An Apple in time

Another working road trip. My colleague needs a piece of equipment from the Apple store, which is in a mall. The Apple store is swarming with people, but in less than 30 seconds, a salesman comes alongside to take us to what we need. In the Apple store, if you have their app on your phone, you can scan the bar code of the item you want, and it gets billed to your iTunes account. You can literally pick something up, point your phone at it, click a button, and leave.

If you don’t care for that option, the salespeople have devices that allow them to swipe your credit card anywhere in the store. As opposed to 99.9% of other retail establishments, which direct customer traffic according to their needs. Oh, you want to buy that item? Lovely. Schlep it over to this line, stand there until we’re ready to take your money, and wait for the privilege of paying us.

As we leave the mall we pass a Time Warner Cable store just thirty yards away. The store’s cage-like gate is closed. Customers are clustered outside, staring in at Time Warner employees who don’t seem to be doing much of anything. I ask one of the onlookers what the trouble is. “Power went down,” he says.

I look around. Macy’s is open. The jewelry store across the thoroughfare is open. Every store, in fact, but Time Warner is open. “The power went out in just this store?”

“No, it went out a while ago in this whole section of the mall. They just can’t get their systems running again.”

The company, in other words, that claims to sell connectivity and information access is the only one in the mall unable to restore its cash registers, its linkage with headquarters, etc.

The thing I want to know is how to help my children become Apples rather than Time Warners. How to instill in them the creativity, and drive, and other-orientation that characterizes so much of what Apple does, rather than the dullness, the satisfaction with the status quo, the just plain slovenly approach to customer satisfaction that characterizes — it seems to me, at least — an increasing swath of American businesses?

Because I think a child who emerges as an Apple can move the world, if only because so many others are content to sit and watch it slow to a halt.


  1. The Sanity Inspector

    The secret is simple. Not easy, but simple. Have you read Steve Jobs’ biography? He imposed his will on a lot of talented people in his company, making them more than the sum of their abilities. Now that a decent interval has passed since his death, a lot of people he bruised are starting to ankle-bite. But the results are hard to argue with. “You will be fired with enthusiasm, or…you will be fired with enthusiasm!”

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  3. Texan for Better Customer Service

    Amen to the Apple type! I spent 2 hours in the AT&T store last Saturday just to get my iphone 3GS switched over to the iphone 5 (yes, I realize I was a little behind!). The first hour was spent waiting with 8 other people while 2 managers walked around the store and played on the computer and did not provide any customer service “because it wasn’t their job”. The second hour was spent waiting while one associate and eventually one manager tried to transfer over my information, albeit unsuccessfully. Needless to say I had had enough and asked for my phone back (my dog was waiting in the car to get her picture taken with Santa) so I could leave. That evening at 9:00 pm I had the opportunity to call Apple and a very nice manager quickly assisted me with updating my new phone. We were disconnected at one point (note to self; don’t try to do updates while talking on the same phone you are installing the updates on) and he emailed me his direct phone number and email address (yes I filed that away!) because as he stated in his message “he wanted to make sure he had been able to help me with what I needed”. Such a big difference in customer service, it was so blatantly obvious with just one experience. It truly amazes me how some companies stay in business…

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