendants in the next lot directing traffic. I was told where to conveniently park and parking was easy.

Because I was in the lot next to the store, my daughter and I had to make a short trek to Midwest. There was about a 2-foot drop from the lot we parked in to the lot where the sports store was located. Midwest had put in a temporary wood bridge to make it convenient for customers to cross the lots.  My reaction was “WOW!” Midwest Sports had thought of everything. Midwest Sports did an outstanding job of managing the customer experience on this exciting and busy day. They proactively identified challenges and developed solutions so their customers would enjoy a smooth shopping experience.

The bottom line

Take the time to identify the parts of your service experience that may be challenging or confusing to your customers and proactively develop a workaround so that your customers can enjoy a smooth, easy, and pleasant experience. When you do, you’ll increase your chances of satisfying and retaining your customers.

Related blog post:

How to Prepare Your Employees for the Black Friday Customer Experience



My Keynote at the 2012 Contact Center Association Conference

For Zappos it’s all about delivering WOW. This presentation delivers powerful insights into the unique ways Zappos approaches screening and hiring, quality monitoring, social customer service, and making emotional connections with customers – all with the single goal of consistently delivering a WOW customer experience.

In this keynote I share the 5 keys Contact Center Managers and frontline employees can adopt and apply to create an engaging and unforgettable customer experience. (Live and Deliver WOW, Customer Experience as the #1 Priority, Make Emotional Connections with Customers, the Speed of Light, Treat Employees Very Well). Plus, discover how Zappos is able to WOW customers with no call scripts and no talk time targets and learn why Zappos pays employees $2,000 to quit. Enjoy!

Want to have Myra speak at your meeting? Learn how at