Apple has a fantastic product line, but is this all it takes to develop a loyal customer base? One of the most important factors to consider once you have a viable product to sell is keeping your customers happy. This means a positive experience while in the Apple Store.
Have you ever returned a defective product to a store and been given the run-around? Many times, with various major retail stores, I have been made to feel like I'm being a burden on the store when in fact I'm the one returning a product, manufactured by them, that is faulty. As a consumer shouldn't we be the ones who are catered to when a product we purchase does not work as intended?
You've heard about "Apple fanatics", "Apple fanboi's" and "Apple's loyal customer base". Lets take a look at why Apple customers are so loyal and what other retailers can learn from them.
My Personal Experience with the Apple Store
Over the years I have owned a great number of Apple products. These products include an iPod Classic, iPod Touch, iPhone, iMac and Mac-mini. The only Apple product I have had any issues with was my 24" iMac when I first purchased it. After about a month of having my new iMac 24" I noticed that I was getting a lot of dust and moisture under the front bezel as well as some pretty significant screen burn in. I took the iMac 24" back to my local Apple Store (at the time this was the Apple Store in Montreal, Quebec) and patiently waited to see an "Apple Genius". The Apple Genius setup my iMac, listened to my explanation of the problem, verified the problem and issued a return replacing my iMac with a brand new in the box iMac. I was impressed with the service, amazed at the speed at which I received my replacement (instantly) and was on my way.
My iMac ran perfectly with no dust or moisture buildup under the front bezel for a year following the replacement. In time though I started to notice the same problem as before developing and again had to take my iMac to the Apple Store to have it serviced. Since the iMac was more than 90 days old the policy was to send it for repair, as opposed to a replacement. In most cases this would be fine but I was under a strict deadline for some work I was doing on the iMac and the wait would of crippled me financially for a month or so. All my work was on the iMac and I needed the iMac to complete the work for some clients right away. I explained this to the Apple Genius and he called the Apple Store Manager to see what could be done for me.
I detailed my situation again to the Apple Store Manager including the fact that this was the second iMac that had the exact same problem and she was very understanding. She explained to me that their policy was to send the computer away for full repair after the 90 day period but since I was in a tough position she was going to replace my iMac again, on the spot. She did explain that this was a one-time-only exception to policy and should I have any trouble in the future I would have to wait for the iMac to be sent away for repair. In the end though, Apple's decision in this situation ensures that I purchase Apple products for years to come. Smart business. Honest company. Loyal customer.
In conclusion, the impression you have when you leave a store is a primary consideration for most consumers when considering buying another product. Apple does a fantastic job, in my experience, of making their customers feel important and working with the customer to ensure they leave the Apple Store with a smile on their face.
This is one of the reasons Apple has such a loyal following and other companies should take note. Apple can control a much smaller market share and still make a significant profit because the customers they do have are loyal. They're willing to spend extra because they feel certain that the product will be of high quality and, should a problem arise, the company will resolve it quickly.
A quick note to the consumer - make sure you keep an AppleCare warranty on your Apple products for the longest period possible. With a new iPod a year of AppleCare warranty is probably sufficient. When you make a significant investment in an Apple product though, such as a iMac or Macbook Pro, I would definitely extend the AppleCare warranty for a full 3 years.