I took my client on a field trip to the Apple store today – Customer Experience Design Strategy

Barnes and Noble Field Trip 2

This morning I took a team from one of my client’s branches on a field trip. We’re working to create the best possible customer experience in my client’s organization and I believe one way to achieve this goal is to learn from the best. So, I got everyone out of the office and we went to the Apple store and Barnes and Noble.

Before the fieldtrip, I gave the team a list of questions and observation points so that we’d make the most productive use of our time. At the Apple store, my team observed greeting upon store entrance, analyzed employee interactions and even got to see an Apple employee eloquently handle a not so happy customer. After the fieldtrip, we met in a circle in the mall and discussed our observations and explored ways they can take back some great ideas and adopt and apply them in their organization.

Apple store field trip

We left Apple and headed across the street to Barnes and Noble. The people at Barnes and Noble were so gracious and allowed us to explore, take up a lot of space, meet to discuss our observations and they even let us take photos. My team really walked away with a lot of customer service insights from Barnes and Noble.

Barnes and Noble Field trip

I love what I do! It’s great to make customer experience training and consulting hands-on, relevant and even fun.

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Making Self-Service Options Appealing to Generation Y

Generation Y is highly tech driven and because they spend so much of their time communicating through text and social media, human interaction isn’t always their preferred method for getting customer service. When designing your customer experience, look for ways to meet the unique needs of generation Y by having appealing self-service options available. By appealing, I mean tech savvy options like QR codes, fast and efficient apps and pretty much any option that involves smartphones.


Apple lets customers scan products and pay right from their phones.

Apple does a great job of offering self-service options that are aimed squarely at Generation Y (and X).  If you’ve ever been in an Apple store, you know that their stores are always jam-packed. As much as I love browsing in the Apple store, there are times when I want to get in and out. Like the day I just stopped in to pick up a case for my MacBook Air. Because Apple has given careful thought to self-service options that appeal to tech-savvy shoppers like me, I was able to pull out my iPhone and scan my product right from the display. The product pulled up on my phone via the Apple store app and I was able to pay right from my phone and walk out, bypassing all of the crowds.


While in the Apple store, customers can not only purchase and pay for products right from their phones, but they can also see how may customers are ahead of them for live help or they can see how many minutes before the next Genius support appointment opens up. 

How might you rethink your customer experience to deliver a faster, more enjoyable experience that requires less human interaction? Don’t think tech-savvy self service options are limited to retail. If you are a contact center, library, bank, insurance company – any company that serves customers, I want you to think out of the box and consider how you might create an easier, faster, more enjoyable experience for your customers using QR codes, apps, smart phones or social media. Get creative.

Myra Golden has spent 15 years benchmarking, interviewing and mystery shopping the best service companies in the world and in her keynotes she shares her insights to help her clients improve their own customer experiences. In her inspiring and riveting keynotes, Myra shares specific customer experience design details from the best service companies of our time: Apple, Zappos.com, Starbucks and Disney. Your audience will walk away with 4 powerful deliverables to help them create the best possible customer experience in their own companies. Explore Myra’s keynotes here.

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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