Last month I took my daughter to Apple's main San Francisco store to buy her a MacBook for college. Yes, it was over my protests, being a PC kind of guy for decades.
What an eye-opener -- I was surprised by how good the customer experience was in the store. And I was shocked that Madeline, who's made many a late night call to me for help desk services, had the MacBook Pro and printer up and running and online with zero help from Dad.
Why am I telling you this? Because Apple once again creamed the PC makers in the latest University of Michigan ACSI customer satisfaction survey. Jobs & Co. have outpaced the clone makers every year since 2004, but Apple's lead has never been greater than it is now.
It's worth noting that Apple's reputation has been somewhat tarnished this year by iPhone antenna debacle and that Android is outselling the iPhone. But when it comes to the sometimes forgotten computer business, Apple keeps on satisfying its customers. There's a wealth of lessons here for HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Acer, who are about as consumer-friendly as a meter maid, regardless of their market share.
Top-notch Apple service begins with the sale
Electronics stores that sell PCs are typically staffed with low-paid, poorly trained folks who don't know much about computers. I don't blame the staffers, but I do blame the retailers and the PC makers who, for the sake of margins, wash their hands of good customer service. Even worse, the big chains have a wide variety of electronics, making it even harder for the salespeople to develop focused expertise.
By contrast, the 300 or so Apple stores are focused on Apple products, and the generally young, refreshingly geeky salespeople know what they're talking about and seem genuinely enthusiastic about the products they sell.