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Is it time for Apple to go back to basics?

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Whilst the latest Which? report into customer satisfaction on the high street heralded praise for Lush, it’s likely to have been a rude awakening for Apple. It may be one of the largest and much-loved global brands, but it is seemingly failing customers when within stores. This year saw it drop from top position down to 13th place in the latest survey, which rates retailers on price, products, service and after sales care. So what does such a dramatic drop mean for Apple and how should the business address the gap between consumers’ positive opinions of its products and the negative experience they are receiving from the brand on the high street?

It may not be apparent given the different product offerings, but the brand promise offered by Apple and Lush should mirror each other – and yet as the consumer report shows, the retail experiences being delivered are in complete contrast. Customers engaging with both retailers are looking for guidance, support and expertise to ensure they are making the correct purchase for them – whether it’s a solution to solve problem skin or a laptop for university; they are both purchases that are personal and important to that customer. With that in mind, surely the key to Apple addressing and rebuilding customer satisfaction lies in understanding how to emulate the approach and resulting success of the Lush high street experience?

With customers stating difficulties in getting an appointment with the Genius Bar as one of their main frustrations with the Apple retail experience, clearly they are failing at getting the customer service basics right. Offering the Genius Bar is great, but it seems the brand has created a service that they are now unable to fulfil, which will ultimately affect it in the long-term if it continues to leave customers feeling let down. Making customers aware of what the Genius Bar can do for them will empower them to decide whether they actually need the service in the first place. Managing and meeting expectations in terms of timings and availability will also help improve opinions. It may seem obvious, but through eliminating these frustrations, customers will feel more positive about the overall brand experience they are receiving.

Alongside this, providing a greater degree of self-help options, which could enable them to get to the root of the product problems themselves, will see fewer customers battling it out for appointments. Sky has seen success in managing customer service with its Live Chat function, so perhaps this is a route Apple should also invest in to solve problems, faster. Back in store, retailers must ensure they are delivering the right explanations without alienating or intimidating the customer. Running in store drop in tutorials would allow customers to broaden their knowledge about specific product functions in a relaxed environment. Above all, retailers must show they are taking time to listen to needs and deliver customer care if they are going to truly meet customer service expectations successfully.

Whilst it cannot be denied that Apple products have revolutionised consumers’ lives, the product and in store experience must be joined up, and the brand must ensure it’s delivering on the basics of customer service that enable people to feel comfortable. Consumer expectations of what an Apple product can and should do for them are so high, it’s vital that this is mirrored by the service they receive in store.

With retail experiences being transformed by the digital era, with a vast shift moving to online, it’s more crucial than ever that Apple ensures customers are given the best service when in store and leave safe in the knowledge that they’ve purchased the right product for their need and confident that they’ll get explanations or after care support if required. With the appetite and need for face-to-face contact in store remaining in place for brands like Apple, retailers must ensure they aren’t neglecting what was once the heart of the high street; great service. Like Lush, Apple has the opportunity to deliver an exciting, interactive and sensory experience to the customer that should encourage them to the high street to ultimately make that all important purchase. But true brand engagement will only be fulfilled if the complete experience is positive. Innovative products are great, now it’s time to deliver customer service that matches.

Published on Tuesday 27 May by Editorial Assistant
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